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[The following story contains spoilers for John Wick: Chapter 4.]
Yeah, Lionsgate is thinking John Wick is back.
John Wick: Chapter 4 had widely been expected to be the final installment in the main action franchise, but a fifth film is back on the table after the latest movie’s astonishing opening at the global box office, according to Lionsgate Motion Picture Group chair Joe Drake.
Directed by Chad Stahelski and returning Keanu Reeves in the titular role as the iconic assassin, the unstoppable action pic served up a huge $73.8 million domestically after pristine reviews and an A CinemaScore from audiences. The results were just as impressive overseas, where the movie debuted to a resounding $67.6 million from 71 markets for a global start of $141.4 million, a series record on all fronts.
Making a fifth installment of John Wick is no small challenge considering that Reeves’ character seemingly meets his demise at the end of Chapter 4. But on Sunday, Lionsgate’s Drake told The Hollywood Reporter that a John Wick 5 is no longer out of the question.
“There’s a will and there’s an openness. And you could certainly interpret that ending in different ways,” said Drake. “We’re all going to take a tiny rest here and then scratch at ideas about whether there’s a credible way to get into five. But there’s no guarantee.”
It’s a potential about-face for the creative team, as Stahelski has stated he and Reeves were fairly certain this was the end. The director had previously considered making the fourth and fifth films back to back, but the idea was scrapped once the ending of Chapter 4 was decided upon.
Drake noted, “Keanu and Chad, rightly so, are very protective about never screwing with the audience. So we certainly have our work cut out for us. … Keanu is so beloved and that character is so beloved; that’s not lost on him.”
Nor is it lost on Reeves that John Wick 4 is the second-best domestic opening of his live-action career behind The Matrix Reloaded, which started off with $91.8 domestically two decades ago in 2003. (On the animated side, Reeves was part of the voice cast of Pixar’s Toy Story 4, which scared up $121 million domestically on its first weekend in 2019.)
Regardless of John Wick 5′s fate, Reeves will return to the character in the future, albeit not necessarily in the lead role. He shows up in Ballerina, the series’ first spinoff, which stars Ana de Armas as another determined assassin. Ian McShane, Anjelica Huston and the late Lance Reddick also star in the film, which is expected to hit theaters next year and takes place between the events of John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum and John Wick: Chapter 4. The film is directed by Len Wiseman.
“He is in Ballerina, interestingly, in a very strategic way. And we’re talking about a couple of others that he could certainly participate in,” said Drake. “I know that Chad has a bunch of really cool ideas.”
While Reeves and Stahelski sounded pretty firm that Baba Yaga is deceased when appearing at the recent South by Southwest Film & TV Festival, the editing of Chapter 4′s final moments leaves just enough vagueness (Wick isn’t clearly shown dead) to give the filmmakers some wiggle room should they want to bring him back with some sort of faked-his-own-death revelation.
There’s also another possibility, should Reeves want to return to the role — making a prequel set before Wick retired to settle down with his wife, though that would require Wick playing a far younger version of the character than has been seen. Fortunately, as one SXSW audience member noted to Reeves, he doesn’t seem to age. “Yeah, man, I age,” Reeves, 58, replied wearily. “It’s happening, man.”
Drake alluded to a prequel as a possibility, noting, “You could certainly go earlier [with the story].”
That SXSW screening was key to the final push of a marketing campaign that even rivals commended. Led by Lionsgate Motion Picture Group vice chairman Adam Fogelson alongside Motion Picture Group marketing president JP Richards and co-president Keri Moore, the campaign reinforced that John Wick is a man — versus a superhero — whose journey has been motivated by love and painful loss.
In a recent interview with THR before the movie opened in theaters, Stahelski stated he and Reeves were fairly certain this was the end, despite hesitation from Lionsgate. He said the studio’s response to killing off Wick was — in his words — “What are you fucking thinking?” Yet Stahelski didn’t completely discount a fifth outing.
“Wicks always, for some weird reason, always get the latest release date in Japan. It’s always like, three months later,” said the director in a separate interview, imagining how they might dream up a fifth. “Keanu and I will take the long trip to Tokyo, we’ll sit in the Imperial Hotel Scotch Bar and go, ‘What do you think?’ We’ll have a couple 20-year-old whiskies and write some ideas on napkins. If those ideas stick, maybe we’ll make a movie.”
The possibility of a fifth outing also comes in a world in which many actors have seemingly retired from roles, only to come back.
Notes Paul Dergarabedian of Comscore: “Many a boxer, rock band and star athlete has announced retirement only to have a change of heart, so while the most beloved and legendary hitman’s future is shall we say inconclusive, it would be unwise to count John Wick out at this point and given the incredible success of this latest installment, it’s beyond obvious that fans around the world are not ready to say au revoir to the great Baba Yaga. Nor should the studio.”
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