John Wick 3 director Chad Stahelski has led an interesting life. He’s been an MMA fighter, trained Irish wolfhounds with his mother, raced motorcycles, and been a professional rock climber. He went to the same martial arts academy as Brandon Lee and did stunt work to help finish The Crow after Lee was killed in an accident on set. Later he worked with the Wachowskis and doubled for Keanu Reeves on The Matrix.
In 2013 Stahelski and David Leitch pitched the idea for John Wick, which they ended up directing. It was a surprise hit, grossing $88 million worldwide on a $20 million budget. A sequel followed, directed by Stahelski, in 2017, with double the budget and more than double the gross, $171 million worldwide. Part three has already grossed $182 million worldwide and is still going strong.
The plots have gotten bigger along with the budgets, and what started as a revenge movie centered around a dog’s murder now encompasses an underworld corporate hierarchy and an entire shadow economy of ancient coins representing blood oaths. As you might expect from a stunt coordinator-turned-director, the stunts have continued to push the envelope as well. This chapter of John Wick featured a murder-by-book and an entire fight scene incorporating crotch-biting dogs.
Believe it or not, getting dogs to do that on film is a lot more complicated than simply yelling “Chopper, sic balls!” like in Stand By Me. It’s a process, which in this case took years to complete, and involved training the dogs from the time they were puppies specifically for the purpose of using them in this film.
I recently spoke with Stahelski, who, much like the John Wick character himself, seemed especially concerned about the safety of dogs for a guy who wrote a scene where someone gets curb stomped on a book.
So I’m just going to come right out and ask it: are you the best working director named Chad?
I don’t know if I’m the best. I don’t know too many other Chads, so I’ll claim singularity, but I won’t claim greatness. How’s that?