matrix, keanu reeves, lionsgate

The Hollywood secret you didn’t know about Wolverine, Hunger Games and John Wick

Words: Nora O’Donnell
Photography: Courtesy of Lionsgate

It’s been almost 20 years since Keanu Reeves bended walls in The Matrix, but thanks to a killer stunt team, the 52-year-old actor shows no signs of slowing down.

When the Wachowski siblings released The Matrix in 1999, the crazy awesome action sequences were revolutionary. (Exhibit A: Bullet Time.) All of a sudden, every film that followed wanted outrageous martial arts moves mashed up with cutting-edge special effects.

The Matrix also marked the first time Keanu Reeves worked with stuntman Chad Stahleski. A few years ago Stahleski, along with fellow stuntman David Leitch, founded 87Eleven Action Design, a fight-choreography studio that builds action scenes for some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters. Their résumé includes Hunger Games, Wolverine, 300 and The Bourne Legacy to name but a few. Now, 87Eleven not only builds action scenes, they direct entire films, including the 2014 surprise hit John Wick and its anticipated sequel, John Wick: Chapter 2. 

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© YouTube/Lionsgate Movies

When The Red Bulletin toured the 87Eleven facility—a massive warehouse on an industrial strip near LAX—operations director Cale Schultz confirmed that it’s really Reeves doing the heavy lifting on screen.

“With John Wick, that was 99 percent Keanu doing the stunts,” Schultz said. “And it looks so much better on film. The reason the film was a success was because it wasn’t all these over-the-shoulder shots where you never see the face of the actor. Most people don’t realize that, but it does make a difference.” 

Ahead of the sequel, in theaters February 10, Lionsgate released a featurette that details the madness of Keanu’s training. In the video, Stahleski describes the approach: “We take Japanese jujutsu, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, tactical three gun, standing judo, put it all together and then we come up with what we call ‘gun fu.’”  

Check out some of Keanu’s “gun fu” moves below. 

© YouTube/Lionsgate Movies

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