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Derek Kolstad is the writer responsible for one of the biggest action franchises in cinema today. 2014’s John Wick was a gripping neo-noir revenge flick that saw Keanu Reeves play a retired assassin grieving the loss of his wife. When a chance encounter with a Russian gangster leads to the death of his beloved dog, the character embarks on a violent crusade for vengeance, drawn back into a murky criminal underworld he thought he’d left behind. The film was a frenzy of breathtaking fight sequences and emotional character beats, directed by Keanu’s former Matrix stunt-person Chad Stahelski. Two equally acclaimed sequels soon followed, with further sequels and spin-offs currently in development.
Derek wrote the movie after finding himself wondering one day what he would be capable of if someone ever hurt one of his two dogs. His original vision for the movie, however, was a little different to the film we know today. As you’ll discover in this episode, Wick was originally envisioned as a Rambo-esque former boxer in his ‘60s. Scorn, as the film was originally titled, had a different backstory for the widowed assassin, a different ending and scenes that didn’t make the shooting script.
We spoke to Derek from his family home in Wisconsin to hear about the film’s evolution, the heartbreaking hidden tribute to his grandparents he snuck into John Wick, and the future of the character – a future that he’s decided to step away from. If you’re a fan of Marvel and the MCU, by the way, you might wanna stick around till the end for an intriguing update on Derek’s next project – The Falcon and The Winter Soldier.
Script Apart is a podcast about the first-draft secrets behind great movies. Each episode, the screenwriter behind a beloved film shares with us their initial screenplay for that movie. We then talk through what changed, what didn’t and why on its journey to the big screen. All proceeds go to Black Minds Matter UK, the NHS Charities Covid-19 Appeal and the Film and TV Charity.
Script Apart is hosted by Al Horner and produced by Kamil Dymek, with music from Stefan Bindley-Taylor. You can follow Script Apart on Twitter and Instagram. You can also email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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