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SYFY WIRE Chad Stahelski

'John Wick' director says first movie's puppy death was written out of the script several times

RIP Daisy.

By Josh Weiss
Keanu Reeves in the trailer for John Wick (2014)

Would John Wick really be John Wick (now streaming on Peacock!) without the cold-blooded murder of a puppy? When most people think of the action-heavy film franchise (whose hotly-anticipated fourth installment hits the big screen March 24), they think of two things: Keanu Reeves wrecking faceless mercenaries and a burning desire to avenge the death of the Beagle known as Daisy — may she and Helen rest in peace.

It's an integral part of the series' DNA, but here's the thing: That tragic canine death nearly didn't make it into the 2014 movie that started the whole phenomenon. There was a time when the filmmakers thought killing man's best friend was the biggest gamble in the world.

RELATED: Rusty on your 'John Wick' trivia ahead of 'Chapter 4'? Watch Keanu Reeves give a 1 minute crash course

"Killing the puppy was written out as many times as it was written back in," steadfast Wick director Chad Stahelski revealed during a recent chat with The Hollywood Reporter ahead of Chapter 4's theatrical debut next weekend. "Ultimately, it’s mythological. We had to go so overboard, so extreme to push it to let you know that it was absolutely symbolic. We’re not trying to hold the realism. We want the viewers to know we’re having a laugh. But you don’t even know how much [co-director] Dave [Leitch] and I stressed about that. Holy sh**, we were risking credit cards, a house mortgage, everything. [Producer] Basil Iwanyk put his company up. And then you have that day where you realize we’re doing all this and we’re killing a puppy? I thought we would never come back from it."

The production had nothing to worry about, however, once the humble $20 million indie experiment garnered widespread critical acclaim and close to $100 million at the global box office. Had Stahelski been given more money to spend from the get-go (the budgets have essentially doubled with each sequel), the stuntman-turned-director "would've mucked it up," he admitted.

"I’ve been part of so many second units and reshoots of big franchises, and they all go to sh**. So, we watched the other franchises that threw money at just paying everybody more or on a couple bigger explosions. It’s great for the trailer, but there’s no meat on the bone. Then we decided to spend what extra money we got to go shoot in three or four countries and be very careful in our casting. I’m a huge Sergio Leone fan, and there’s not a movie he’s done where every little character isn’t great. That’s what I want."

Picking up exactly where Parabellum (now streaming on Peacock!) left off, Chapter 4 finds the titular hitman going to war with the mysterious criminal cabal known as the High Table. John is understandably a little pissed off after taking a tumble off the Continental roof. Donnie Yen, Bill Skarsgård, Laurence Fishburne, Hiroyuki Sanada, Shamier Anderson, Lance Reddick, Rina Sawayama, Scott Adkins, and Ian McShane co-star.

Clocking in at nearly three hours, John Wick: Chapter 4 hits the big screen next Friday, March 24. Click here to purchase tickets for the film, which currently holds an incredibly fresh score of 92 percent on Rotten Tomatoes (the highest rating of the entire franchise).

While Stahelski has indicated that he and Reeves need a break from the franchise after Chapter 4, fans of the Wick mythos still have plenty to look forward to such as Ballerina — a spinoff film starring Anna de Armas, Norman Reedus, Reeves, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, Anjelica Huston, and Gabriel Byrne — and The Continental, a Peacock prequel series about a young Winston and how he became proprietor of the killer-friendly hotel.

Refresh yourself on all the puppy snuggles and gunplay with the first three John Wick movies — now streaming on Peacock.