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Somewhere out there, John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum director Chad Stahelski may be banging his head on a desk. He's deep in the editing process for Keanu Reeves' third John Wick movie, shaving the movie down after a director's cut and test screening cuts, so we can watch the finished product this May.
Speaking of test screening cuts, Chad Stahelski lifted the veil a bit on that process, sharing a funny/maddening story on how a recent test screening went for John Wick 3. As he explained, test screenings can recruit people who know what the film is -- like, huge John Wick fans who lucked out to test a cut of the next film -- or they can recruit non-action fans. Here's how that can go:
Pacing is always a really true note. There's a lot of contradictory [notes]. 'What's the best thing you like about John Wick 3?' 'We love the action! We love the action!' 'What's the [worst]?' 'Well, there's just a lot of action, a lot of action.' OK, so your best note and your worst note are the same thing? It's a tricky one to handle. 'We love your action, but we want you to change it. But if you change it, we may hate it.' OK, so you love all the action? 'Oh it's the best action packed movie I've ever seen! But there's too much.' OK, what do you want to cut? 'I don't know. Good luck!'
Chad Stahelski said he's gotten notes like that for all three movies: The same reason test audiences hate it is the same reason others love it. So, as he hypothetically posed a question to Collider, do you go with the John Wick fans who want more, more, more shooting and action? Or do you try to trim some of it so that someone who is not an action movie fan can get through the film, and potentially build a larger audience?
Chad Stahelski said he looks at test screenings as two stages -- 1) hearing the reactions from a crowd of about 500 people, feeling the vibe, and seeing if they laugh and cheer and hit the beats they wanted; and then 2) after the screening when the fans fill out the forms. Where were you confused? What did you not get? How much did you like each person, etc. That second stage is what he takes with more of a grain of salt.
The director said they try to find a middle ground and do things for both sides. That includes throwing in nods to people who are familiar with specific fighting disciplines, which just looks cool to people who aren't familiar with stunts or weapons.
Speaking from the editing bay, Chad Stahelski said John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum is 20% more movie than Chapter 2, with more characters, and more action by at least three sequences. So the body count is substantially higher. John Wick and John Wick: Chapter 2 were more two-act stories, he said, and in Parabellum there are two storylines going on, so it's more of a three-act film.
He said some of the most impressive takes are with Keanu Reeves, new addition Halle Berry, and their respective dogs -- all in the same sequence. Chad Stahelski said he's learned what Keanu is really good at -- like being a pro motorcycle rider -- and Keanu has gotten better at everything with training in each film.
You've probably seen the photo of Keanu Reeves' John Wick riding a horse at night in the rain through the streets of New York City. That was born from Chad Stahelski wanting a new kind of chase scene vs. what they've already done. He's a big fan of Sergio Leone Westerns, and Keanu said he had horse riding experience from 47 Ronin, so they went for it.
It's a great interview. And hopefully the director leans more toward the longtime John Wick fans who've helped this franchise stay alive for at least three movies and possibly more to come. John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum (the title is explained here) opens in theaters May 17. You've seen the first trailer, yes? Here's more of what we know about the movie so far. And here are more movies worth keeping an eye on as 2019 continues.