If you’re a fan of action movies, you’re probably well-acquainted with the John Wick franchise.
The blockbuster films center on Keanu Reeves’ titular character, a retired hitman who returns to his life of violence after a group of home invaders murders his puppy.
So it’s no surprise that the John Wick movies also appeal to another demographic: dog owners. After all, there are few motivators for revenge as relatable as someone harming your beloved pup!
And while it’s understandable that Keanu is the main face of the franchise, it’s the dogs that really set the movies apart from their contemporaries. Let’s learn more about these canine celebrities and the roles they embody!
John Wick: Daisy/Andy the Beagle
The original John Wick movie gets off to a happy start: former hitman John Wick is living a happy, peaceful life with his wife, Helen. But Helen develops a terminal illness and passes away, leaving John heartbroken and alone.
However, a few days after Helen’s death, John receives a gift from her: a beagle puppy named Daisy. Helen had arranged for Daisy to be sent to John to keep him company and help him manage his grief after her death.
John’s life becomes centered around two things: driving around in his vintage Mustang and caring for Daisy, whom he quickly bonds with. One day, he stops at a gas station and encounters a group of gangsters who want to buy his car, but he declines their offer.
That night, the gangsters break into John’s house and steal his car, murdering Daisy in the process. Now, alone and with nothing left to live for, John returns to his old ways and sets out on a mission of revenge against the men who killed Daisy.
Finding the Perfect Daisy
Originally, the film’s producers were hesitant to allow Daisy to die. They reasoned that audiences hate seeing dogs die, so to center a movie around the death of a dog would turn viewers away in droves.
But the directors were adamant that not only was Daisy’s death necessary for the plot, it would also make the character of John Wick more relatable. Filmgoers may not be able to relate to getting involved with the Russian mob, but they can definitely relate to loving a pet as dearly as John loved Daisy.
With that, the crew turned to Animal Actors International, a company that specializes in training animals for the big screen. Trainer Kim Krafsky helped the directors track down the perfect canine actor: Andy, a male Beagle who was purchased from a breeder specifically for the film.
Krafsky knew she wanted Daisy to be a Beagle: the breed’s medium size, outgoing personality, love of cuddling and unbearable cuteness make it both easy to work with and easy to fall in love with. With a Beagle on board, crews would have no problem getting the shots they needed — and audiences would have no problem getting as invested in the pup as John Wick did.
After a long search, Andy was selected for his agreeable temperament and his show-stoppingly adorable looks. As Krafsky said, “He melts you with his eyes!”
Filming with Andy the Beagle
Andy immediately took to Keanu and the rest of the cast and crew, making for some very believable bonding scenes in the first few minutes of the film. Everyone was smitten with him and relished the periods between takes when Andy would roam around and socialize.
For some of the humans on set, Andy was a little too lovable. Omer Barnea, who plays the gangster who kills Daisy, felt horrible about having to “hurt” Andy so many times and would cuddle him apologetically in between takes.
At just 8 months old when filming started, Andy was still a baby, but he had a lot of learning and growing up to do on set. For the most part, he was a quick learner, but there were a few things he just never got the hang of.
In one scene, Andy needed to jump up onto a bed where Keanu was sleeping, then lick his face to wake him up. But Andy just couldn’t get the motions down pat, so the crew needed to improvise.
The solution: spread some bacon grease on Keanu’s cheek, then bring Andy in and let his powerful Beagle nose guide him. It was probably much more pleasant for Andy than for Keanu, but the trick worked perfectly and the crew got the shot they needed.
Andy’s Life After Filming John Wick
Daisy’s early passing means that she’s only in the film for a few minutes, so Andy’s scenes were finished pretty quickly. After three weeks of filming, his job was done — but his life was just beginning.
When John Wick premiered, Andy got to walk the red carpet with Keanu and the rest of the cast several times. After that, he returned to the Animal Actors International farm in New Jersey for some downtime.
