Reeves on training for John Wick: Demanding but I like it that way
Actor Keanu Reeves on how gruelling training was for John Wick: Chapter 3 and wanting to continue hitman's story
Keanu Reeves has always been a man of few words, which is why the role of the taciturn hitman John Wick fits him to a T.
The first two movies in 2014 and 2017 were hits because of their dazzling, almost balletic action sequences and high body count.
The third film in the series, John Wick: Chapter 3, opens here tomorrow.
Reeves admitted there were no high expectations for the first one. "We certainly didn't know if we would get a chance to continue the story. The film opened okay and then it had a kind of second life, second screenings in different formats.
"So we got the chance to tell a second one and that did better. So that was cool, people liked that film, which gave us the fuel to do the third chapter," the 54-year-old Canadian said in our interview at Four Seasons hotel in New York City.
Reeves said he would jump at the opportunity to do Chapter 4.
"I love the character and I would love to continue the story. I think there is a story to tell."
The action of John Wick: Chapter 3 picks up directly after Chapter 2. While all Wick wants to do is retire in peace to stare at pictures of his dead wife, accompanied by his dog, he has to go on the run after killing a member of the hitman's guild he belongs to, The High Table, which strips him of all protections.
With a US$14 million (S$19 million) bounty on his head, he is the target of every assassin who wants to get rich quick.
As he journeys through the underworlds of various countries, he finds himself in Morocco, seeking the aid of a woman (Halle Berry) he once had a past with and who owes him.
The film is directed by Chad Stahelski, who helmed the first two films and interestingly used to be Reeves' stunt double on The Matrix films.
To prepare for the physical challenges of this sequel, Reeves trained for four months.
"There are so many different kinds of action sequences," he explained.
"Not only more styles of martial arts and more gunplay, but also more motorcycles, horses and dogs, so the training was intense.
"Sometimes I would think maybe the training for this film was hard because of my age, but then I realised no, this one would be hard even if I wasn't 54 because there's so much action. It's demanding but I like it that way."
He added wryly: "I don't have a martial arts background, I just know movie fighting."
Wick's chief antagonist and head villain of the piece is Zero, played by 55-year-old Hawaii-born actor Mark Dacascos, a karate and gongfu champion who fans may know from the Iron Chef America TV show in which he plays the Chairman.
In the movie, the character's day job is a sushi chef, so you can imagine how well he wields those knives. In a peculiar twist to the story, he is Wick's number one fan even though he is trying to kill him.
On Dacascos' casting, Reeves said: "Chad had this idea of having ninjas in the film, and this character would be the kind of master, the leader of them. Mark came in and brought that whole idea of being a fan of John Wick's, like when he sits next to him and he's like, I am such a fan.
"He also brought that kind of dichotomy into the character, that idea that you can be a fanboy, but also a master of death. He was really a pleasure to work with as a martial artist and a movie action performer, because they can help you look good."
The conversation turns to motorbikes, an unwavering passion of his.
"I go through withdrawals if I am not riding a motorcycle," he confessed.
"First of all, I like the aesthetics of a motorcycle. I love the vibration, the movement, the independence, and I like the way that you can travel and move in the world on them.
"It is quite thrilling to ride them, there's a physical pleasure, and it is a great place to think and to feel, or not to think or not to feel. There is something being in the moment with a motorcycle that is special."
Reeves - who voices Canadian stuntman toy Duke Caboom in the upcoming Toy Story 4 and will reprise his role in the slacker comedy sequel Bill & Ted Face The Music - is amused by the idea of KeanuCon, a film festival dedicated to his filmography that took place in Glasgow, Scotland, last month.
"My first reaction was, 'What films are they showing, which films are you watching?' And after that, it was like, 'That's cool,' and then I was like, 'That's weird' and then I was like 'Cool, thank you'. By the way, I didn't receive an invitation," he said with a laugh.
He was a bit guarded about his life when he is not working.
"In Los Angeles, my days are pretty normal. There are the tourists, vans, trucks, they visit everybody's homes and stuff, so I will come out in the morning and get my newspaper, and sometimes you feel like an animal in a cage. They are looking, like, 'There's one.'
"I get it. There is definitely paparazzi in Los Angeles, but I don't go out much and I don't really do anything. I'm pretty boring."
The writer is the president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a non-profit organisation of entertainment journalists that also organises the annual Golden Globe Awards.