John Wick director Chad Stahelski revealed why he did not get too involved in the upcoming spin-off film Ballerina.
Ballerina is set to hit theaters sometime in 2024, starring Ana de Armas as a ballerina assassin who is on a revenge quest to take down the people who killed her family.
While it is unknown if a fifth mainline John Wick film will happen, Keanu Reeves' titular action hero does have a "small part to play in" the upcoming blockbuster
Ballerina marks the first John Wick-related film that franchise director Chad Stahelski has not been involved in, as Underworld and Live Free or Die Hard director Les Wiseman gives his take on this beloved franchise.
Chad Stahelski Was Hands-Off on Ballerina
In an exclusive interview with The Direct's Klein Felt, John Wick: Chapter 4 director Chad Stahelski shared his strategy for building a cinematic universe, something that included not being too involved in spin-offs like the upcoming Ballerina film.
When asked how these spin-offs can differentiate themselves from the mainline John Wick movies, Stahelski revealed likes to "give as much help as I can in the beginning" and then get hands-off:
Felt: "And now that's gonna the tendrils are growing even more. You have 'The Continental' coming later this year. You have the Ana De Armes 'Ballerina' film. On that, how do those sorts of projects differentiate themselves from the mainline, 'John Wick' movies?"
Stahelski: "Yeah, I think that's a good question. Hopefully, we'll see. Hopefully we’ll have an answer to your question. Look, I try to give as much help as I can in the beginning. And then honestly, like like Len Wiseman who's directing, or who is currently posting 'Ballerina.' I actually worked for Len when he was directing 'Die Hard 4' and I was just a stuntman. So I've known Len for a while. Great guy, big fan of his."
Directly mentioning Ana de Armas' Ballerina, the John Wick filmmaker noted that director Les Wiseman "came in and really immersed himself" in the John Wick world with Stahelski eventually telling him, "Bless you. Go with God, do your own thing:"
"The best was that he came in and really immersed himself into what we were doing in 'John Wick 4' and into the sequels, and then we heard his take on things. He had a lot of reverence for what lenses, what stuff. And look, I shared everything with him, and then the best thing I felt I could do was like, you know, ‘Bless you. Go with God, do your own thing. I don't wanna know, blah, blah. Like, go do your thing.’"
The 54-year-old remarked that he likes "overseeing and helping guide in the mythos," but it is "the individuality of the filmmakers" that should make each project stand out:
"Because I don't think if I'm the main creative force and everything… I think overseeing and helping guide in the mythos that we've created is great. But the individuality of the filmmakers and the storytellers we bring need to insert themselves into it. Because like I just told you, I think the biggest key to 'John Wick' was, it wasn't meant to be a movie, it was a love letter and a personal note from Keanu and me. If there's something you like about 'John Wick 4,' that's me. If there's something you don't like about it, that's me too."
He said letting these creatives play relatively freely within the world is important because, like with the John Wick films, each individual effort is ultimately a reflection of the filmmakers themselves:
"The mistakes and the pluses good or bad, you're seeing me. It's just opening yourself up to the audience and going, ‘This is what I love. Hopefully, I'll geek out just like you guys do and we're all on the same page.’
So in order to continue the franchise, Len needs to insert himself into 'Ballerina.' The people that are working, they need to do that. If there's no love for the genre and the genre-mashing that we're doing. I don't know how you could expand it. It's just more and bigger, right? And that's not the point."
Stahelski joked, saying that anyone could "come up with a John Wick spinoff right now," they just have to insert their passions into whatever they are pitching for it to be successful:
"I bet right now, if I put the screws to you, I bet you could come up with a 'John Wick' spinoff right now. You could come up with a character, knowing the world you're invested in. But you know what's gonna make that character special is it's coming from you. And all the stuff you love, the 'Star Wars' poster in the background, I guarantee you're a Western fan, right? You got your favorite."
He closed by sharing that "it's kind of cool" because within the John Wick universe "in order to succeed, we have to put ourselves into it:"
"You're gonna put those into your 'John Wick' spin-off and that's what's gonna make it expand. That's what's gonna make it good. Not just mine, but you got to make it yours, and then we're good.
So it's in a way it's kind of cool because it's a universe that no matter who we get, in order to succeed, we have to put ourselves into. It's not following some lore or IP that's been around for 80 years."
Chad Stahelski's Keys to a Cinematic Universe
In a world that has been all about meticulously calculated storytelling within cinematic universes (i.e. the MCU and DCU), it is almost refreshing to hear how John Wick's Chad Stahelski approaches the same sort of thing.
He would prefer to let creatives make the thing they want to make, and inject themselves into the world of the Wick films.
Instead of having a story and finding a filmmaker to take that on, Stahelski and the John Wick brain trust seems more interested in hearing pitches from filmmakers and green-lighting from there.
What makes this strategy even more interesting is the fact that Stahelski actually pitched to join a much more regimented cinematic universe (the MCU) a few years ago.
Since then, the filmmaker has changed his tune on working with Marvel or other major IP, citing "[he does] better when there are no limits" and he "can kind of bend the rules."
So it makes sense why the director would have such a laissez-faire attitude toward building out the John Wick universe.
Chad Stahelski's latest directorial effort, John Wick: Chapter 4, can be seen in theaters now, with Ana de Armas' Ballerina set to hit theaters sometime next year.