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'John Wick' Spinoff Film 'Ballerina' Gets a Director, But Why Is It Len Wiseman?

By Roxana Hadadi | Film | October 8, 2019 |

By Roxana Hadadi | Film | October 8, 2019 |


Do you want the good news first? OK, let’s do the good news first: There will be a John Wick spinoff! Titled Ballerina, the film will follow a female assassin, and if you saw John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, the title will make a lot of sense to you. Remember when Keanu Reeves’s John Wick returns to the orphanage run by Angelica Huston’s Director, and he passes through rooms with young men practicing sambo and young women practicing ballet? Yeah, that’s the origin story I guess we’re getting here. (Which also bears some similarity to other Russian-female-assassin narratives we’ve seen before, like Red Sparrow, and I assume what we’re getting in the Black Widow standalone movie.)


So, that’s exciting! An expansion of the ultra-layered, hyper-detailed John Wick universe! This time focusing on a female character, in a franchise that has incorporated them fairly well! Huston and the inimitable Halle Berry in Parabellum, Ruby Rose and Claudia Gerini in Chapter 2, and Bridget Moynahan in the first film. Yes, she has very limited screentime, but the warmth and gentleness she brings to the performance carries through the sequels. We talk all the time about how John Wick goes on a revenge rampage because Theon Greyjoy kills his puppy, but that ignores the very real presence Moynahan has as Helen, and that’s a disservice.

Keeping that all in mind, let me give you the bad news: That Ballerina is written by a guy and will be directed by a guy. Goddammit, men! The script is from Shay Hatten, who—to be fair—has a writing credit on Parabellum. I am willing to give that element of Ballerina the benefit of the doubt. But The Hollywood Reporter reported today that the directing gig is going to Len Wiseman, and may I ask on behalf of women everywhere: Why, though?

You recognize Wiseman’s name, I’m sure. He broke through in 2003 with Underworld, did its sequel Evolution, then partnered up with Bruce Willis for 2007’s Live Free or Die Hard (which was ehh, yes, but also, Timothy Olyphant and Maggie Q and Cliff Curtis were all in it!), and then directed the utterly awful Total Recall reboot in 2012. And since then … not much.

Wiseman has done a few one-off episodes of TV, including Hawaii Five-0, Sleepy Hollow, Lucifer, and The Gifted, and he did a few episodes of the already-canceled Swamp Thing. He’s also working on developing a Sin City TV show with Glen Mazzara, who used to be the showrunner for The Walking Dead, but there haven’t really been any updates on that project in 2 years. And he’s working with Willis again for McClane, which is a Die Hard origin story, AND AGAIN, WHO IS ASKING FOR THESE TV SHOWS OR MOVIES? WHO???

Looking back on all that, why did this man get chosen for Ballerina? His work hasn’t been relevant in a long time! Not sure if you knew this — because Funko clearly doesn’t — but women also direct movies. Michelle MacLaren is right there, with her Game of Thrones and Better Call Saul bonafides. Catherine Hardwicke’s Miss Bala wasn’t great, but she can certainly direct an action movie. Must I scream “Karyn Kusama!” into the goddamn void?

I guess I do, because for some reason Kate Beckinsale’s ex-not-quite-yet-ex-husband got this job. On the one hand, I feel like, at least Luc Besson didn’t get this job? But on the other hand, I swear to the old gods and the new, these men will make a misandrist out of me yet!

Note: That header image is some gossip nostalgia: Wiseman, Beckinsale, and Beckinsale’s amicable ex and Underworld co-star Michael Sheen, all at a Weinstein Company Golden Globes after party in 2014.

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Roxana Hadadi is a Senior Editor for Pajiba. You can follow her on Twitter.

Image sources (in order of posting): Getty Images, Lionsgate