The John Wick franchise has always been dog-centric, and never more so than in John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum (in theaters Friday). That’s thanks to the introduction of Halle Berry’s Sofia, an old acquaintance of Keanu Reeves’ titular hitman whose two Belgian Malinois hounds have been trained to attack her enemies with extreme ruff-ness.
“The original John Wick has a lot to do with a puppy, a dog,” series director Chad Stahelski tells EW. “My partner at the time, [Deadpool 2 director] Dave Leitch, and myself love dogs. We thought it would be great to come full circle and have Halle playing to be a dog lover as well. Whereas John’s puppy was symbolic of John’s wife, Halle’s two Belgian Malinois, the dogs that she has in the film, are symbolic of someone she’s lost. They also work very well tactically with her, and we’ve developed a whole little action sequence around what Halle can do with her two canine assistants. I think it’s pretty fun.”
Fun, but also extremely time-consuming for Berry, who in addition to learning martial arts and fun skills for the film, also had to help train the dogs seen in the movie.
“She would have to do three hours of martial arts, two hours of guns, and then, because the dogs are so sensitive, Halle had to become a trainer for the animals,” Stahelski says. “So, she [spent] another three, four hours a day just hanging out with the dogs, and giving them commands, and telling them what to do. That is a massive time commitment for an actress of her caliber that could be making millions of dollars elsewhere on other jobs. She just wanted to blow up everything to make a statement, saying, ‘Look at me, look what I can do,’ you know, pretty much, ‘F— y’all.’ [Laughs]”
“It was about two or three hours a day,” says Berry, “helping as a dog trainer, getting to know them, having them get to know me, learning their personalities. We learned together what tricks the dogs could do. Some dogs were good at just sitting on their mark and looking pretty, and others wanted to jump off cars, through windows. So it was just about learning what each dog can do and how I could command them to do it.”
Berry’s dog-handling skills were tested when she and Reeves shot the sequence referenced by Stahelski, in which Sofia, John, and the dogs tackle a small army of enemies on the streets of Morocco.
“It was kind of chaos,” Berry says. “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.”