The Continental: Now Streaming
While promoting Peacock’s John Wick spinoff series The Continental: From the World of John Wick, executive producer Basil Iwanyk acknowledges the elephant in the room: How does one explore the John Wick universe without the eponymous star — played by Keanu Reeves — himself?
“It’s hard to look at: OK, why does a movie or franchise work?” Iwanyk, who’s worked on the entire John Wick franchise, told The Hollywood Reporter at a recent press junket. “There’s a million different ways to look at it, and you just really don’t know. Of course, there’s research and bullshit, but it’s something in your gut. This is a prequel in the ’70s that doesn’t have Keanu and John Wick in it. Will it work?”
Directed by Albert Hughes, The Continental is a prequel to the John Wick films that will have three parts, exploring the origin behind the iconic hotel-for-assassins. Following young hotel proprietor Winston Scott (played by Ian McShane in the franchise films and Colin Woodell in the series), The Continental dives into how Winston would ultimately seize the hotel to take his place at the helm of the hit man sanctuary. The series also stars Mel Gibson, Mishel Prada and Ben Robson.
“The show has far exceeded my expectations,” says executive producer Erica Lee, who also worked on the first John Wick film. “Whenever you’re making anything, I always say the ingredients can be great, but the cake can still taste like shit, right?”, adding, “We were really lucky with Albert at the helm. He has a very distinctive vision and also came in as a fan of the movies and loves certain aspects of it, but also wanted to push certain thematics and things his own way.”
And amid the double strike, below-the-line talent are taking center stage on Hollywood PR campaigns, as studios are forced to get creative without actors and writers. One week before the show’s premiere, reporters and influencers were invited to The Hollywood Roosevelt hotel for a day of assassin training, featuring a behind-the-scenes look at The Continental’s stunts, sound, costume and production design. Hughes calls the event “refreshing to see” from Peacock.
There are certain things audiences expect when they think of a John Wick film, most notably stunts and incredible production design. For The Continental, John Wick creators Chad Stahelski and David Leitch’s company 87Eleven Action Design was brought on board, as they had been with the films and here oversee the series. At the interactive-style junket, action director Larnell Stovall picked out volunteers from the audience to learn a brief stunt sequence, while standing on a live set inspired by the show. “We don’t normally get interviewed,” says Stovall about the unique event. “We get a shout out from the actors maybe every now and then… but that’s what we signed up for.” The stunt expert hopes that this kind of exposure for below-the-line work will inspire others interested in the field.
Stovall said the goal with The Continentalwas to make sure it matched audiences’ expectations for the films and be a period setting. “We had to respect the time frame that we’re in. In the ’70s, people moved a little different. The styles were still evolving,” explained Stovall. “In the ’70s, karate, judo, taekwondo, and kung fu was the dominant, majority popular styles in the ’70s, so we picked from those styles in The Continental and spread them out through the characters to stay true to that time frame.”
With The Continental set during the 1970s, that meant the series needed an entirely new look to recreate a classic time period. Drew Boughton, who has worked as a production designer on series like The Man in the High Castle and Hemlock Grove, stepped up to the challenge. Boughton cited films like Taxi Driver, The Warriors, and The French Connection as major sources of inspiration for the production design of the series, invoking a grittier, dirtier, and much more dangerous New York City.
There was also a costume tour from designer Sarah Arthur. “I did a lot of research into the time period. I wanted to give the actors an authenticity and chemistry for them to get into their parts. I found lots of original pieces which I used a great deal. There were fantastic photographic references from Studio 54. I found some early Louis Vuitton pieces and some Diana von Furstenberg, Ossie Clark, Holston, and incorporated all of these pieces, including accessories wherever I could in the series,” Arthur said regarding some influences for the series. She mentioned that many pieces needed to be replicated for the main cast due to the amount of action, accounting for the damage they would take but also the fact that they need to be flexible enough for stunt work. She said about 100 to 150 versions were commissioned for the stunt work.
For more on behind the history and the lore of the Continental: