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John Wick Director Drops Bombshell About Original Script

The plot of John Wick features relatively few moving parts: Man loses girl, man gets dog, man loses dog and favorite car, man expresses his grief by slaughtering his way across New York's criminal underbelly. Remove any of the component pieces, and you have a completely different movie. The revenge killings would ring a little more hollow if, for example, the mob had killed John's parakeet, or if the mob had stolen his Segway, or if his wife had survived at the beginning and spent the rest of the film shaking her head and saying "boys will be boys" every time John riddled a foe with hot lead.

Now, thanks to a ComicBook.com interview with John Wick director Chad Stahelski, we know one such load-bearing piece of the movie's plot almost didn't make the cut: John's hefty body count.

Less violence? More like "John Weak."

In the original script for John Wick, which Stahelski described as "much more contained" than the story fans ultimately witness on screen, "only three people died." Of those three, "two were in a car crash." As Stahelski noted, "It was very, very minimal, and it was slightly different."

Three deaths, with two as the result of reckless driving, would represent a significant tonal shift for the man they call Baba Yaga. By Visu's count, the final cut of the film saw Wick killing 77 people (or 539 people in dog years). Things didn't get less bleak from there – John Wick: Chapter 2 featured a spectacular 128 kills from the protagonist, while Chapter 3 - Parabellum saw the death-dealer calming with age, only shuffling loose 85 lives from this mortal coil.

Stahelski explained that the decision to go with a more outlandish body count stemmed from a desire to create "a surreal action movie so it wasn't so grounded and gray, just something different." He went on to say that increased bloodshed became necessary as film series star Keanu Reeves became better and better at pulling off the films' fight choreography.

"I read [the script], and I'd always had this idea about Greek mythology and how to tell more a [fable-like] kind of story [...] People joke about [the kill count], but the way I choreograph with my guys and stuff, we just choreograph motion and set pieces and we try to get this balletic kind of dance, live performance feel to everything," said Stahelski, who has credits as a stunt performer, stunt coordinator, and fight choreographer on films like The Matrix, The Hunger Games, Deadpool 2, and more. 

He added, "I think, just by nature, because Keanu's gotten so much better with the choreography and the martial arts and the motion and we change weapons so much and we get bigger set pieces, that, just by its very nature, because the scene grows, the body count grows. But we don't start off going, 'Okay, what was in number three? How do we beat it for number four?' We just choreograph and it happens"

With a combined 284 kills under Wick's belt, he'll have a lot to live up to when the franchise continues in 2022's John Wick Chapter 4. Whether he'll be seen delivering 284 puppies to heartbroken mobster families to help them process their grief remains to be seen.