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SYFY WIRE The Continental

John Wick 4 Had Alternate Ending With Keanu Still Alive - But Test Audiences Didn't Like It

Interestingly, test audiences preferred the more ambiguous conclusion.

By Josh Weiss
Keanu Reeves in John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023)

Four decades ago, John Carpenter's The Thing bombed spectacularly at the box office.

Critics and general viewers alike flagged a number of things (no pun intended) they disliked about the film, but one of the major sticking points was its nihilistic and ambiguous conclusion. Were either of the survivors infected? Was the alien truly vanquished?

They simply could not accept an ending with no concrete answer, which just goes to show how much times (and cinematic tastes) have changed over the last 41 years.

RELATED: Is John Wick Invincible? Director Shoots Down Claim in Behind the Scenes Clip

Speaking with Empire for the magazine's August 2023 issue (now on sale), John Wick: Chapter 4 director Chad Stahelski revealed that he and Keanu Reeves actually shot an alternate ending that made it "very clear" the fan favorite assassin had indeed survived his Sacré-Coeur duel with Donnie Yen's Caine.

This was ultimately scrapped because "the audiences we tested with absolutely preferred the ambiguous ending." Nevertheless, the decision to kill John goes back to a conversation Stahelski and Reeves had in Japan following production on Parabellum.

"We were just talking, like, "Wouldn't it be great if...?' And we both decided, 'You know what?' We didn't feel like we had done our best," the director remembered. "We both felt like we could have ended the series better. We didn't feel like we stuck the landing, and that's a sh***y feeling. Because we love the character, we love working together, we love the world. And we were brutally honest with each other after a couple of Japanese whiskies. I said, 'I'd be pissed if that's how they ended the whole series. I'd be pissed at the director."

He continued: "I had just read this treatise on samurai etiquette called Hagakure, the art of the way of dying. And we're like, 'Yeah, he's got to die.' And we got to come up with the coolest way to make this happen. We've got to to make it all about, 'You can only have a good death if you had a good life.' That's the first line we wrote on a napkin in Japan, three years out. We wrote the movie backwards off that one thing."

John Wick: Chapter 4 is now available to rent/purchase on Digital, 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and DVD.

The Continental: From the World of John Wick checks into Peacock this September. Ballerina (directed by Underworld alum Len Wiseman) hits the big screen June 7, 2024.