Is John Wick Based on a True Story?

‘John Wick’ is a gripping action thriller movie with a compelling touch. Featuring Keanu Reeves as the titular character, the narrative follows John as he goes on a revenge spree after some vandals steal his vintage car and kill his puppy. Chad Stahelski and David Leitch together directed the 2014 movie, although the latter only gets credit as a producer. While filled with cerebral stunts and backed by a brilliant performance by Reeves, you must wonder if the movie borrows from an actual incident or person. If the question of the movie’s origins intrigues you, let us help you out!

Is John Wick a True Story?

No, ‘John Wick’ is not based on a true story. Mingling fantasy, myth, and realism, the screenwriter Derek Kolstad conjured the unlikely action hero. Kolstad initially worked on a script about a retired gun-for-hire coming out of hibernation for vengeance, titled ‘Scorn.’ He was influenced by the film noir genre, including its revenge motif and tragic antihero. For the writer, the works of Alistair MacLean and Stephen King marked a chord in world-building.

Initially, Kolstad wanted someone in the mid-60s to play the role of John Wick for his seasoned history. However, the producers thought the detail was irrelevant and started looking instead for a seasoned face in the industry, closing in on Keanu Reeves. The creative team decided to change the title to ‘John Wick’ only after the insistence of Reeves, who wholly invested in the project. After one 2017 comic, a 2020 graphic novel, five films in the plan, a spin-off television series, and three video games, ‘John Wick’ has become an empire of a franchise.

Moreover, the movie pays homage to acclaimed filmmaker John Woo’s movies, whom the directors highly admire. In an interview, Stahelski and Leich shared that they were heavily inspired by several movies like ‘The Killer’ and ‘Point Blank,’ as well as Jean-Pierre Melville’s ‘Le Cercle Rouge’ and ‘Le Samouraï.’ Additionally, they referred to the works of Akira Kurosawa, Quentin Tarantino, Sergio Leone, and Steve McQueen while modeling the realistic stunts on anime and martial arts movies.

In addition, Park Chan-wook’s ‘The Vengeance Trilogy’ and Lee Jeong-beom’s ‘The Man from Nowhere’ served as an inspiration for the graphic nature of the film. Surprisingly, ‘John Wick’ bears an uncanny resemblance to an incident involving former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell. The veteran soldier wrote ‘Lone Survivor,’ chronicling the experience of his fireteam in Afghanistan in 2005. Meanwhile, after returning from service, Luttrell moved to Texas and got a yellow labrador puppy named DASY, after the acronyms of his fallen teammates in Afghanistan.

On April 1, 2009, when some men broke into Luttrell’s Texas house, killing DASY, he took no time to arm himself with one 9mm pistol, chasing the men in his truck. The police later got hold of the perpetrators, who were later sentenced for animal cruelty. Luttrell later said of the incident that he spared the vandals since he had killed enough people already. In contrast to him, the fictional John Wick becomes bloodier as the movie paces forward, the kill count reaching 84.

Therefore, while the premise seems to borrow from the Navy SEAL’s experience, the film remains fictional mainly in its approach. In summation, ‘John Wick’ is an amalgamation of its directors’ and writer’s personal favorite cinematic gems. It combines imagination with realistic elements to conjure a believable tale of revenge and redemption with a violent twist.

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