Is John Wick based on a true story?

Keanu Reeves in John Wick Chapter 4Lionsgate

John Wick is one of the most popular action franchises in the world right now – but is the tale of an assassin gone rogue based on a true story? Read on to find out the history behind the character.

The first John Wick movie debuted in 2014 to strong reviews and even stronger box office, and the success of the series has only grown from there.

Each successive instalment has made more money than the last, even if they aren’t necessarily better (you can read Dexerto’s ranking of the movies here).

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Chapter 4 – which we reviewed – hit screens back in March. With the movie proving to be yet another hit, here’s a bit of background on John Wick.

Is John Wick based on a true story?

No, John Wick is not based on a true story. While elements of John’s world are ripped from the real world, the character – and his story – is entirely made up.

John Wick is the brainchild of writer Derek Kolstad, who wanted to write a revenge story, with an unforgettable inciting incident.

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“Even though I write a ton, I had never written a pure revenge flick,” Kolstad told Go Into the Story. “And who doesn’t love a good one? I had seen a couple of disappointing entries, and decided to tackle one myself.

“Alistair MacLean and Stephen King were huge influences on me growing up. MacLean could build a world, and King could surprise you by what the main character truly was capable of.

“As for the dog, I found myself asking the random question of myself: ‘What would you do if someone did something to Loki or Isis, my two mutts?’ And the answer? Terrible, terrible things…”

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And so, the story of a trained killer avenging the death of his beloved dog was born.

Turning Scorn into John Wick

The original script was very different to what eventually made it into cinemas however, with a different title, and a different protagonist, at least in terms of age.

“One of my best friends is Charlie Ferraro at UTA, who sent me this script from Derek Kolstad called Scorn,” franchise producer Basil Iwanyk says in the book They Shouldn’t Have Killed His Dog, as reported by Entertainment Weekly. “The lead was a 75-year-old man, 25 years after being retired.

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“It was the fun of watching Clint Eastwood kick ass. I thought, Okay, there’s probably one or two names you could do this with: Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford. Other than that, I’m not sure how I put this movie together. But the tone of the script for John Wick was subversive and really fun. It has a very clear emotional through line and a great premise for an action movie.”

The script eventually made its way to Keanu Reeves, who immediately signed up with the words, “OK Derek, I’m going to play him as 35.” And so the John Wick we know and love today was born.

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And while the character might not be real, the fictional world that John inhabits is inspired by the real world, with The High Table loosely based on feudalism, the Continental’s neutrality like Switzerland during wartime, and Greek history and mythology inspiring what happens on the hotel grounds.

For more John Wick: Chapter 4 coverage, check out the below articles…

Review | John Wick ranked | Killa explained | Is there a post-credits scene? | Marquis explained | Ballerina cameo | How long is Chapter 4? | Caine explained | Potential Chapter 5 | What happens to Charon? | 13 Best John Wick kills | Post-credit scene explained | Does the dog die? | Keanu Reeves on emotional ending | Is Chapter 5 streaming? | Movies to watch if you like JW | Will there be a Chapter 5? | The Continental | Ballerina

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