Director Chad Stahelski‘s “John Wick: Chapter 2” is an adrenaline-fueled epic sequel that is every bit as action-packed and brutal as its predecessor. This time, Wick takes his violent skills to Rome for a film filled to the brim with colossal action set pieces. The Daily Texan spoke with Stahelski about the challenges of a sequel, his personal influences and advice for students.
The Daily Texan: In what ways was creating this film different from “John Wick”?
Chad Stahelski: It was more challenging just in a logistical way and in the creative way. To think what can we do and not tread the same steps, what can we do to not bore the audience, what can we do to help ourselves, what can we do better, what did we mess up on this first one, and what’s the creative aspect of how we expand the world in an interesting way? Tonally, we didn’t have any existing IP or a property or anything. When John Wick started, it was us doing what we though would be cool, and you’re not sure how to tread the line. So you’re like ‘Okay, this is pretty wacky, he’s gonna kill 80 guys,’ but in the original script John Wick killed four people. It’s not an easy sell, and sometimes you can ride the line of ridiculousness, without taking yourself too seriously. But we already kinda knew who John Wick was now, so in one way, the pressure is on because you’re trying to do a sequel to the original. But creatively the pressure is off because at least you know the guy, you know the world, you know the tone.
DT: Frequently, the coolest action beats in both John Wick films come when he runs out of bullets. Was that intentional?
CS: You always have to build the box to go outside the box. You tell him he only gets seven rounds and he has to solve the problem. It’s like you see in Jackie Chan stuff, he creates a problem and he triumphs over the problem. In ‘John Wick’ if we just go ‘shoot shoot shoot shoot shoot’ and never run out of bullets, we’d get bored. Hollywood seems to be in gun fights they never want to see them actually run out of bullets or slow mag changes or reloads or getting shot or tripping. We embrace it. Practical is fun sometimes, we like imperfection. When J.J. was training all these guys, one thing we were both talking about with gun work that we were very adamant about was we’re gonna do all of them: reloads, sighting, holstering, quick draws, shotguns. All the bad things that can go wrong with gun work, we’re gonna do, we’re gonna make them cool.
DT: You mentioned Jackie Chan, what are some of your other influences on this movie?
CS: Obviously, Jackie Chan. Action-wise, early nineties, late 80s Asian cinema. Filmmaking-wise, Akira Kurosawa, Sergio Leone, Bernardo Bertolucci, Andre Tarkovsky. After that, we grew up with ‘80s action movies: ‘Die Hard’, Stallone, Schwarzenegger. Iconic people that we’ve since done a lot of their stunt work.
DT: What advice would you give student filmmakers?
CS: This is gonna sound very tropey. But there’s very little room for bullshit in stunts. You can talk all you want, but sooner or later you’re gonna be standing on a ledge with no one to talk shit to. So you learn how to contain your level of bullshit and if you don’t you’re gonna get killed. If it’s what you love to do, always go with your passion, that’ll get you through 99 percent of it. Don’t ever give up. Quitting sucks. If you don’t know something, ask somebody who does. Don’t feel bad. Just be dumb once, ask one question a day to learn what you don’t know. The last thing is, really, surround yourself with the best people. Be the dumbest guy in the room.