The first John Wick could have been the end. The same goes for how the story was structured from the beginning.
“On every John Wick, there’s literally been a day where Keanu [Reeves] and I have sat in the room with whatever writing team we’re working with and we go, ‘OK, we’re going to end it right here and that’s it,’” Chad Stahelski, director of all three Wick movies, told The Hollywood Reporter. “We’re not looking for the Hollywood happy ending; we never have. At least for the Wicks, we’ve always liked mythology and fables, or something like that, that just kind of end, and they don’t tell you what happens the next day.”
Stahelski cites the ending of The Graduate as the best example of this. An ending that doesn’t provide closure, but isn’t teasing a sequel either.
“We don’t mean for [the endings] to be cliffhangers,” he continued. “John Wick kills 80-some-odd people over a puppy. How do you wrap that one up with a happy ending? [Laughs.] You know what I mean? The story just kind of ends. That little journey or that little part of the journey ends. In Chapter 2, we ended how we thought it would end. In Chapter 3, we just ended it… John Wick made it out, and for us, that was enough. He lived another day. So we don’t really consider them cliffhangers.”
Though Stahelski doesn’t explicitly say it, he then suggested that this format means the franchise can go on for as long, or as short, as they want.
“We label them chapters for a reason,” he said. “If John Wick were a real character, we don’t think those kinds of stories end well for the protagonist, just due to the lifestyle they lead. So, at some point, when we think Mr. Wick has run his course, I’m sure his demise will be epic, but until then, we’re going to keep doing chapters and just tell the story, the myth or the fable for that portion of his day or that portion of his life. It’s just the kind of storytelling we like.”
John Wick 4 was slated to be released in May 2021 but, due to the pandemic, has now been delayed a year. The current release date is May 2022. You can read more from Stahelski in his wide-ranging Hollywood Reporter interview, including updates on Highlander (still working on it, still difficult), helping with The Matrix 4, and more.