How John Wick 2 Pulled Off Its Most Expensive Scene On A Restrictive Budget

John Wick Chapter 2 Mirror

Director Chad Stahelski's John Wick: Chapter 2 is a hypnotic, bold, world-travelling action film that was made with a budget far lower than your average studio blockbuster. With a green light based on a quickly-growing cult following, the production was given a reported $40 million to work with -- which meant that there were certain restrictions put on the execution of key set pieces. A perfect example of this is the House Of Mirrors sequence in the third act -- which Stahelski recently told me required a lot of molding and forming before it could become what it is. Said the filmmaker,

The most expensive thing in John Wick 2 was that I wanted to do the mirror room sequence. I really wanted to do something like that. The first time I set that out, the production designer said, 'Do you need that?' I said, 'Yeah. It's an awesome idea. How are we going to do it? We have to figure out how to do it.' And the first blueprints come back, and it's a $1.5 million set piece. In our model, that wasn't going to work! So do you scrap the idea? No. Do you build a $250,000 version? Well, no, because then it's two mirrors on a wall. But there's a big gap between a quarter of a million and a million-and-a-half.

Much of the production value in the John Wick movies comes thanks to the incredible skills of the 87Eleven Action Design team and their ability to help choreograph and perform beautiful action sequences, but it truly takes a village to make a film. This was something that Chad Stahelski fully acknowledged last month when I sat down to talk with him during the Los Angeles home video press day for John Wick: Chapter 2. Our discussion turned to the creation of John Wick titles without $100 million-plus budgets, and the director explained how the shootout in the mirror art exhibition proved to be one of the film's greatest challenges.

Continuing, Chad Stahelski gave tremendous credit to all of the artists who collaborated with him on John Wick: Chapter 2 -- noting that their work prevented any one particularly big action sequence from forcing a sacrifice in any other department. The director explained,

If you can find a great creative idea, it's up to me and hopefully a really good crew to figure out 'Can we make this work for a price that is beneficial to the overall project?' Or, 'Am I willing to sacrifice something for X to get Y?' So that's where the genius of the crew comes in. You can find a crew that can get your vision out and still not hurt the rest of the movie. You can't just be the director, 'I want! I want! I want!' and then you sacrifice a whole second act.

From there, Chad Stahelski literally broke it all down, noting the order that he takes things into consideration during the production process:

I look at time first. How can I achieve this in a day so it's not gonna...? I know how fast I shoot; I know how decisive I am. Then I look at the cast. 'Can I afford the interesting cast that I want?' So now I've got the on-screen stuff. Time and the people to shoot. Then it's a matter of building. But if you don't have something, you still have to make a decision -- yes, I can do it; no, I can't.

Ultimately, Chad Stahelski admitted that the restrictions that come with a tighter budget actually benefitted the production overall -- as it really demanded a certain level of thinking about every important element of the process. While giant movies can always throw money at problems, Stahelski told me that John Wick: Chapter 2 was made from the process of considering a "smarter way to do it."

I had a great time chatting about the world of John Wick during my interview with Chad Stahelski, and now fans have the opportunity to dive back into the special world of assassins, as John Wick: Chapter 2 is now available on 4K, Blu-ray, DVD and digital download. Pick up a copy today, and stay tuned for updates about John Wick: Chapter 3 here on CinemaBlend!

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.