On his albums, Common is compassionate, thoughtful, gentle. In “John Wick: Chapter 2” he’s a brutal, fearsome killer. The rapper-actor contains multitudes; just witness his two knock-down, drag-out fight scenes he was with Keanu Reeves. The latter returns as the super-assassin reluctantly lured out of retirement. This time, John Wick is pursued by most of NYC’s killers-for-hire, including Common’s hitman/bodyguard. But it wasn’t all pain making the sequel; Common got to go to Italy, learn a little Italian, as well as shoot in New York, his favorite city in the world — no knock on his hometown of Chicago, he says.
Your two big fights are extremely intense, especially considering they’re the toughest ones you’ve ever done onscreen before.
I’m happy to do it. My first conversation with Chad Stahelski [the director], I said, “I want to be the Muhammad Ali of this. I want to be one of the greats.” I mean, I won’t be the greatest. But when it comes to fighting in films, I want to be high level.
And they’re mostly done in long takes. You can’t fudge it, fix it in post. You have to look like you’re really doing it.
You not only have to look like you know what you’re doing; you have to know what you’re doing. You could hurt yourself, or hurt somebody else. I’m playing a rival of John Wick, one of the greatest assassins. I have to be able to deliver against him. And Keanu Reeves is one of the greatest fighters we’ve seen onscreen. I had to go in there and say, “Let everything go and be one of these great warriors on screen.”
Among other things, this movie offers a great escape from the world, even if you know you have to return to it.
I was talking to someone who said, “Some days I want to change the world, and some days I want to escape from the world.” I feel that, too. If “John Wick: Chapter 2” will let me escape, and will be fun and of high quality, that’s what I want to see.