EXCLUSIVE: Keanu Reeves on handling the physical side of playing John Wick: 'Ice is your friend'


Keanu Reeves returns as the weary John Wick in 'John Wick: Chapter 4'. Photos: Handout

It's no secret Keanu Reeves trains hard for months when he takes on an action role.

For the 1999 blockbuster The Matrix, Reeves signed up for a gruelling four-month kung fu training before the camera even started rolling.

For each of the John Wick movies, he would arrive on the set absolutely ready for the non-stop action sequences, having put in hours at the gym, shooting range, etc.

And we all know, the John Wick series – starting with the first one in 2014 – does not skimp on action.

The latest instalment, John Wick: Chapter 4, boasts 14 major action sequences, four times that of previous films.

Working with the stunt teams, Reeves began his fight training almost eight months before production of Chapter 4; his precision driving training took nine months.

There was also more horseback riding for the new film and learning to use the nunchucks.

Besides the physical aspect, he also worked on his Japanese and Russian pronunciations.

During StarLifestyle’s exclusive Zoom interview with the friendly movie star, he tells us working hard is just who he is.

“That work ethic, I guess, came from within me and also from the environment I grew up in,” says the Lebanon-born actor, who was raised in Toronto, Canada.

“And then as an actor, I guess, just trying to do the best I could, you know. And trying to do whatever it took to do that. I find great pleasure in being committed when you love what you’re doing.

“People will often say, ‘Well, it’s so challenging.’

“And, you know, to me these challenges – doing fight scenes, having shooting at night for seven months or, you know, doing ‘movie action’ for 12 hours a day, day after day, which takes a physical toll – that commitment, there’s a great pleasure in that. It’s like climbing the mountain, and you’re hoping you can get there.”

As for how he’s handling the effect of the intense training on his body, the 58-year-old says with a chuckle: “Ice is your friend. Ice water is your friend for inflammation and recovery. I highly recommend it.

“For John Wick: Chapter 4, I had a wonderful cold plunge from an ice company out of Australia.

“So, I got into that all the time, especially after training, after filming.

“If there’s no cold plunge, I get ice from room service, and I dump it in the tub. It really helps so much.”

In Chapter 4, Keanu Reeves gets to show off a new skill – fighting with nunchucks. — Photos: HandoutIn Chapter 4, Keanu Reeves gets to show off a new skill – fighting with nunchucks. — Photos: Handout

In a behind-the-scenes video, actor Laurence Fishburne – who’s worked with Reeves in The Matrix franchise and now John Wick films – says he applauds Reeves for continuing to work in the action genre as hard as he does.

“Keanu’s physicality in these movies is staggering. The amount of stamina that is required, just the sheer kind of energy to do like even half of what he is required to do, has got to be punishing.

“He said something really kind of telling to me. He said, ‘I haven’t spoken in like 15 weeks’,” shares Fishburne, laughing.

That “never-give-up attitude” is something that Reeves shares with his Wick character, whose “effort, commitment and will” come through in the way he fights his oh-so-many foes.

Actor Hiroyuki Sanada, who joins the franchise in Chapter 4, says in the production video: “Keanu is quiet and shy. But, you know, he’s a hard worker... much (like) the John Wick character.

“John Wick has depth. That’s why he’s so believable, and people want to support him.”

Hong Kong martial artist Donnie Yen plays a cool assassin in the new movie. Hong Kong martial artist Donnie Yen plays a cool assassin in the new movie.

Wick was first introduced as a retired assassin who returns to his killing profession to take revenge on a two-bit gangster who killed his dog.

It was a global hit. Soon, sequels followed in 2017, 2019 and now this.

Just as fans love John Wick films, Reeves loves making them, too.

Chapter 4 is very special to me, and also to have the opportunity to play this character over these years,” Reeves tells StarLifestyle.

“To work with such a visionary director as Chad Stahelski, and to work with Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne and (the late) Lance Reddick ... it is something very unique and very special to me.”

Keanu Reeves, left, and Laurence Fishburne, cast members in 'John Wick: Chapter 4', walk the carpet together at the premiere of the film on March 20, 2023, at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles. Photo: APKeanu Reeves, left, and Laurence Fishburne, cast members in 'John Wick: Chapter 4', walk the carpet together at the premiere of the film on March 20, 2023, at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles. Photo: AP

The three movies outlined how Wick’s world works: A gorgeous hotel in New York frequented by the world’s most accomplished killers, inconspicuous shops located around the city where one could get guns (lots of guns) and an underground intelligence network disguised as a homeless shelter.

Of course, all of the dealings run on a currency that’s only available to members of a secret society.

Chapter 4 reveals that society to be The High Table, which governs the underworld’s most powerful organisations.

It is this council that sets the rules and is the one behind the multi-million-dollar bounty on Wick’s head ... a price that’s perpetually going up.

Discovering a loophole in the rule-book, Wick sets out to defeat The Marquis (Bill Skarsgard) of The High Table so he can finally stop running and get back to being retired.

But first, Wick must face off against countless assassins who want to cash in the bounty – including a bada** killer played by Hong Kong actor Donnie Yen and a determined tracker (Shamier Anderson).


John Wick: Chapter 4 is showing at cinemas nationwide from March 23.

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