John Wick franchise director Chad Stahelski knows a lot about action movies. After nearly two decades in Hollywood, the stunt-turned-filmmaker is here to talk about how guns are handled on set and why Alec Baldwin’s Rust nightmare could have been avoided.
Stahelski was the man behind the camera in all four John Wick films, but he is also known for starring in 1994’s The Crow, where a gun accident claimed the life of Brandon Lee, son of famed martial arts icon Bruce Lee. This event greatly affected Stahelski, who served as Lee’s understudy and whose footage was eventually used to complete the film, where the deceased actor’s face was CGI-swapped.
Stahelski knows firsthand how dangerous firearms can be, which is why The Hollywood Reporter asked him for his take on the tragedy in Rust.
What happened at Rust… I wasn’t there, but all the accidents I’ve observed, seen, or been involved in have always been the result of human error. It has never been mechanical.
The director reminisced about his early years, when films used blank bullets that were still deadly, and now there are electronic and pole guns that make it “impossible for anything to go off the barrel” and computer graphics.
Over the past 10 years, there have been electronic pistols, plug-in pistols in which it is impossible for something to fly out of the barrel, and full computer graphics. That’s how we do it. This technology is available to everyone.
When asked why this type of weapon is not used as a standard, Stahelski replied:
There is no need for real firearms on set. We can create cities, spaceships, Godzilla and all these things. We have the technology to do the same with firearms. But for the last 100 years, Hollywood has been using real firearms.
He also offered his theory on why Hollywood doesn’t switch to new guns, arguing that the film industry has been using real guns for so long that the move would kill props and gunsmiths. “That would render their entire stockpile of real firearms useless,” Stahelski said. In his opinion, guns in movies are overkill, but “the alternative will just cost you more money.”
Ultimately, Stahelski’s words will go unheeded, as each director decides how he feels about the need to use firearms in films. However, if money is the only obstacle, the benefits outweigh the deadly risk that actual use of the weapon carries. Following the death of Galina Hutchins, Baldwin and gunsmith Hannah Gutierrez-Reid went on trial for on-set negligence, which Stahelski said could have been easily avoided.
It’s good to know that under Stahelski’s direction, the John Wick set is as safe as it gets, and judging by the first reaction to Chapter 4, the Keanu Reeves franchise will continue to be an absolute hit after the movie’s premiere.
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