Wednesday, September 23, 2015
An Evening With JOHN WICK 2 Fight Choreographer J.J. PERRY
John Wick 2 is currently being prepped for production this Fall in New York City with the team gathering here for the remainder of 2015, including directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, and stunt and fight coordinator J.J. Perry. Photos recently began surfacing on Facebook in the last several weeks courtesy of 87 Eleven Action Design, including pictures of returning actor Keanu Reeves alongside folks like Perry and MMA family, the Machado brothers - all very intriguing, and eventually led me to learn that Perry was going to be the one directing the action sequences this time around.
Perry and I don't talk regularly, but have gotten along very well in the last few years as he noticed my blog posts, and it was last Friday that I had the honor of being invited to hang out with him this past weekend. Everything was still in the air by the time he got here since he had already hit the ground running, and so despite scheduling for this past Sunday, we eventually set a course for last night on Tuesday.
Alas, I managed to get a hold of a location and waited at Bill's Bar & Burger not too far from the 9/11 memorial where One World Trade is (I hadn't been there in many years - remembering correctly now, not since 2001 before the attacks when I was in high school and about to enter college), and it was a really astonishing site to see last night for the first time after all these years.
Waiting at Bill's, it was funny actually - Perry was in another building adjacent to where I was and was actually with a few members of the team training for John Wick 2, while there I was at Bill's, kind of depressed and drowning my sorrows in some chocolate layer cake and peach cooler (that meal hit the spot by the way), and I stayed there for close to a half-hour or so until it got late and they finally closed up. Ironically I had not known where Perry was until I texted him after the fact, and so we eventually hooked up on West Street near Bill's and went for a brisk walk to a store nearby where he picked up a few things.
As the evening progressed, we had a robust and natural conversation about his work. We talked stunts, the potential shared by many of today's tricking athletes, and certain things he is planning with his team along with Stahelski and Leitch, Reeves's gun and MMA traning regimen and the amount of work he's been putting into it ahead of filming. We also talked a bit about fight choreography and Perry's own philosophy behind it, particularly with designing John Wick's action scenes and how he puts pen to paper with certain concepts.
At one point while talking stunts in which Perry also reflected on his thoughts on Hong Kong and Thailand action films, one highlight I did bring up was his work on the 2009 action adventure, The Tournament; Danger levels are always prevelant when coordinating stunts because safety is such a number one issue. Perry emphasized this as he broke down the scene that stood out to me the most in The Tournament involving actor and traceur Sebastien Foucan who, in the heat of a gun battle with actress Kelly Hu, braces himself feet first onto the front bumper of a moving car with Hu behind the wheel, and that was just one of few exciting stories Perry shared with me from the set of some of his films.
We talked other matters as well, including working with the likes of Jason Statham and Scott Adkins, as well as other ideas Perry has in mind that he certainly hopes he will be able to fully see through in film. Unfortunately the night ended before I could ask other questions I had in mind, although I am looking forward to reconvening once again in the next few months as production rolls on in that I'll hopefully get to meet a few more people working on this exciting sequel.
Perry himself is a devout fan of action movies as well as anyone, especially with R-rated films in mind, and with the hard-boiled nature of the style of action John Wick is keen on thusfar, I believe the sequel is in great hands. Aside from this and as wonderful as it would have been to document an interview, it's pleasing and humbling to be able to share time with folks like Perry, and it felt good having a natural conversation with him as the evening moved forward. I was a little more nervous about seeing him at first, but then we shook hands and it all took off from there. We had great levity and he's a very down-to-earth and relatable person to talk to, and it's easy to see why so many stuntmen and fellow stunt coordinators today hold him in such high regard.
Doing what I do for Film Combat Syndicate and writing about people like Perry, it's no small thing being invited by one of the most prolific people in his business to simply talk, laugh and chillax. There is a level of trust that needs to be met when it comes to bloggers like myself who do what we do, and it is a huge honor to be under his radar in that regard, especially having achieved this on the heels of a three year milestone for my Facebook page where Film Combat Syndicate began.
Sitting here at work now and relfecting on last night, I'm very glad that this meet-and-greet took place. I had a bit of a rough week prior to this and really needed a boost, and not only am I proud to have come this far and met someone who has contributed to some of the most entertaining moments for me as a fan of the martial arts and action genre on both sides of the lens, I am also hopeful to continue to sustain Perry's trust and friendship in the months and years to come.
Really, it's not everyday you make friends like this.
Stay tuned for more info on John Wick 2.