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SYFY WIRE John Wick: Chapter 4

'John Wick: Chapter 4' director & producer dig into new characters Caine and Tracker

John Wick: Chapter 4 had many new characters, but Caine and The Tracker certainly stood out.

By Tyler McCarthy
Donnie Yen in John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023)

Like any new release in the franchise, John Wick: Chapter 4 makes everything we know about the world bigger, more high-stakes, flashier and, of course, more action-packed. One of the key ways it achieves that feat this time around is through the introduction of complicated and capable new characters. Yep, four movies in, and there's still plenty of space for more players in the Wick-verse.

The film sees the titular character on yet another quest for vengeance that he hopes will bring him his freedom and subsequently his peace. New characters emerge as obstacles in his way or allies to help him get further. Some of them are even both at times, but such is the way in the complicated, high-class world of master assassins.

RELATED: 'John Wick: Chapter 4' director explains ending, what he'd need to make a fifth film happen

Two standouts include Donnie Yen’s Caine and Shamier Anderson’s Tracker. Speaking to SYFY WIRE, producer Erica Lee and director Chad Stahelski explained how these exciting and morally murky additions to the John Wick world came to be.

“I think all John Wick characters sort of operate in the gray, including John Wick himself. That’s something we love to explore. We always knew that [John Wick: Chapter 4] was going to have a bigger cast and be more sprawling in nature,” Lee explained.

**SPOILER ALERT! Spoilers below for John Wick: Chapter 4!**

She noted what an inspiration classic westerns, as well as samurai stories, had on this installment, specifically to the warrior code between Wick and Caine.

“We always wanted a character that had this past with Wick. Maybe they were brothers, maybe they were friends, maybe one was a mentor to the other, maybe they grew up together, maybe they were in the assassin ranks together,” she continued. “So what would that look like? What kind of deep foe, deep friendship could they explore in really making a great adversary for John Wick?”

In the film, they settled on Wick and Caine having been good friends in the early days of their careers as master assassins. While Wick does his best work with firearms and what the production refers to as “gun-fu,” Caine is a master with a sword, even after he sacrifices his sight to the High Table. 

Meanwhile, John Wick: Chapter 4 introduces something rare to the universe, a skilled hitman that John is not familiar with. That’s The Tracker, a man accompanied by his trusty dog, lever-action rifle, and revolver who is motivated solely by the bounty on Wick’s head and increasing his inevitable payout.

“Again, I think that was a riff on The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” Lee explained. “The gunslinger, the tracker. We wanted a way to bring the dogs back in and love the idea of someone who was tracking him and was really just about the cash.” 

She continued: “To me, it feels like he doesn’t really want to be in this business or in this world, he’s just out for the cash. It was a different way into the assassin character.”

While the minds behind the John Wick franchise can come up with wild new characters all day, Stahelski notes that none of it matters without dedicated actors who bring them to life. For him, that starts with the way talent is approached. 

“As you progress through it, you get a little more street cred. So, instead of us trying to beg people, people are interested in the series,” he said. “When we know we’re doing another John Wick, we go to the agencies and we put the word out and we’re like, if you love John Wick and you represent someone who does… It’s a very open-door thing.” 

Stahelski added: “So, right off the bat, I’m not going after people who even remotely see it as a cash grab or a gig, you’re going after people that already love what you’ve built, they’ve seen the world, they’re invested and they, for some reason, have similar interests.”

The director believes that people who are invested in the project will then bring worthwhile ideas to their characters, which makes his job a lot easier. It’s hard to imagine anyone other than someone with Yen’s martial arts training doing something as visually interesting with the character’s combat, nor someone without his specific acting training bringing the subtleties of the character to the screen. Meanwhile, Anderson brought another level of detail to his character. Stahelski revealed most of the sketches and notes scrawled in The Tracker’s trusty notebook were done by the actor himself while preparing for the role. 

“Just let people come to you with these great ideas,” he concluded.

John Wick: Chapter 4 is in theaters everywhere. You can catch the previous three films on SYFY, USA Network and Peacock right now!