The Whole Gag is Excess: Chad Stahelski on John Wick: Chapter 4 | interview

Is there some sort of a one-upmanship with oner sequences between you and your stuntman-turned-directors peers?

We’re fairly insular when we go into creative mode, we just want to do what’s good for us. There’s not a competition. Afterwards, we’ll probably all talk shit, probably. [laughs] In a fun way, we’re all pretty close.

But no, I always try to work from the perspective as an audience member. If I think it’s cool and it tingles me, then I’m like, “OK, we’re on the right path.” And then you get your creatives to work. I just think that’s always it. If you’re not excited by it, there’s no sense in trying to justify that other people will like it. Again, that’s OK, but “You know, people are gonna love it”—I heard that a lot growing up in the industry. And I’m like, “If none of us think it’s cool … what? How does that work?”

I always tell my stunt team, “If you’re not impressed by it, don’t show it to me.” I don’t want to find what the audience finds mediocre, I don’t care. If you don’t have something that’s gonna make you clap, they’re not going to clap.

And there are plenty of action movies that try to cut around that.

They’re always trying to … again, I have nothing against editing, I have nothing against Shakicam. It’s when you do it in place of something, when you don’t have the money or the time, or the creative thought or the energy and you hide behind what you don’t have. I’m all about showing off what I have: I have Keanu Reeves, I have a great stunt team, and I have great locations. I’m gonna show people the world that I’m in. So don’t hide. Be creative. Being creative is free. You just have to work, and it makes people’s heads hurt. Everybody always says, “I want something new, I want something fresh,” and I’m like, “OK, you got to go out and earn that. It doesn’t just fall out of the sky.” You gotta try, you gotta fail, you gotta stand back up and fail again, and fail again, and fail again, until you get it right.

Did being a stuntman give you that hunger for creativity, or do we have to look back even further in your life?

My mom and dad are pretty incredible people. I come from a great family. Mom and dad were both incredibly athletic and incredibly intellectual, and they both love to read. They both were very well-read, smart people. They both started companies when they were very, very young and have interesting histories, I don’t want to bore you with it. Me and my brothers came up that way, where they wanted us to be athletic and resourceful, and well-read. Everything was rewarded; you did a good job you got to play in the woods, don’t stay inside. Whatever wish—I wanted to do karate, judo, BMX, motorcycles—and they were like, “Cool, go do it.” I felt very supported.