Killing John Wick's dog led to a major behind-the-scenes fight with producers, the movie’s screenwriter reveals. Released in 2014, the super-violent John Wick proved to be something of a comeback film for star Keanu Reeves, who has by now played the seemingly invincible assassin Wick in two sequels with a third set to arrive.

A man with an almost supernatural ability to survive punishment while doling out death to his enemies, Wick has a bogeyman quality to him that could have made him unsympathetic to the audience (this is only amplified by Reeves’ natural blank-faced quality). But filmmakers Chad Stahelski and David Leitch solved the problem of getting the audience on Wick’s side with a master stroke in the first movie. As fans well remember, the incident that sets Wick on the path of mayhem is the death of his beloved dog Daisy (the fact that the dog was a gift from his dead wife only makes the animal that much more meaningful to Wick). Using the hook of the murdered canine, Stahelski and Leitch pulled the audience into Wick’s story and created an engine of heartfelt motivation inside what was otherwise an exercise in almost pure carnage, allowing the audience to root for Wick despite his being basically an unrelenting killing machine.

As it turns out, the death of John Wick’s dog was a move producers originally balked at, leading to a big behind-the-scenes fight that thankfully was ultimately won by Stahelski and Leitch. As screenwriter Derek Kolstad said in a recent interview with

"But without that dog connection and without that underlying soul and the heartbeat of that character, and also the levity it brings the character and the levity it brings the humor, it was key. At certain points, Chad and Dave, they fought for it, they got it and they were right. They continued to fight for the way they see certain stories playing out elsewhere. They've done quite well with that. They're talented cats, man."

Kolstad says producers were finally convinced that killing the dog was a good move when they saw test audiences react to the movie. “As soon as the dog died, and seeing their reaction and then seeing the siege in the house, we were like, yep, we were right,” the writer explained. Indeed, the little move that gave John Wick a soul proved to be a great idea, as the original movie went on to be a hit that spawned a pair of sequels with a third ready to go into production, not to mention the TV show The Continental, which focuses on the mysterious assassins’ hotel from the movie.

Indeed, the John Wick universe has now gotten so large, that the original movie with its canine death motivation factor now seems almost quaint. The enlargement of the franchise has of course allowed director Stahelski (Leitch exited after the first movie) to create ever-more-elaborate action set pieces, which is a good thing, but it’s also caused the story to stray from its relatively modest origins in a way that has not been altogether positive. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum indeed seemed to tease an even greater escalation in the fourth film, but it’s fair to ask how far the somewhat thin John Wick premise can be actually be stretched before it snaps.

John Wick: Chapter 4 (2022)
Release Date: May 27, 2022