John Wick Directors Had to Fight Studio to Kill the Dog

By now, you know the deal — the untimely killing of John Wick's (Keanu Reeves) dog sets the retired assassin on a path of revenge and chaos. The one moment is the crux of the entire franchise, the moment pivotal to the very fiber of the Wick character. Though the killing of Wick's dog was in the film since its first draft, the moment grew bigger as the team behind the film continued developing the feature. As screenwriter Derek Kolstad tells us, the moment grew so big the studio behind the feature was troubled with how it would play with audiences that would eventually tune in.

In fact, Kolstad says John Wick directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch had to fight tooth and nail with the studio to keep the moment in the movie. At one point, there was a suggestion from the studio to remove it entirely. "I think that they wanted to do it right, and so there were elements where [the studio said], 'Let's cut the dog out. Let's just focus on it as an assassin coming out of retirement.' That kind of thing."

As the screenwriter says, the moment is very much about who Wick is and what he turns into over the course of the franchise. "But without that dog connection and without that underlying soul and the heartbeat of that character, and also the levity it brings the character and the levity it brings the humor, it was key," Kolstad continues. "At certain points, Chad and Dave, they fought for it, they got it and they were right. They continued to fight for the way they see certain stories playing out elsewhere. They've done quite well with that. They're talented cats, man."

The studio remained hesitant until they held the first test screening of the feature when the crew was able to watch the audience's reaction to the shocking scene. It was then, Kolstad says, the crew and studio all knew they had made the right decision. "But there was this pushback and pushback from all different angles until that first screening. We were watching the audience. As soon as the dog died, and seeing their reaction and then seeing the siege in house, we were like, yep, we were right," he concludes.

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"But a lot of times, you go into these movies, after so much work behind the scenes, and people take it differently. You kind of have to roll with it. But this was one of those rare situations where we kind of fought with our gut and it turned out to be right."

John Wick: Chapter 4 is due out May 27, 2022.