Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Why Viggo From John Wick Looks So Familiar

In 2014, the world met its favorite boogeyman when John Wick was released. The directorial debut of Chad Stahelski, John Wick became a runaway hit that eventually spawned an entire franchise of increasingly impressive hitman battles. The movie introduces us to Keanu Reeves' eponymous retired assassin, who starts the film as a widowed recluse, but is forced back in action when a spoiled gangster called Iosef Tarasov (Game of Thrones' Alfie Allen) steals his beloved Ford Mustang and kills the puppy his now-deceased wife gave him. This, as anyone who's familiar with Mr. Wick's background, proves to be A Bad Move. 

The thing is, the viewer doesn't know that at the start of the movie. Part of John Wick's allure is how it lovingly builds its central character's mythology, gradually peeling back the layers of mystery until it reveals a legendary killing machine who can barely even be slowed down, let alone stopped. A lot of this rests on the shoulders of Iosef's father and the movie's big bad, Viggo Tarasov. The Russian crime boss may be ruthless and powerful, but he's utterly stunned to hear what his son has done. It is he who reveals just what kind of man John Wick is, and he also establishes the assassin's feared nickname: "Baba Yaga." 

Charming and entertainingly violent as Reeves is in his starring role, the movie might not have been the kind of hit it was without Viggo's actor, who portrays the mobster as a conflicted man who dreads the impeding Wick-themed doom, yet can't help but do everything in his power to protect his son ... only to inevitably fail as the movie gives us one of the most satisfying endings ever

Who is this masterful actor, and why does it seem like you've seen him before? Let's take a look at why Viggo Tarasov from John Wick looks so familiar.

Michael Nyqvist is Mikael Blomqvist in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

A Swedish actor with a long string of nationally esteemed and well-known roles, Michael Nyqvist started making waves on the international scene with his role as the similarly named Mikael Blomqvist in 2009's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, its sequels The Girl who Played with Fire and The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, and the miniseries based on the movies. Originally titled Män Som Hatar Kvinnor (Men who Hate Women in Swedish), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo tells the story of a troubled and asocial hacker called Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace in her star-making role), who gradually confronts and conquers the trauma and abuse she's faced. She teams up with Blomqvist, a disgraced journalist, to solve the mystery of a disappeared scion of the wealthy Vanger family — which, of course, turns out to be something much stranger and creepier than anyone could have assumed. 

This Swedish-language The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo film is based on Stieg Larsson's popular novel of the same name, and to drive home the story's impact, David Fincher made a big-budget version of the movie a mere two years later. In that film, Rooney Mara portrays Lisbeth and established A-lister Daniel Craig portrays Blomqvist, but fortunately for Nyqvist, the Swede had already made his mark in the role — and was ready for Hollywood himself. 

Michael Nyqvist is Kurt Hendricks in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

Though his role in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a heroic one, Nyqvist had a great range and he often gravitated toward villainous roles in his English-speaking productions — from Nikola Kozlow in 2011's Taylor Lautner-starring action thriller Abduction to White Vincent on ABC's conspiracy-themed Zero Hour. In fact, his thespian ability could elevate the "evil foreigner" so well that even the Mission: Impossible franchise took notice. 

In 2011, Nyqvist's rogue nuclear strategist Kurt Hendricks was the main villain in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. Ethan Hunt's (Tom Cruise) IMF team embarks on a wild global chase to stop the bad guy's machinations to start World War III, and Nyqvist even gets a cool fight scene with Cruise. In a 2013 interview with Oscar Ekman (via The Michael Nyqvist Archives), the actor described how the shoot showed him what it's like to be a cog in a big-budget Hollywood tentpole machine, working opposite one of the world's biggest stars. "When Tom and I began to hang out, it felt like I was a statistic in his limited company," the actor said. "And I was still the star from [Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its sequels] and Ingmar Bergman country. But in this contextual context, people were talking to me as if I were a beginner: 'You must not watch the camera when you act.'" 

All in all, Nyqvist was a nuanced performer whose final role as the Bishop Fliesser in Terrence Malick's historical drama A Hidden Life made it clear that he had a lot more to give. Unfortunately, the actor died of lung cancer in 2017, at only 56 years old.