When my editor gave me the assignment of interviewing John Wick, I considered handing in my resignation on the spot. Setting aside the fact that the man is, let’s face it, terrifying, I questioned whether New York Magazine should be in the business of profiling a man who made a career out of contract killing then made a name for himself out of killing even more people in very public, graphic ways. “He’s basically a war criminal,” I protested. “Nah,” my editor replied. “I think technically to be a war criminal you have to commit horrible crimes in an actual war not just in the streets of New York. He’s more like a vigilante, I think.” I remained hesitant but my seven roommates reminded me that if I didn’t pay my share of the rent this month, they would murder me and pawn my belongings and so, I took the assignment.
We meet at a small, unassuming coffee shop (his choice) in a neighborhood that is somewhere between decrepit and gentrification. I was surprised by the setting, having had myriad interview experiences wherein the subject chose a posh eatery, a hip bar, or, worst of all, a chain restaurant in Time’s Square under the guise of showing off his “Everymanness.” This place (unnamed, again at Mr. Wick’s request) was decidedly devoid of ambiance or atmosphere and I got the distinct impression that Mr. Wick actually patronized the establishment regularly despite its grimy counters and dim lighting.
“I just want the opportunity to set the record straight,” Mr. Wick had said in our brief but pleasant phone conversation to set up the interview. “I know I’ve done some bad things, but those things aren’t who I am you know? I just want people to see that.”
Mr. Wick arrives five minutes after I do, clad in the expected black garments but topped off with a jaunty scarf and a fedora. He orders at the counter on the way to our table and politely extends his hand as I stand. My hand is shaking as I grasp his and he smiles, disarmingly, and I find myself grinning sheepishly, not quite ashamed of the fear that grips my soul in the presence of a cold killer but certainly embarrassed by it, nonetheless. He gestures to the table, we sit, and just as I begin our conversation, my pen runs out of ink.
I’m terribly sorry, Mr. Wick. My pen seems to be faulty. Let me see if I have another in my bag.
Oh, please, use mine. [He produces a beautiful, rather expensive-looking fountain pen from his jacket pocket.] A gift from Helen, my wife, God rest her soul, on our anniversary many years ago.
He slides the pen across the table with a smile.
You..you sure you don’t mind? I’m old school, I like to take notes even when I’m recording but I don’t want to inconvenience you.
No, no, of course I don’t mind, please.
Okay. Well, thank you. First off, Mr. Wick, I-
John. Please. Call me John. Mr. Wick was my father and all that. [Whispering] Actually, between you and me, I have no idea who my father was. I picked the name John Wick on a lark when I was a boy and it just stuck.
He chuckles and gives me a wink as he removes his scarf and sets it on the table.
Oh. I…Yes, John. Of course. Well, John, first off, I feel I must tell you I was hesitant to take this assignment.
Of course, I completely understand. My reputation precedes me and I’m sure you’ve seen some of the footage of my less savory endeavors.
I have. You are…very good at killing people.
[Chuckling in the least menacing way possible] Sure, I am, but, as I said on the phone, that’s not who I am. That was my job for a while and then it was my mission, perhaps even my passion, but no one likes to be pigeonholed by their job or even their hobbies. I also like sports, I read, I dabble in poetry, I’m learning to cook pasta… There’s more to John Wick than just killing criminals.
You…you like sports?
Oh yeah, big time! Big sports guy here!
I used to watch a lot of football, but it’s lost some of its luster for me over the years. The concussions and stuff. Baseball was always too boring for me as a kid, but I’ve come to appreciate it as I’ve gotten older. I’ve always been a Knicks fan, of course, though that hasn’t been much fun for, oh, let’s see, the last two decades! [Laughs] Sell the team already, Dolan, for Pete’s sake. More than anything, though, I love English soccer. I wake up early every Saturday and Sunday morning and watch every match. It’s truly a beautiful sport.
I confess, Mr. W- John, you’re not who I expected you to be. Your interest in sports, your demeanor, even your hat.
You like it? I’m not totally sold on the style of it yet. I’ve never been much of a fashionista. That was Helen’s department. She always picked out the most wonderful black attire for me. I’m still kind of trying to figure out how to do simple things like buying clothes for myself. She handled all of that.
Our drinks arrive, Mr. Wick thanks the server, and offers his cup to mine in a silent “Cheers.”
Anyway, the hat and the scarf are more camouflage than anything else.
How do you mean?
Well, I’m six-foot-five and I weigh 110 pounds, I dress in all black all the time, and I’ve killed hundreds of people at this point. It’s best to keep a low profile when I’m out and about. Hence, the ensemble.
I was curious about that. Your face has been plastered across every major and minor news outlet all over the world, your crimes are legendary and, again, VERY public, and yet you’re out and about, as you say, instead of locked away in some remote prison. How does that work?
Well, you know, at the end of the day, all of the people I killed were hardened criminals who, frankly, deserved to die. The government could try to pin some of my pre-retirement crimes on me, but they wouldn’t hold up and they know it, I’m very good at killing people, as you say. And, after all, these monsters did kill my dog. My sweet, loving, kind puppy, a gift from my dead wife. Is there any crime worse than killing a dog? Probably not, I’d say. You add all those things together and, honestly, the authorities just leave me alone. I’m much more concerned about the network of assassins and criminals who are constantly on my tail.
Let’s talk about that if you don’t mind. Rumor has it that there is a huge network of assassins who operate worldwide and who live by a shared code of conduct. That can’t possibly be real, right?
Oh, it’s very real and it’s widespread. You have no idea how many people you interact with in your everyday life who are connected to the network in one way or another. Especially in New York. Just yesterday my barber, a man I’ve known for a decade, tried to slice my throat while I was in his chair. I can’t even say I feel betrayed, I get it, with the rent like it is, who doesn’t need a side hustle?
Could you go into more details about the network itself and the governing body, something called The Table?
I could but, frankly, you don’t want me to do that. It would only draw attention to you and that’s not something you want, trust me. Someday I’ll write a memoir but currently I’m far more interested in bringing down The Table. That and, of course, working on my Soundcloud.
Your what now?
You have a Soundcloud?
Oh, yes. I’m surprised you don’t know that! That sounds arrogant, wow. Excuse me. I just mean, I feel like people talk to me about my Soundcloud way more than my murdering.
Is it music? Spoken word? A podcast?
I dabble in various mediums, but the main focus is yacht rap. Helen, my dear, sainted wife, was really into the sort-of softcore hip hop and she got me hooked on it. I’d never listened to music before Helen, can you believe that? Classical Russian symphonies and the like but nothing contemporary. She really opened my eyes to a wide world of good and as a way to cope with her death, I started making some mix tapes in my basement. It turns out I’m actually pretty good at it and I’ve gained quite a following.
Do you ever play live?
I’ve had a few small gigs here and there. Frat parties, corporate events, and the like. I’d like to do a full tour but it’s tough to squeeze it in between all the murders, especially with so many people on my tail. I was supposed to play Fyre Festival, though.
Wait you were supposed to be at Fyre Fe-
I was so shocked by this information that I distractedly pressed so hard into my notepad that I snapped the head off the borrowed fountain pen.
I…oh my I…I’m so sorry, John.
You…you broke my pen. The pen my beautiful, kind, loving, sainted wife, Helen, the woman who brought me from the brink of death, who taught me how to love and to see colors in the world, gave me on our second wedding anniversary. You. Broke. My. Pen. AHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!