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How They Created Those Epic John Wick Fight Scenes for The Continental

From karate to kung fu, the 1970s fighting style in The Continental is "simpler, more straightforward, and brutal."

By Grace Jidoun

What makes the fight scenes so great in Peacock's The Continental: From the World of John Wick? Not just a shootout or a fistfight — we’ve seen plenty of those. The entire John Wick universe is a mecca for madness, with fighting that transcends reality, whisking audiences along as the action gets increasingly intense and surreal. The first episode of The Continental prequel series kicks off with a high-adrenaline heist. Winston’s brother, Frankie (Ben Robson), absconds with the High Table coin press up the hotel's stairs, killing henchmen sent by hotel manager Cormac (Mel Gibson) along the way.

Shot in one day, this just might be the craziest use of a stairwell on TV.

But none of this came easy. A huge amount of practice and choreography went into all the fight scenes. “First, we had to respect what was before us in the John Wick world and their style of shooting the action, which is shooting wide to make sure you’re able to see all the techniques,” stunt director Larnall Stovall told NBC Insider.

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Stovall worked closely with the actors to customize the fight scenes to each character, especially in the case of Robson, who was cast as Frankie just weeks before shooting and underwent intense training that played to his strengths. “I was like, hey, what’s your favorite style, what’s your strong punch, have you done gunplay?” Stovall said. The results were astonishing: Robson pulled off the epic stairwell scene with less than a month of practice.

How The Continental Pays Homage to John Wick Fight Scenes

While still paying homage to the Wick universe, Stovall gave The Continental’s new characters their own defining flair. While John Wick relied heavily on Judo, Stovall ultimately chose karate for Lou and Miles, the brother-sister owners of a dojo (played by Jessica Allain and Hubert Point du Jour, respectively), and gave kung fu to the eerie assassin Hansel (Mark Musashi), who was calmer (in a terrifying way) and had a more straightforward demeanor. “I found our flavor and voice by respecting the story and making each character feel special with their own unique style.”

Stovall also tapped Taran Tactical, the original trainer for Keanu Reeves, to provide that “touch of wow,” as he put it. “Even though we didn’t have a lot of gunplay, he was like the godfather to me who started this world… The new age weapons in John Wick and all the tactical stuff are cool, but ours were simpler, more straightforward, and brutal.”

Training them in the same way Keanu trained proved to be a smart move. Very few stunt doubles were used in the series, with the actors performing most of their own action scenes. “It keeps you more connected to the character and the universe,” added Stovall.

The Continental: From the World of John Wick Director Talks Sergio Leone's Influence

Winston appears raising his hand while grabbing his coat while being stopped by men with flashlights.

With a long story arc spanning three episodes, director Albert Hughes had a fine line to walk without “getting into action fatigue,” as he put it. “I come from the school of Sergio Leone, and it’s all about the tension and the build-up and the quick release of violence, so I had to have the happy medium of learning what (John Wick director) Chad does and learning what Sergio does and finding a new balance.” 

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The series gets especially creative when it comes to the fighting style of Yen (Nhung Kate), who is one of the deadliest killers yet and uses small household items to fend off a Cormac lackey.

As executive producer Basil Iwanyk put it: “We didn’t need to blow up a city block, it wasn’t about tanks and planes. It was two people fighting in a phone booth, which is awesome. You can’t get any smaller; that’s part of the joy of the fight. It’s not bigger. It’s just cooler.”

The Continental is streaming now on Peacock - the third and final episode will be released this Friday.

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