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So far, 2019 has been the year of the movie cat -- between Captain Marvel’s Goose and Church in Pet Sematary. So while the John Wick franchise has always centered on dogs, including the upcoming third chapter, felines marked their territory.
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum director Chad Stahelski recalled a particular cat invasion during the filming of the sequel in Essaouira, Morocco. The sequence features Keanu Reeves’ Wick and new character Sofia (played by Halle Berry) and her pair of Belgian Malinois hound protectors fighting off a small army of assassins. Here’s what happened, in Stahelski’s words:
The Moroccans are not big on canines. Love a fucking cat, though. There had to be thousands. We went there in the winter when we scouted and they weren’t that prevalent. We were like, There’s a few cats here, we’ll get a cat department, and we’re going to move all the cats out. We show up to shoot and there were literally a thousand cats, okay? And the cats have balls of steel. They’re not afraid of anything.
The irony! The director told Entertainment Weekly that, as a result, the crew had to build massive cages to house the cat residents while they shot the scene. They also tasked themselves with feeding them, Chad Stahelski commenting that there were more felines to feed than cast and crew members put together.
Halle Berry’s hounds, who she trained herself, were to be a major component of the scene in Morocco. But, as you can imagine, thousands of cats are distracting. Chad Stahelski continued with these words:
What do Belgian Malinois love to chase? Fucking cats! While Keanu Reeves is killing ten guys over there, Halle is killing ten guys over here, and [there is the] stunt guy the dog’s got to focus on. You want that dog focused on what he’s supposed to bite, and what he’s not supposed to bite. Hit the mark, right? And there’s ten cats walking around and you’re going, ‘Oh, Jesus. Oh, Jesus.’ You’re sitting behind the monitor going, ‘What’s the dog looking at? What’s the dog looking at? Oh my god oh my god, he’s going to bite — Argh!’ It got a little crazy between cat-wrangling, and dog-wrangling, and people-wrangling. And you’ve got the studio back [in America] going, ‘Why are you a little behind? Just get the dog to do [it].’ And you’re like, I don’t speak dog. If I did I’d be fucking rich! Anyway, that was kind of fun.
Sounds like a bit of a mess… but it makes for a great story and hopefully some great content for the John Wick 3 bonus features. The crew did not expect to run into cats, of all problems on set -- especially during a scene featuring dogs, no less.
In addition to working closely with the hounds -- such as a sequence where one of the dogs jumps off her back, scales a wall and takes someone down from above -- Halle Berry also trained hard to do her own badass stunts during the movie’s fight scenes. The actress has the bruises to show for it because she actually broke three ribs during rehearsal. She doesn’t know how it happened but considers it her "badge of honor."
Unexpected cat setbacks aside, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is shaping up to be a highly-anticipated release. It's already being highly praised by critics, with one reviewer deeming it an “action masterpiece." The movie is expected to make $30 to $40 million during its opening weekend, making it the biggest debut for the franchise yet. John Wick hits theaters on May 17.