“It’s a trip,” Chad Stahelski said Saturday night after surveying the scene surrounding San Francisco’s Castro Theatre, host of The Matrix: Resurrections premiere. But it also applies to the journey he’s has been on since the debut of the first film in the franchise more than 20 years ago.
Stahelski had been working in the stunt business since the early 1990s as a stunt performer and coordinator when he was booked as a stunt double for a character named Neo in a film called The Matrix. “I remember flying to Australia for the first rehearsals thinking, ‘Oh my God, this is something different,’” Stahelski described of the gig which introduced him to an actor named Keanu Reeves with whom he has gone on to have a successful creative partnership, first in stunts and later in the blockbuster franchise John Wick, all four of which Stahelski has directed. “I still remember going to the premiere of the first film, and then I got to work on the second, third and now the fourth. In between, I did all the John Wicks, so it’s all very surreal.”
One of the main reasons he needed a moment to process it all is because he’s got a different billing in Resurrections, playing a character named Chad in an acting role that sees him showing off his skills opposite Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss. When he first read the script, Stahelski, again, had to make sure it was real. “I said to Lana that I would be happy to help out, so send me the script because I have some time,” Stahelski recalled. “Then when I read it, I was shocked. I said to her, ‘You’re kind of having a laugh, right?’ She said, ‘Oh, no, no, no, that’s the script.”
The details of his part — also now commonly referred to as “Handsome Chad” — are best saved for audiences to discover on their own. And Stahelski is not only quick to give credit to Wachowski for inviting him back but for also fostering such a family unit from the trilogy through to Resurrections. “I owe her so much, you don’t even know — life, career, everything,” Stahelski said of the filmmaker who opted to forge ahead with a new installment without sister Lilly with whom she worked on the first three films. “If you look at the crew list from the first Matrix and fast forward until now, there’s a commonality with at least a dozen of us. We all still talk, which is great.”
With Reeves, that commonality includes the John Wick franchise. The first film, which casts Reeves as an ex-hitman who comes out of retirement to track down gangsters who took everything from him, was a surprise hit in 2014 grossing $86 million worldwide. The second, released in 2017, nearly doubled that with $171 million worldwide, while the third earned a whopping $326 million worldwide. It was announced today that John Wick: Chapter 4 has been pushed back to March 24, 1021.
Asked to explain the spark between him and Reeves, Stahelski says it’s pretty simple. “We have the same creative interests, we like the same kind of things,” Stahelski noted. “And I would like to think I have half the passion he has — that would be generous — and we just like to work on stuff that we love. That’s kind of been the bond for our whole little circle, from Lana on down.”
As for his favorite scene in Resurrections, Stahelski is quick to say how much fun it is watching Reeves in the first 20 minutes of his character’s scenes. “He’s fantastic,” he said. “He makes you laugh and he really gets into his character. There are also two great Carrie-Anne moments but I don’t want to spoil those so you have to just see for yourself.”
The Matrix: Resurrections is now playing in theaters and streaming on HBO Max.