The Frank Sinatra Hall was packed with an excited crowd Thursday to welcome USC alumnus Chad Stahelski, director of “John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum.”
Hosted by the School of Cinematic Arts, the film was screened for the audience, followed by a panel discussion with Stahelski, editor Evan Schiff and supervising sound editor Mark Stoeckinger. All three are SCA alumni.
The star-studded cast of “John Wick 3” includes Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Anjelica Huston, Halle Berry, Lance Reddick and Ian McShane. The latest installment of the action franchise was released May 17 and has so far brought in over $150 million worldwide.
The film follows Wick running to save his life, as he is now being deemed excommunicado from the assassin world. With a $14 million bounty on his head, all assassins have been disbarred from helping him, as they too will be punished for any assistance they provide. Throughout the film, Wick is saved multiple times by people who owe him favors.
“Keanu and I had worked together to figure out how intense to make the scenes,” Stahelski said. “We didn’t want any limits. But it is not an easy sell for the studios. We have, however, been fortunate that the ‘John Wick’ films were everything we dreamed about for the last 30 years.”
Stahelski spoke about creating a particularly challenging scene where Reeves, Berry and two dogs fight a team of assassins.
“There were a lot of challenges, such as the geography of the space, the dogs and knowing where everything was placed,” Stahelski said. “This particular scene took two months to plan. This included training the dogs to fight and having one of the dogs bite the assassin’s genitals. But that is why it was such an exciting scene! It was hard to convince the studio to spend a million dollars on training dogs to bite a man’s genitals, but we were able to make it happen.”
As the session came to a close, Stahelski also gave filmmaking advice to the SCA audience.
“You have to speak the other person’s language in order to get what you want,” Stahleski said.
He mentioned that in his career, he had to learn to do many jobs in various filmmaking departments to make his movie exactly how he wanted.
He said that to “speak the language” of different production departments allowed him to have more creative freedom, something usually hard to come by with a big-budget action film.
“I literally watched this movie more than 100 times for press junkets,” Stahelski said. “I take full responsibility for 100 percent of the edits, scenes, etc. I was fortunate to have 100 percent of the creative decisions, so I take pride in what we have done.”