When John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum arrives in theaters this Friday, it marks the return of cinema’s hardest and best-dressed hitman. Toppling James Bond as the sharpest-garm’d assassin on the circuit, Keanu Reeves‘ pencil-wielding badman is an iconic anti-hero not only synonymous with chic tailoring, but one that helped earn Reeves the gig as the face of Saint Laurent’s SS19 menswear campaign.
To honor John Wick‘s return, Highsnobiety sat down with the movie franchise’s costume designer Luca Mosca to discuss everything from Wick’s character evolution and how the suit as a garment is used to elevate a film’s narrative, to how Reeves’ suits are adjusted to accommodate his character’s intense fight sequences.
Fans of the action saga might not know Mosca by name, but they’ll know him by face: the Italian costume designer had a very meta cameo in John Wick: Chapter 2, portraying Wick’s go-to tailor. Check out the moment in the video below and then scroll on for our conversation with Mosca.
How would you describe John Wick’s look in Parabellum?
Keanu’s look is simplicity. It is a lack of entertainment, a lack of embellishment, a lack of pattern and color.
Can you talk us through how the character’s style has evolved over the three films?
At the beginning of John Wick, he loses his wife to a tragic disease and then his puppy is so brutally murdered. It’s almost as if [life is] being drained out of him and there is no more room for color. So I decided to just remove all color from his costumes. They end up being either black or shades of very dark charcoal or gray.
There have been some minor adjustments throughout the series. In John Wick: Chapter 2, we saw the collar of his shirts grow and become more imposing. And that has become a kind of trademark. Men’s suit tailoring is sometimes a question [of] playing with millimeters or half a millimeter. Really amazing things can happen when you alter the proportions by such a small amount. I am pretty obsessive about this kind of detail.
The first two John Wick films are packed with high-intensity choreographed fight sequences and Parabellum will be no different. However, there seems to be a greater variety of settings and activities in the third movie, such as horseback riding, motorbike chases, and trekking through the desert. How did you ensure his suits could perform in so many different settings?
Keanu is an extremely fit and agile actor and he does most of his stunts. But for the very few times when a stunt double takes over and does the stunt for him, we need to adjust the suit. The stunt double is not necessarily the exact same size as Keanu, and they are generally chosen based on their skills: horse riding skills, motorcycle riding skills, running skills, falling skills. So depending on that, the new costume is fitted.
How many suits did you make for Parabellum?
We have an enormity of suits available during the filmmaking process. You see John in one suit, but what you don’t see is my stock of 50 suits, just for John. Some of those suits are altered to allow for a specific stunt. Sometimes we need to add more fabric to the armhole of the jacket or to the inseam. Sometimes we need to add protective padding. And just for the brief duration of this stunt, a different suit is used.
It would be impossible to shoot the movie with just what we call the hero suit. The hero suit has the perfect fit, and that is the number one, the perfect one. But then there are a multitude of variations.
Is every actor in the John Wick movies involved in the costume design process?
I meet with the actors and I attend their costume fittings. It’s important for me as a costume designer not to live in my separate cage, in my crystal room of fantasy. I need to be present. I need to listen to what their needs are. And I need to put the actor in a condition [in which] he can feel right in his second skin, his costume. If I fail an actor in that very important passage, then it becomes very difficult for the actor to become his character.
So would you say the suit as a garment is integral to the narrative itself?
I think that in a movie like John Wick, visuals — I’m talking about the wardrobe specifically — are so important. John Wick is made by his look. You see his silhouette coming from afar and you know that it’s him. This is an iconic look and I think it really does help with a narrative.
The world of the Continental [Hotel] is a fantasy world. It’s a rich world, one that maybe doesn’t exist anywhere. But my costumes help to tell a story. I help bring the audience into a fantasy world where everybody has this specifically over-the-top, rich, faithful look.
Where do you draw inspiration from when imagining this world? Do you go directly from the script or do you look to other sources?
We start from the script [as] a close collaboration between the director [Chad Stahelski] and myself. And then I do research, which is one of my favorite parts of moviemaking. We collect a lot of visual materials, books, textiles, archival material, and vintage pieces. The source of inspiration is endless. I love museums and they are also a great source for me. Old paintings, old masters, abstract art, you name it.
I think that creativity is something that you are born with, but it also needs to be stimulated and always kept alive.
There are elements in Halle Berry’s costumes that look like they could have been pulled from a museum. They’re very ornate and beautiful in contrast to the simplicity of John Wick’s suits. What does that tell us about her character?
Halle Berry is so ornate and so rich in her Moroccan world. The choice of materials, the choice of embroidery and colors came again from very thorough archival research on textiles. We had to first identify what [is] traditionally [worn by] Moroccan Berbers, [pinpoint the correct] design motifs and then translate them onto [fabric] swatches. [Her] simpler, action-driven outfit [also features] traditional embroidery. There is a black and gold motif going on throughout the movie.
You had a cameo in John Wick: Chapter 2. What was that like?
It was a beautiful experience. I really enjoyed working with Keanu. It was fun to bring forward what we normally experience behind the camera, doing the traditional costume fitting. Now the fact that there would be three cameras and a million crew members watching our performance, that was another story. But I feel very passionate about acting and this is what I want to pursue.
That’s exciting. Will you be appearing in John Wick TV spin-off The Continental? What can you tell us about the show?
I cannot say anything about it yet other than it is a spin-off of John Wick and it is a very anticipated project. It will be a beautiful journey and I can’t wait to be working on it as an actor.
John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum is out in theaters this Friday, May 17.