In the latest John Wick instalment, John Wick: Chapter Three – Parabellum, director Chad Stahelski brought the movie’s unique flavor of action design to its canine cast. It began with finding the right animal trainer – Andrew Simpson from Instinct – Animals for Film. Andrew is best known for training the dire wolves in Game of Thrones, but in the case of JW3, the canines were Belgian Malinois – a breed preferred by Special Operations Forces’ military working dogs for their speed, strength, smarts, agility, and fearlessness.
Stahelski held national auditions over two months until they found five “Mals” for Sophia’s (Halle Berry’s character) two animal companions. The plan, according to 87Eleven’s production notes, was to essentially teach them a form of “canine jujitsu” that Simpson and Stahelski designed for the film.
“Chad put just as much focus on training the dogs as on the human fighters,” muses Supervising Stunt Coordinator Scott Rogers. “They’re super muscular, athletic dogs who have extreme focus and can fly through the air. Pound for pound their strength is extraordinary.”
Attack the Green
The dogs were trained to attack small target pads painted green (so they’d be edited out later through chroma key) and attached at different places on the bad guys’ bodies. For example, if the stunt called for a groin hit, a green pad would be velcro’d on to the stunt performer’s groin. “See green, get green,” explained Chad, which also mean’t that they had to issue a no-green rule for clothes worn on the set!
In addition to Halle Berry’s fight and weapons training, she also trained with the dogs so that they would respond to her commands rather than a trainer hiding behind a wall or a prop. “I spent four days a week, three hours a day going through drills with the dogs to build a close relationship,” Berry explains. “Malinois are super smart and fiercely loyal but, at the same time, they like to play, which made it fun. The sweetest part of my training day was always hanging out with the dogs.”
More details are in the video interview below. Hopefully, Sofia and her dogs will be back in John Wick: Chapter Four scheduled for May 21, 2021.