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The Sage Advice John Wick Director Chad Stahelski Gave For The Continental Spin-Off
Right after saying “yes” to The Continental job, director Albert Hughes got the green light to follow his inspiration.
Is there any other franchise in which the shadowy underworld of assassins is so breathtaking? John Wick is the quintessential revenge thriller, leaping from gunfight to gunfight in a hyper-stylized world instantly recognizable to fans. The Continental: From the World of John Wick — debuting this Friday, September 22, on Peacock — turns back the clock to the mean streets of the ‘70s, revealing the mysterious backstory of powerful hotel proprietor Winston Scott (Colin Woodell).
Director Albert Hughes had big shoes to fill when shooting this three-part prequel, after all, casting a new light on the incredible worldview of John Wick director Chad Stahelski is no small feat. Luckily, Stahelski’s advice to Hughes gave him the confidence to hit the bullseye.
The Advice John Wick director Chad Stahelski gave to The Continental's Albert Hughes
"It initially started when I agreed to do the job… we had a Zoom, and he was excited to talk and tell me that basically, do what you need to do that inspires you, you don’t need to copy this, do your own thing," Hughes told NBC Insider about how Stahelski deftly handed over the reins. "I’m happy he said it, because I don’t think I would want to go into any man or woman’s sandbox and duplicate what they do."
Just like in the John Wick franchise, the defining quality of The Continental is non-stop action. But Hughes was able to balance those moments of nearly surreal magic with the brutal reality of New York in the ‘70s. After his conversation with Stahelski, Hughes recalled, "I had a long think and said, 'OK. I thought about Tony Gilroy and Andor, Noah Hawley and Fargo, and Jon Favreau and The Mandalorian. I shouldn’t be threatened by doing this,'" he said.
All those inspirations managed to pull off the incredible task of taking what could have been standard-issue TV sequels of famous movies and turning them into memorable shows that stand on their own.
In many ways, Stahleski’s green light to Hughes opened the creative floodgates. Hughes cited Bob Fosse, the famous Oscar-winning choreographer, as inspiration for his vision of The Continental’s “ballet of bullets ... And then I started getting into the music thing (of the '70s), and then getting into Midnight Cowboy, Taxi Driver, and The French Connection,” Hughes said.
The Continental wastes little time setting a new tone for young Winston Scott’s world, capturing a luster and grit in each frame. Hughes shot the series with a set of old Panavision lenses created in the 1950s for MGM. “I used the exact lenses from Cool Hand Luke, Dr. Schivago, and The Graduate. They’re not perfect... and the lighting style is a little different even though I love what Chad does,” he said.
The Continental’s characters shoot past obstacles and navigate through fight scenes that are increasingly outrageous, but somehow get at the essential truth of John Wick. As Basil Iwanyk, the producer of both the films and the prequel, told Albert Hughes on the first day of shooting, “The John Wick Universe just eats up wild stuff. You can throw anything at it, and it’s just gonna ask for more.”
Episode 1 of The Continental: From the World of John Wick hits Peacock this Friday, September 22. The second and third installments will debut on September 29 and October 6 respectively.