“That was probably our biggest, I guess issue, biggest battle — Or I wouldn’t say battle, but definitely the biggest conversation piece is whether or not to kill the dog here,” co-director Chad Stahelski explained in the “John Wick” audio commentary. He also told The Hollywood Reporter in March this year that “Killing the puppy was written out as many times as it was written back in [….] You don’t even know how much [co-director] Dave [Lietch] and I stressed about that. Holy s**t, we were risking credit cards, a house mortgage, everything. [Producer] Basil Iwanyk put his company up. And then you have that day where you realize we’re doing all this and we’re killing a puppy? I thought we would never come back from it.”
The main naysayers, by the sound of it, were the studio executives who were concerned such a heinous act would lead to viewers walking out of the theater. The movie’s screenwriter, Derek Kolstad, told ComicBook.com in 2020 that the studio heads once informed them, “‘Let’s cut the dog out. Let’s just focus on it as an assassin coming out of retirement.’ That kind of thing.”
But in the end, the movie’s success spoke for itself. The first movie was a big, unexpected critical and financial hit, spawning three sequels that were each bigger and better than the last. John Wick’s become one of our culture’s most beloved modern action heroes, and a lot of that comes down to his deeply sympathetic, relatable urge to murder every single person even vaguely connected to the guy who killed his dog.