Keanu Reeves Is Too Young To Play The Original John Wick

Keanu Reeves played a new modern action icon in John Wick, but it turned out that he was actually supposed to be playing an old one.

By Dan Lawrence | Published

keanu reeves

The boogeyman aka John Wick has become one of the greatest roles of Keanu Reeves’ illustrious career, spawning a trilogy of films with more in the pipeline still to come. John Wick helped pioneer a whole new genre of action film in Gun Fu and helped rejuvenate Keanu’s career. However, as reported by Variety, Keanu Reeves was too young to play the original iteration of John Wick. 

Originally, John Wick was supposed to be a 75-year-old man decades into his retirement as an underworld mercenary, at least that’s the word according to Basil Iwanyk, author of They Shouldn’t Have Killed His Dog: The Complete Uncensored Ass-Kicking Oral History of John Wick, Gun Fu, and the New Age of Action. Entertainment Weekly interviewed author Basil Iwanyk, who is also a producer of the John Wick franchise, to get the lowdown on old man Wick. “One of my best friends is Charlie Ferraro at UTA, who sent me this script from Derek Kolstad called Scorn,” he said. “The lead was a seventy-five-year-old man, twenty-five years after being retired. “Okay, there’s probably one or two names you could do this with Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford.” Whilst Ford and Eastwood would have made suitable castings given their legendary status, it was Keanu Reeves himself who stepped in and changed the role to take the lead.

Basil Iwanyk recalls how Keanu Reeves became involved in John Wick: “Jimmy Darmody, is an agent at CAA, who at the time represented Keanu, he said, ‘Do you have any action movies for Keanu Reeves?’ “We give him the script, we tell him, ‘Clearly, you’re not 75.'” Despite the age gap between Keanu Reeves and the lead character that was presented to him on the page, The Matrix star was so enamored with the story, that he set in motion a series of character changes, to mold the part into his own. Reeves goes into detail about how warmed to the role in the succinctly titled, aforementioned book, written by Iwanyk; “I loved the quest that he goes on to reclaim his life. And the world he moves through to do it.”

Screenwriter Derek Kolstad then recalls in the book how he spent “two months” at Keanu Reeves’ house to work on the script and that Reeves told him upon their first meeting; “Okay, Derek, I’m going to play him 35.” Thus, a modern cinema icon in John Wick was born. Upon John Wick’s 2014 release, critics took to the action thriller warmly, with Rotten Tomatoes surmising that the film was: “Stylish, thrilling, and giddily kinetic — “and what looks like it could be the first of a franchise.” The film received an overall Rotten Tomatoes critics score of 86% and the film review aggregator site was right on the money when they theorized John Wick could spawn a franchise.

Since the 2014 release of John Wick, two sequels have graced cinemas, first in 2017 with John Wick: Chapter 2 and then in 2019 with John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, with the latter grossing over $300 million at the global box office. As well as three movies already gracing the world for fans to enjoy, John Wick: Chapter 4 is on the way. Unfortunately, the fourth installment in this heart-stopping action franchise had its release date pushed back from May 27, 2022, to March 24, 2023, to avoid competing with Top Gun: Maverick for audiences’ attention, a smart move as it turns out.

The John Wick universe is also expanding beyond Keanu Reeves-led films, with two spin-offs in the works. There will be a television series prequel starring Mel Gibson, called The Continental, which John Wick fans will know as the NYC-based hotel for the world’s underground assassins. As well as this, there will be a spin-off film titled Ballerina, starring Ana de Armas. It goes without saying that had Keanu Reeves not stepped in and made John Wick his own, then the exciting franchise fans can enjoy today might never have happened.