Former Keanu Reeves Stunt Double Turned $1B Franchise Director

Former Keanu Reeves Stunt Double Turned $1B Franchise Director
Image credit: Legion-Media

This guy had an unusual journey to the director's chair.


  • This stunt double studied martial arts from a very young age.
  • He found early success in Hollywood despite an early on-set tragedy.
  • His first directing credit was on a movie with Keanu Reeves. He has directed every film in this $1 billion franchise.

He was born in 1968 in Palmer, Massachusetts. He started learning martial arts and kickboxing from a young age, and even spent some time as a martial arts instructor before tagging along with a friend to an audition and getting swept into the world of stunt work.

It didn't take long before he was working regularly as a stunt double and stunt coordinator for major Hollywood sets. But it wasn't always an easy journey.

Former Keanu Reeves Stunt Double Turned $1B Franchise Director - image 1

The Death of a Friend

Charles 'Chad' Stahelski was a friend and stunt double for Brandon Lee, the son of Bruce Lee and a rising action hero. Lee died on the set of The Crow, a movie that was supposed to be his breakthrough role. Instead, a gun on set was left with a dummy round in the barrel. When the gun fired, the blank that had been loaded into it came out with the force of a real bullet, striking Lee in the abdomen. He died of his wounds.

When asked about the tragedy, Stahelski told Business Insider: 'Losing a friend like Brandon was heartbreaking, but you also know that he and his fiancee were four or five weeks out of their wedding when the accident happened, you look at what they had, and you feel even worse. You don't ever want to feel that again, because at the end of the day, it's just a movie.'

Former Keanu Reeves Stunt Double Turned $1B Franchise Director - image 2

A Date With Destiny

After the tragedy on The Crow, Stahelski's reputation as a stunt worker continued to grow as his projects became more and more prestigious.

In 1996 he co-founded action design company 87Eleven with David Leitch. Shortly afterwards, Stahelski was asked to audition for the role of Keanu Reeves' stunt double in a little flick called The Matrix. He actually turned down the opportunity at first, as he was working on another film set and didn't think he could make it to the audition and back in time.

Luckily, Stahelski's boss insisted that he go to the audition. That's where he made the connection that would change everything. Stahelski and Reeves went on to work together on the Matrix franchise as well as 2005's Constantine.

In the meantime, he continued to rack up big name credits like Mr. & Mrs Smith, V for Vendetta, 300, and I Am Legend.

John Wick

Fifteen years after the success of The Matrix, Stahelski would stop being Keanu Reeves' stunt double and instead become his director. He cast Reeves as the title character in John Wick, a movie about a former assassin who is mourning the death of his wife. When John is attacked in his home, he goes on a mission for revenge that will send him tearing through the criminal underworld.

Former Keanu Reeves Stunt Double Turned $1B Franchise Director - image 3

Believe it or not, John Wick was Stahelski's first directing credit (though he co-directed the movie along with his creative partner David Leitch). The movie was made with a relatively small budget for a Hollywood action movie: it cost just $20 million, which was easily surpassed by its box office draw of $86 million.

Stahelski went on to direct the next three John Wick movies on his own. His talent for stunt work has paid off: John Wick has become one of the most beloved action franchises of all time, with hand-to-hand combat, gunplay, car chases, horseback chases, motorcycle chases, and dog attacks – just to name a few.

Source: Business Insider.