‘John Wick’ Director Talks Plug Guns, Martial Arts, and the Role of CGI in the Film Series

“John Wick” director Chad Stahelski enlightened listeners on Joe Rogan’s podcast this week, shedding light on numerous behind-the-scenes facts about making the popular series.

Stahelski discussed the intense physical regimen Keanu Reeves endured to execute the movie’s intricate stunts. The rigorous martial arts training played a vital role in crafting the film’s notable action sequences. It took Reeves almost three months to get into shape!

He also revealed the technical aspects of creating the close-quarters battle (CQB) scenes, particularly the innovative use of ‘plug guns’.

“Most firearms up until very recently fired blanks,” Stahelski explained. “And for the people out there a blank is a round without the actual bullet, the lead piece in it.”

“But a blank still has a gunpowder charge in it.  Even if it’s only 50 grams of black powder.  But at a range of 10-15 feet that can kill you because of the concussive force,” he continued.

Stahelski highlighted the dangers associated with the use of blanks in films, stating bluntly, “You can’t put a blank to your head and pull the trigger. It’d kill you.”

SEE ALSO: Alec Baldwin Skipped Firearms Training On ‘Rust’ Set

Addressing the need for safe, realistic CQB scenes, Stahelski and his team used plug guns. “The trick isn’t so much the muzzle flash, but the light interaction, especially at night, and the cycling of the slide and the casing ejection,” he said.

Plug guns, as explained by Stahelski, are fitted with a steel rod inside the barrel that diverts gas differently, causing an ejection but no flash or projectile. This innovation eliminated the danger and substantially reduced visual effects costs. Since the slide cycling didn’t require CGI, the visual effects team was left with just adding the flash.

“These are called plug guns. They use a very small charge of powder, just enough to cycle it,” Stahelski elaborated. “You couldn’t put a live round in it if you tried.”

Stahelski concluded by explaining that most of the blood spatter seen in the film is the product of CGI, emphasizing the blend of practical effects and digital manipulation that forms the signature “John Wick” aesthetic.

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  • Frank Heley June 16, 2023, 2:00 am

    Plug guns aren’t some new innovation, they’ve been around for a while. You can find some for sale, including full auto, on the IMA website.

  • Louis June 10, 2023, 11:47 am

    Hello Moderator, you will notice 2 comments in my name (3 including this one). The first one is the uncomplete version of the second (keypad “fumbelling”). You can erase the first one (and of course this one), thank you.

  • Louis June 10, 2023, 10:56 am

    “At 15 feet can kill you because of concussive force … ” Can shock a bit maybe but kill … well … Hollywoood style isn’t it ? Also it is surely 50 grains and not 50 grams, again … don’t know much what he is talking about … still Hollywood. Well … ok … it is enough to know almost all he could be saying on firearms is probably sense-free. Why publicize such matter on GunsAmerica ? Sorry

  • Michael J June 9, 2023, 7:13 pm

    Guns are Hollywood’s greatest co-stars. Without this tinsel town hypocrisy, these movie makers would be out of jobs. John Wick is the middle finger to the anti-gun culture.

  • Rollin L June 9, 2023, 1:29 pm

    Decades ago, I worked for Pistolsmith James W. Hoag. We built maybe 9 1911s for Michael Mann’s film “Thief,” with James Caan. Everything was done in pairs, and there had to be live fire and blank versions of each. We were given the blanks made by Stembridge and, using a barrel plug system, got the pistols running reliably. If I recall correctly, we build 4 1/4″ Commander spec pistols, 5″ Government models and, ultimately, 6″ long slides. Of course, during production they kept asking for more, and needed it fast, so while we started with one version they would then ask for another, hence the three variations were made during the course of the filmmaking.

  • l1254 June 9, 2023, 12:09 pm

    10 to 15 feet away a blank can kill you? ” I dont think so! unless you use the blanks that Alic Baldwin used then yes
    Putting a gun with a blank against your head and pulling the trigger can kill you there he is correct.

  • Bakerc7 June 9, 2023, 7:38 am

    I assume you meant grains not grams. A 50 gram charge is 771 grains, that about a tenth of a pound. Yes, that would be dangerous.

  • Jerry June 9, 2023, 7:20 am

    Really, 50 GRAMS? Almost 2 ounces-powder charges for ammunition is measured in grains not grams-don’t know too many pistol cartridges capable of holding 50 grains of powder

    • Alberto H Soto June 9, 2023, 10:09 pm

      Have you guys ever heard about auto correct?

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