Shortly after that, Kim Krafsky, Andy’s trainer, introduced him to one of her friends. They hit it off, and the friend ended up adopting Andy into her family.
And with his new family came a new name: Wick.
Today, Wick lives a normal life as a family pup, enjoying playtime with the kids, cuddles on the couch and peaceful walks through the neighborhood.
But he hasn’t forgotten his celebrity past: during the filming of John Wick 3: Parabellum, Wick took a trip to New York City to visit the set and reunite with Keanu. It seems like, just as John Wick and Daisy were bonded forever, so too are Keanu and Wick!
John Wick 2 and 3: Burton and Cha Cha the Pit Bulls
At the end of the original John Wick film, John is treating his wounds in a vet’s office when he sees a gray pit bull puppy in a cage, scheduled to be euthanized. John releases the dog and they walk off together in a bittersweet ending — two lost, lonely souls who now, at least, have each other.
Perhaps not wanting to get too attached to the dog, given his traumatic past, John doesn’t name the pit bull, referring to him only as “boy” or “dog.” He also doesn’t train the dog to fight, and the unnamed pup only appears in a few nonviolent scenes in John Wick 2 and 3.
Filming with Burton the Pit Bull
In real life, the unnamed dog from John Wick 2 has a name: Burton, or, as Keanu affectionately calls him, Bubba.
Burton was a rescue dog selected for the film because of his endearing appearance. He wobbles slightly when he walks, and his eyes are the epitome of puppy-dog eyes, which the directors knew would be a big hit with the audience.
During downtimes on set, Keanu would feed and hang out with Burton, claiming that doing so would make the on-screen bond more believable. But we think that’s just a convenient excuse to get more puppy love — and honestly, who could blame him?
Filming with Cha Cha the Pit Bull
In John Wick 3: Parabellum, the pit bull returns, but this time he’s played by a different actor: a female pit bull named Cha Cha.
Like Andy the Beagle, Cha Cha needed a little extra prompting during some of her scenes — specifically, one where she had to lick Keanu’s face to wake him up. Once again, Keanu was subjected to having food smeared on his face (this time, peanut butter) so that his canine castmate would get the scene right.
During filming, Cha Cha was involved in a scary altercation with a horse on set. The loud noise and general chaos overwhelmed her and she unwisely picked a fight with a horse.
Thankfully, nobody was injured, and we’re sure that Cha Cha’s handlers took extra care to keep her calm and collected for the rest of the shoot.
John Wick 3: Santana, Tai, Sam 7, Boyca and Ikar the Belgian Malinois
In John Wick 3: Parabellum, John Wick teams up with Sofia Al-Azwar, another ex-assassin, played by Halle Berry. Sofia is usually flanked by two Belgian Malinois shepherds, and unlike John’s dogs, these canines know how to fight.
Throughout the movie, the two dogs display incredible athleticism and talent, playing critical roles in some of the movie’s most intense fight scenes. While many movies use CGI for animal stunt shots, all of John Wick 3’s canine fight scenes were filmed with real dogs.
Filming with the Belgian Malinois
Sofia’s two dogs were actually played by five different dogs, who were cycled out based on their energy levels and willingness to cooperate. The five canine actors were named Santana, Tai, Sam 7, Boyca, and Ikar.
Incredibly, all of the dogs were personally trained by Halle Berry herself. Rather than using an offstage handler, Halle taught the dogs all the right moves and commanded them as she was filming.
There was just one hiccup with the dogs on set: much of the movie was filmed in Morocco, where many cats roam the streets freely. Whenever one would wander onto the set, the dogs would become fixated on it, forgetting their jobs as actors and even running off mid-scene to investigate.
It just goes to show that no matter how well a dog is trained or how deeply it’s bonded with its handler, that canine instinct is always there.
Sure, it can make filming an action movie more complicated, but it’s also part of what makes us love them so much. We’re sure Keanu, Halle, and the rest of the John Wick cast and crew agree!
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