On John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (out May 17), director Chad Stahelski doubles down on the famously dog-centric nature of the action franchise by introducing Halle Berry‘s Sofia. An old acquaintance of Keanu Reeves‘ titular hitman, Sofia is the proud owner of two beautiful, and lethal, Belgian Malinois hounds. These two canines are showcased in a sequence which finds Sofia and John Wick taking down a small army of killers with the dogs’ assistance.
Filming an action scene with two animals would be a taxing enough experience under any circumstances, but Stahelski’s work was really cut out for him when he arrived at the Moroccan town of Essaouira to shoot the sequence only to discover that the entire place was overrun by… cats!
“The Moroccans are not big on canines,” says Stahelski. “Love a f—ing cat, though. There had to be thousands. We went there in the winter when we scouted and they weren’t that prevalent. We were like, There’s a few cats here, we’ll get a cat department, and we’re going to move all the cats out. We show up to shoot and there were literally a thousand cats, okay? And the cats have b—s of steel. They’re not afraid of anything. We had to build massive walls of cages. They’re just stray cats, but we want to be good handlers. So, we built little cat houses, put them in, had to feed them. We had walls of cats. Walls of fucking cats. The amount of f—ing cat food — we were probably feeding more cats than people on set.”
Needless to say, the cats prove particularly distracting to the dogs who were playing Sofia’s hounds and had been trained to bite the film’s stuntmen on specific padded areas of their bodies.
“It was kind of chaos,” says Halle Berry. “Because, you have dogs running around, you have Keanu, we have all these guys coming from every different direction. It was totally chaotic and then we had these cats running through our set. It was often hard to keep the dogs focused, because they’d see a cat and off they’d go, and sometimes that could ruin a whole great take.”
“What do Belgian Malinois love to chase? F—ing cats!” says Stahaleski. “While Keanu Reeves is killing ten guys over there, Halle is killing ten guys over here, and [there is the] stunt guy the dog’s got to focus on. You want that dog focused on what he’s supposed to bite, and what he’s not supposed to bite. Hit the mark, right? And there’s ten cats walking around and you’re going, ‘Oh, Jesus. Oh, Jesus.’ You’re sitting behind the monitor going, ‘What’s the dog looking at? What’s the dog looking at? Oh my god oh my god, he’s going to bite — Argh!’ It got a little crazy between cat-wrangling, and dog-wrangling, and people-wrangling. And you’ve got the studio back [in America] going, ‘Why are you a little behind? Just get the dog to do [it].’ And you’re like, I don’t speak dog. If I did I’d be f—ing rich! Anyway, that was kind of fun.”
Watch the trailer for John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, above.