Studios Weren't Interested in John Wick At First
It took a festival screening to turn John Wick into a Hollywood darling.
It's not hard to see how much the cinematic landscape has changed in the last 15 years. Record-breaking comic book movies dominate the box office, punctuated by the occasional Fast and Furious film. Keanu Reeves' John Wick is a huge property now, but it took a Fantastic Fest viewing to get executives excited about a small, low-budget action film with spartan VFX and a dense mythology, according to co-director David Leitch in an interview with Deadline.
"For [co-director Chad Stahelski] and I, [John Wick] was a struggle financially," Leitch said. "We were first-time directors, co-directing, but we were very cohesive in our vision of what we wanted. I think that we just knew with all the restrictions we had, we wanted to get real good material every day and stay true to the character and get the great performance out of Keanu, and just keep focused on that. Because at that financial level, for all the things that we wanted to do in our minds, we'd had second unit budgets that were bigger than this production’s budget and so our appetite was always to pushing the box out. We got the movie cut and edited, and we had a great editor who helped us carve out the story."
"We presented that movie to the buyers and..." Leitch began.
"Nobody bought it," said Kelly McCormick, co-producer with Leitch on the upcoming action film Nobody and at their production company, 87North. The team finished the movie in early summer, and the studio wasn't willing to hold it for the Toronto International Film Festival's Midnight Madness showing, McCormick explained. Junior executives would see the movie and show interest, but not enough.
"[Lionsgate] took it to Fantastic Fest, and they went through the roof for it, bonkers, and then they were like, I think we’re onto something," McCormick said.
"That's where things changed," Leitch continued. "The first night we screened it, it was the first real screening we had. Test screenings had gone well, great for a movie like this, but this was like the first real screening at a festival, and it went crazy."
Deadline's interview with the pair is lengthy. Leitch and McCormick discuss Nobody, Bob Odenkirk's intense focus on training--something he has in common with John Wick star Keanu Reeves--as well as Odenkirk's personal connection to the subject matter, as well as the upcoming crime thriller Bullet Train, which is the first film to shoot on Sony's lot in almost a decade.
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