The action star reportedly asked the producer to kill off his iconic character in John Wick: Chapter 4, but left a slight chance for a comeback.
Keanu Reeves has been playing the role of John Wick, the legendary assassin who goes on a rampage after his dog is killed, since 2014. The franchise has been a huge success, earning over $1 billion at the global box office and spawning multiple spin-offs and sequels. However, the physical and emotional toll of portraying the character has been too much for Reeves, who wanted a definitive end for his journey in the fourth film.
According to Basil Iwanyk, the producer of the series, Reeves asked him to let John Wick die at the end of John Wick: Chapter 4, which was released on September 17, 2023. In an interview with Collider, Iwanyk said that Reeves was “a shell of himself” after making the action-packed movies, and felt that he could not do it again.
“After the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th movie, making these films is so exhausting and it destroys Keanu, physically and emotionally,” Iwanyk said. “By the end, he’s always like, ‘I can’t do this again,’ and we agree with him. The guy is just a shell of himself because he just goes off and goes for it. He was like, ‘I wanna be definitively killed at the end of this movie.’”
The Ambiguous Ending of John Wick: Chapter 4
However, Iwanyk did not completely follow Reeves’ request, and left a small opening for the possibility of his return. He said that they agreed to leave a “10% little opening” for John Wick’s fate in the fourth film.
As fans who have seen the movie know, John Wick: Chapter 4 ends with a climactic showdown between Wick and Caine (Donnie Yen), a former friend turned enemy who works for the High Table, the shadowy organization that rules the underworld. Wick manages to shoot Caine in the head, but not before receiving several bullets himself. He then stumbles down the steps of Sacré-Cœur in Paris, where he utters his late wife Helen’s name before collapsing.
The film does not explicitly show whether Wick dies or survives, leaving it up to the audience’s interpretation. In a post-screening Q&A with IGN, Reeves and director Chad Stahelski played coy about the ending, saying that they wanted it to feel “fulfilling” to Wick’s journey, but also letting the fans decide.
“I mean, I have an opinion, but I don’t know if we should concretize it. Let the audience decide,” Reeves said.
“I think we just wanted it to feel fulfilling to the end of John Wick’s journey,” Stahelski added.
Stahelski also revealed in an interview with Empire in July that the original ending of John Wick: Chapter 4 was much less ambiguous, and made it “very clear” that Wick was still alive. However, they changed it to make it more emotional and dramatic.
The Future of John Wick Franchise
Despite Reeves’ desire to end his role as John Wick, Lionsgate is not ready to let go of the lucrative franchise. The studio is expanding the universe with The Continental, a three-episode prequel series that will premiere on Peacock on September 22, 2023. The series will focus on Winston (Ian McShane), the manager of the hotel that serves as a safe haven for assassins.
Lionsgate is also developing Ballerina, a spin-off film that will star Ana de Armas as a female assassin who seeks revenge against those who killed her family. The film will be directed by Len Wiseman and written by Shay Hatten.
Moreover, Lionsgate is working on a fifth John Wick film, which was announced in August 2020. Iwanyk told IGN in June that the film is still in early development, but that it is “an organic and natural next step” after John Wick: Chapter 4. However, he also said that the film still needs a lot of work, and that it is affected by the ongoing writers’ strike.
“John Wick 4 was embraced enough by the critics and the audience that it’s kind of an organic and natural next step to do John Wick 5,” he said.
Whether Reeves will reprise his role as John Wick in the fifth film remains to be seen. Perhaps he will change his mind after some rest and recovery. Or perhaps he will pass on the torch to someone else. Either way, fans can still enjoy his performance as one of the most iconic action heroes of all time in John Wick: Chapter 4, which is now playing in theaters.