Ever since the tragic accidental shooting on the set of Rust, Hollywood has had to finally start asking the tougher questions about on-set gun safety. Some productions have already found ways to keep things safe. Take the John Wick franchise. Those movies, of course, have a ton of gunplay, and yet no one has gotten hurt or killed making them. That’s because they use “electric guns,” where the sight of gunfire is added in in post via CGI. Why haven’t all productions pivoted to electric guns? John Wick director Chad Stahelski has a theory.
“My feeling is that there’s no reason to have a live firearm on set,” Shahelski told The Hollywood Reporter in a new interview, in which he also talked about taking a break from the series. “We can create cities and spaceships and Godzilla and all these things. We have the technology to do the same with firearms. But, for the last 100 years, Hollywood’s been using real firearms. And for prop houses, armorers or supply houses to switch over, it would make their entire stock of real firearms useless.
“It comes down to the fact that it would cost certain people a great deal of money to switch over,” he speculated. “No one wants to say that, but that’s the real reason. You don’t need firearms. The alternative is just going to cost you more money.”
Stahelski, who was a stuntman before he moved into directing, was good friends with Brandon Lee, perhaps the most famous performer to be killed by an on-set prop gun. (He was in fact his stunt double on The Crow.) He knows what it was like in the pre-electric gun days, when most productions had a less safe way of depicting gunplay.
“Back in the day, when it all started, they came up with blanks,” Stahelski explained. “A blank is a bullet without the projectile, but they couldn’t put you and me in the same shot, 5 feet apart, and one of us pull the trigger. The concussive force coming out at the end of the barrel would be enough to shatter your skull. Accidents like that did happen and people died because of it.”
Then, in the last decade, came electric guns, in which, Stahelski explained, it’s “impossible for anything to come out of the barrel and total CG.” He added, “That technology is out there for everybody.”
Perhaps now everyone in the industry making films where people shoot at each other will listen to the guy who’s directed four films where Keanu Reeves can’t stop shooting people in the head.