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‘There’s absolutely no doubt he’s driving’: Tanner on training Keanu Reeves for John Wick

Our XE driver’s role in the franchise's most action-packed, ambitious movie yet

As he was lying flat in his car, fists clenching the steering wheel while skidding around a corner, all Tanner Foust could think was, ‘how could I make this even better?’ 

To see the results of that, you’ll have to watch the film.  

For Tanner, the only unusual part of this sequence of events was that he wouldn’t be executing the subsequent stunt on screen himself. 

Fresh from attending the movie’s premiere in Los Angeles, NEOM McLaren Extreme E driver Tanner Foust sat down with us to discuss his role as a stunt trainer to Keanu Reeves in John Wick: Chapter 4, which hit cinemas in March.  

Until then, Tanner and Keanu’s relationship had only existed in “dirty parking lots in Berlin”, so it was new for the duo to meet whilst suited and booted on the red carpet in America.  

Tanner Foust with Keanu Reeves

The John Wick franchise has been defined by Keanu Reeves’s commitment to doing almost all of his own stunts, whether wielding nun chucks or in an intensely choreographed fight scene, and the latest instalment of the movie was the most ambitious yet.   

The ante is upped in each of the four films, with the stunts becoming bolder and more daring. “That's why the doors and the windshield were removed in the storyline, so that you can see Keanu in the car, and then there’s absolutely no doubt he’s driving,” Tanner explains.  

“From the very beginning, the whole intention was for Keanu to do all of the stunts himself, and to do things that nobody else has ever done before in a film in a car. He takes it all very seriously, and during the training, he wanted to come away from it being able to do everything I could do. 

“There's a lot you can do with CGI, but John Wick is such an artistic style of cinematography, and a lot of it is shot at night with light being very purposefully directed. The thing that they cannot CGI is the light going across Keanu's face as he's driving – you cannot fake that. So, to see that come off is pretty rewarding.” 

Tanner took a call from the film’s Stunt Coordinator, Scott Rogers, at the end of 2020, which put him in contact with Reeves for the first time. The pair linked up at a local space with a selection of muscle cars, where they spent time coming up with fresh ideas and trialling different moves, which were filmed as examples of what they could accomplish together and shown to Lionsgate. Within as little as 12 months, the entire film had been written and shot ahead of editing.  

Tanner Foust as John Wick

Reeves has said the most difficult of these stunts was the scene where he drives around the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, and performs a reverse 180 and drifts, whilst reloading his gun and shooting it out of the door. “We took the driving to the next level,” he told Total Film magazine. 

“This was one of six different moves that we came up with that he could do in the film,” says Tanner. “We came up with these six moves during that session around a year beforehand, and the script was actually written to incorporate them in, such as this one, where he is performing a 180 doughnut one-handed around people.” 

Reeves – who co-founded high-end custom American motorcycle manufacturer Arch Motorcycle Company, LLC. – is said to have spent a total of three months training for John Wick: Chapter 4, which he told Total Film magazine, was the “hardest physical role I’ve ever had in my career so far.” 

“I know his background, so I had good expectations for him, but he was still so much better than I had expected,” Tanner continues. “I've trained several people, and it helps if they come from a motorcycle background. This is because with a motorcycle, there is a huge penalty for sliding the front tyres, and in cars, once you slide the front tires in a stunt situation, you’re pretty much out of control.  

“Because of his background, Keanu was really good at avoiding understeer and knowing his limits. When something was going wrong, he would bail out and stop, so you could allow him more rope to push his limits, knowing that he had the wherewithal to understand, ‘Okay, this isn't going well, I'm going to stop.’ Rather than just carrying on until he crashed. 

“I used to train a lot of military special teams and secret service, and he was very similar in the way that he approached it. He has done so many stunts, and he takes the learning of skills all so seriously, whether it is driving, horse riding, or martial arts, and that’s why the training happened so quickly.” 


Tanner Foust with make-up artist

Usually, Tanner is the one drifting a car around the streets on camera. Since working on The Dukes of Hazzard in 2005, Tanner has appeared as a stuntman in blockbusters such as The Bourne Ultimate, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Iron Man 2 and Ford vs Ferrari, to name just a few.   

In previous roles, the training he takes on relates to a couple of demo runs for the actor that allows them to get a feel for the move, so that they know where to look and how to position their hands on the steering wheel in their own scenes.  

Taking on a different role than he was used to, Tanner says he didn’t know what to expect from the training and creative elements. 

“Outside of hanging out with Keanu and getting to know him, I didn’t expect to enjoy the other parts of this job as much as I did,” he continues. “I was around for all of Keanu’s filming, and as much as anything, my role was to keep Keanu safe. I’d stick a fake beard on and complete most of the moves once for the camera as a reference, and then Keanu would jump in. I also helped Scott Rogers, the Stunt coordinator, to find some additional drivers from the States. 

“It was surprisingly rewarding to come up with ideas, have them accepted by the Director Chad Stahelski and Scott, and then see an army of 200 people working to make it look badass on screen. I can see why the creatives of the world love what they do – it was a really cool experience, even if I didn't get to go in there and burn the tyres up myself.” 

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