‘John Wick’ director Chad Stahelski on ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’

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Chad Stahelski. Courtesy of Lionsgate

Director Chad Stahelski considers the 1966 epic Spaghetti Western The Good, the Bad and the Ugly instrumental in helping him with the storytelling of the hit John Wick franchise. The former martial arts stunt coordinator-turned-director was “heavily inspired” by Sergio Leone’s use “of every character, sets, obstacles and dilemma” to define his 1966 film protagonists: Blondie (Clint Eastwood as "the Good"), Sentenza/Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef as "the Bad"), and Tuco (Eli Wallach as "the Ugly"). Stahelski says he was particularly influenced by Leone’s decision to take his time with building relationships between the characters, which paid off in the storytelling. Stahelski himself took a page from the film in not rushing key moments in his films, including the most recent, John Wick: Chapter Four.  

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This segment has been edited for length and clarity. 

John Wick was heavily inspired by Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The ability to have a trilogy of characters rotate around and constantly change alliances and constantly deal with the dilemmas that happen was fascinating to me. 

You combine that with the Japanese movie franchise Zatoichi, wuxia films of Wong Kar-wai and Zhang Yi-mou, tie it all together with a little David Lean from Lawrence of Arabia –  just in terms of scale, storytelling, character alliances and how they actually rotate through in the philosophy that we have. He used every single character, every single set, every single obstacle or dilemma as a way to reflect on who the character is – all those helped me on that. So those are the big things that John Wick: Chapter Four is all an amalgamation of.

Most people would have looked at the whole Tuco bringing Blondie over to his brother's monastery: you could have easily cut out a bunch of that. You could have chopped a ton of that out. At the end of the day, it's one thing that gives Tuco that little bit…I mean, I think that’s why Blondie keeps him alive at the end.  Just to see that Clint Eastwood character kind of [going] along with, “My brother? He loves me!” And he goes, “Yep, yep, yep,” and that right there, that's the bonding moment that easily could have been cut out due to runtime.

It’s a perfect example of how to take a breath, show a different side of the character, and really fall in love with the relationship.

Leone hit on what all the other Westerns were trying to get at: They're all more like stories, and he went this whole different route, which is still a very fascinating way to tell stories to me. 



Rebecca Mooney