INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — EDITOR'S NOTE: In reporting her story on the upcoming action film "John Wick," the author gets into a shootout — Hollywood style — and lives to tell about it.
After a quick gun-safety lesson at a Hollywood stunt studio, I was ready to start shooting.
I have no experience with weapons. Yoga feels like a stunt to me.
Yet there I was, blasting away bad guys like I knew how. This one's coming from behind, blam! I see you there on the side. Let me grab your gun, quick shoot you in the neck, then twist your arm and flip you into this stack of boxes.
Housed in a warehouse near Los Angeles International Airport, 87Eleven Action Design specializes in creating action sequences for blockbuster movies. Founded by two veteran stuntmen — Chad Stahelski and David Leitch — the company boasts a staff of experts in weapons, martial arts and gymnastics who transform actors — and even this mild-mannered reporter — into action stars.
Keanu Reeves spent three months working with 87Eleven's team to prepare for his action lead in the upcoming "John Wick," Stahelski and Leitch's directorial debut in which Reeves plays a smooth-as-silk contract killer looking for revenge.
The stunt team gave me a mini version of Reeves' action-star training. It began with weapons. Stahelski showed off a real 9 millimeter, a few realistic-looking air guns and a rubber pistol. Air guns work well for action scenes because they allow close-range shots, he said. They emit harmless puffs of air.
Weapons expert Thayr Harris demonstrates how to discharge and replace ammunition magazines and assume a proper shooting stance. I'm clunky and slow, though we practice a dozen times.
Choreographer Jackson Spidell explains the sequence: An assailant jumps out in front of me, and I blast him. Just then I notice someone off to the side who's aiming at my head. I drop to my knee and shoot him in the stomach. As he's falling, I give him one more round in the face. Another killer sneaks in from behind, so I wrap my arm around my chest and fire at him from behind my back.
"Stop smiling," Stahelski tells me.
Performing with the stuntmen felt like attempting ballet with a troupe of sculpted professionals. If I did all the moves I'd learned, each of the stuntmen would appear to die dramatically by my gunfire, just like in the movies.
Stuntmen armed with prop pistols start attacking as planned, and I execute the routine we practiced— step left, drop to knee, look over the shoulder, firing, firing, firing. In 30 seconds, I've slain all three men and walk victoriously out of frame.
Everyone agrees Reeves did it better.
Follow AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen at www.twitter.com/APSandy .