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With Parabellum on TV screens tonight, all eyes are eagerly looking to what comes next. The recent drop of the first teaser trailer revealed that Chapter 4 will be released on March 24, 2023. As well as the returning central cast of Reeves, Ian McShane and Laurence Fishburne, the first new cast members have been revealed as Donnie Yen and Bill Skarsgard. Posters carry the rogue assassin’s moniker of Baba Yaga, given him when he was a top enforcer for a Russian crime syndicate. Anticipation is sky-high as Wick prepares to start his campaign to bring down The High Table. With the promotional trail starting to warm up, the franchise filmmakers have been spilling some extraordinary and tantalising details.

Incredibly, when screenwriter Derek Kolstad originally wrote John Wick, the plan was for the retired assassin being really of retirement age, with Clint Eastwood and Harrison Ford eyed for the role.

Details were revealed in tell-all new book Edward Gross and Mark A Altman’s They Shouldn’t Have Killed His Dog: The Complete Uncensored Oral History of John Wick, Gun Fu, and the New Age of Action. It was serialised in EW.

In it, franchise producer Basil Iwanyk said: “The lead was a 75-year-old man, twenty-five years after being retired. It was the fun of watching Clint Eastwood kick ass. I thought, ‘Okay, there’s probably one or two names you could do this with: Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford.’ Other than that, I’m not sure how I put this movie together. But the tone of the script for John Wick was subversive and really fun. It has a very clear emotional through line and a great premise for an action movie.”

A casual industry meeting changed everything.

Iwanyk explained: “My other best friend in the world, this guy Jimmy Darmody, is an agent at CAA, who at the time represented Keanu. And he said, ‘Do you have any action movies for Keanu Reeves?’

“I remember thinking to myself, ‘Keanu is one of the great action stars of the last 25 years — what happened to him? What’s he been doing?’

“And he was directing his movie, Man of Tai Chi, and doing 47 Ronin. We give him the script, we tell him, ‘Clearly, you’re not 75.’

“We had talked internally about actors, but it was Keanu Reeves — a voracious script reader; anything he gets his hands on, he reads — who got his talons into it and made it his own.”

Although the actor appears laconically laid back on screen and in the popular imagination, the new revelations paint an extraordinary picture of how seriously he takes his work.

Iwanyk said: “I spent two months at Keanu’s house on the weekends working on the script. When I first went and met with him and walked into his house, and as he rounded the corner to say hello to me — it’s a nice house, it’s not ostentatious for a guy who’s worth, I dunno, billions — and I look in his office, I see he has three hundred screenplays stacked on his desk, because he reads everything that UTA, WME, William Morris sends out. He reads them all. And so to think that he read something on a Friday, in ninety minutes, and was like, ‘I want to do it.’ In that moment, before I met and really clicked with him, I was like, ‘Yeah, I really want to do it, too.’ The first thing that Keanu said to me was, ‘Okay, Derek, I’m going to play him 35.’ And I’m like, ‘Fine.'”