EXCLUSIVE: Mel Gibson has been set to star in The Continental, the prequel to the Keanu Reeves film series John Wick. The Continental will be presented as a three-night special-event TV series, produced for Starz by Lionsgate Television.
The Continental will explore the origin behind the hotel-for-assassins, which increasingly has become the centerpiece of the John Wick universe. This will be accomplished through the eyes and actions of a young Winston Scott, who is dragged into the Hell-scape of a 1975 New York City to face a past he thought he’d left behind. Winston charts a deadly course through the New York’s mysterious underworld in a harrowing attempt to seize the iconic hotel, which serves as the meeting point for the world’s most dangerous criminals. No word yet on who’ll play Winston Scott (the hotel owner is played in the films by Ian McShane). Gibson will play a character named Cormac.
It’s a rare foray into television for Gibson, who made his acting debut on the Australian television drama series The Sullivans from 1976-1983. During that run he made his Australian screen breakthrough in George Miller’s Mad Max and Peter Weir’s Gallipoli and The Year of Living Dangerously en route to becoming a star in Hollywood with the Lethal Weapon films and Best Picture-winner Braveheart, which he directed.
The John Wick trilogy has grossed almost $600 million worldwide. The films have been scripted by Derek Kolstad and directed by Chad Stahelski, and John Wick: Chapter Four is currently shooting in Germany, France and Japan with Reeves reprising his assassin character.
Executive producers Greg Coolidge (Wayne, Ride Along) and Kirk Ward (Wayne) are writing the event series and serve as showrunners. Thunder Road Pictures’ Basil Iwanyk and Erica Lee, Stahelski, Kolstad, David Leitch, Shawn Simmons, Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese will also serve as executive producers.
From its modest origins — Wick is coaxed out of retirement to hunt down the son of a mob boss after the kid killed the puppy that Wick’s dead wife left him — the movies have grown increasingly in gross and ambition. It has become a state-of-the-art action series that has brought in such thesps as Laurence Fishburne, Willem Dafoe, Halle Berry and Common. The mythology has been doled out in dribs and drabs, but the centerpiece has been the hotel. It is that hotel Wick has been permanently banned from, after breaking the cardinal rule: no murders on the premises. It is open season on Wick, as numerous assassins attempt to kill him and claim a fortune. But he is exceptionally deadly, and hard to kill.
Lionsgate TV’s Kevin Beggs illuminated the rationale behind the prequel to my colleague Nellie Andreeva in April: “It’s such a successful franchise, it’s on its way to its fourth and fifth installments as a movie,” he said. “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. Just like the Marvel Universe and the DC Universe from a TV perspective are incredibly opportunities, and that is our superhero franchise in the family.
“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 said. “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.”
McShane has previously said he won’t appear in The Continental but might do voice-over work, and Lionsgate has said that while Reeves likely won’t appear in the series.
Gibson is repped by APA and attorney Leigh Brecheen.
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