The last time we checked in on Lionsgate and Starz's three-chapter "John Wick" prequel spinoff series The Continental, we learned that Albert Hughes (The Good Lord Bird, co-director of The Book of Eli) had been signed to direct the first and third episodes (with the director of the second episode still to be determined) and executive-produce all three episodes. Well, the news got a whole lot bigger on Monday with Deadline Hollywood reporting exclusively that controversial actor Mel Gibson has joined the cast in the role of Cormac (with no additional details released). Gibson has spent the past decade rightfully shunned by Hollywood for racist, sexist, anti-Semitic & homophobic comments made during a 2006 traffic stop for driving under the influence (DUI) & speeding; and in 2010 during a phone call with Oksana Grigorieva that was recorded. Thunder Road's Basil Iwanyk, original John Wick screenwriter Derek Kolstad, franchise director Chad Stahelski, and David Leitch are also set to executive produce (with Keanu Reeves reportedly in talks to also executive produce).
In an extensive interview with Deadline Hollywood from April, Lionsgate Television chairman Kevin Beggs offered an update on the "John Wick" spinoff as an example of Lionsgate Television 360 approach to its IPs- the ability to expand a film universe into the television world and other media. "It's got such a great mythology and such interesting style, and the gun-fu approach of these incredibly poetic stunt esthetics is just out of this world, which is why the movie with Keanu Reeves – who is so amazing in everything he does but particularly compelling as John Wick in our mind – it just cries out to be something in TV," Beggs explained. "Just like the Marvel Universe and the DC Universe from a TV perspective are incredible opportunities, and that is our superhero franchise in the family."
To that end, Lionsgate TV worked with the Motion Picture Group as well as the film's producers to develop a plan that would complement the franchise's overall universe while not running into conflict with what's planned for the big screen. Thanks to the folks behind one of our favorite series in the past several years, the group found their answer. "We took a lot of pitches, and then the creative team from this obscure little show called 'Wayne' that was on YouTube came to us with their take. We were really blown away because it solved a bunch of problems and was super exciting, about a crumbling New York in the 1970s with a garbage strike that has piled up bags of garbage to the third floor of most brownstones, the mafia muscling in on that business which is why in 'The Sopranos' he's in the sanitation business, and other things that are really real as an interesting backdrop to explore the origins of The Continental which is famously within the movie franchise the assassin's hotel in which you cannot kill anyone on the hotel grounds, but of course, if you step one foot off you're fair game, and that's employed to great effect in many of the plots in the movies. Running all of that is Winston, who is played by Ian McShane [in the movies]."
While Ian McShane is on record as stating that he would not be appearing in the spinoff series, The Continental could have the American Gods actor record voice-overs. But with the focus more of a prequel, it's a younger Winston who will be needed. "What we're exploring in 'The Continental' is the young Winston and how it came to be that he and his team of confederates found their way into this hotel which we have met for the first time in the movie franchise 40 years later," Beggs explained. 'That's the arena. I won't give away more than that, but Starz really leaned into this take also, and they have been great collaborators. And how we've approached this first season is as three essentially 90-minute events which you could construe as a limited series or a limited event series."
As for those talks of Reeves making an appearance, Beggs is honest when it comes to the topic. While never willing to say "never," he notes that the series being a prequel to the films would make a guest appearance difficult. "Keanu is producing, executive producing," Beggs explained as he looking to clarify Reeves' role in the project. "Because we're way back in time, way back pre-John Wick and even pre-young John Wick, that character is not finding his way into the universe. We are in the John Wick universe, but it's way back in time. Think about the Game of Thrones prequels before you know any of the players, but you do know the world. But Keanu and Chad have read every draft and been enthusiastic supporters of expanding this universe in a meaningful way. So, I never rule out anything, but at this point, he's pretty busy making his movies which are very important to us."