NOBODY Writer Derek Kolstad On Scripting The Best Action Movie Of The Year, Sequel Hopes, & More (Exclusive)

With Nobody now available on 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray, we were able to sit down with screenwriter Derek Kolstad to talk about creating a brand new action icon, his hopes for a sequel, and a whole lot more.

Interviews Opinion

Nobody is now available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and DVD everywhere; and ahead of its release, we were able to sit down with screenwriter and action afectionado Derek Kolstad (John Wick) to talk about penning the best action film of the year. 

It's been a pretty big year for Kolstad, as not only did he write the critically-acclaimed Nobody, he was also the credited screenwriter for two pivotal episodes of Marvel's The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, penning the third and fourth installments, "Power Broker" and "The Whole World Is Watching." (More on that later...)

During our nearly half hour conversation, he was more than happy to delve into where the idea for Nobody originated and how Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul; Breaking Bad) played a key part in bringing it to the big screen.

In the first part of our chat, we also cover what he hopes to see in a sequel, what it takes to write a good action sequence, his career at large, and whether Hutch could ever cross paths with the one-and-only John Wick. 

Check out the full video interview below or keep scrolling for the transcript!

ROHAN: Where did the idea for Nobody come from? I did learn that something similar had happened to Bob when his home was broken into, but that doesn’t seem to have played a factor.

DEREKBob and his wife were on the road and they caught John Wick, late one night on cable, and he’s always wanted to do a character in that wheelhouse and so he reached out to my agency the next day and I came into his office on Friday. It was funny because the night before I had had this dream and I told Sonja what the dream was and she was like “You have to pitch him that!” and the dream and the pitch was the way the movie opens, with the beaten-up at the table, the kitten, the can of tuna, and all that kind of stuff. I had no idea where any of those things were going to go because we had to backwards engineer it, but we just clicked on our love for that kind of character and that kind of movie.

The other thing too is that Bob’s just not a cynical cat, I mean he’s a realist, but he’s like me and he likes a silver lining and he likes hope and so it was really important too that the characters around him - especially his wife and his children and his father and his brother - there was just detachment, he still loved all of them, but then at its core, it’s about a guy trying to figure out just who he is and that’s the characters we love. And, to that point, he wanted to do his own stunts and he worked his ass off and that’s him on-screen.

ROHAN: I've noticed that both John Wick and Nobody don't just resonate with the expected target audience, they're capturing a more universal audience - I mean my mom loved both of these movies, glued to the edge of her seat, and it's not a genre that's generally her cup of tea. 

How would you describe your approach to writing these stories about these larger-than-life heroes that are now connecting with audiences on a deeper human level, more so than most action films ever have.

DEREK: A lot of people would say, “Let’s create an antihero,” but to be honest, they’re a hero with a 3% perspective shift and this harkens back to the old westerns where a badass walks into town and the first person to run up to him is a little kid or an old woman or a dog because innately, they understand that he is good, he has a moral compass. He could be a stone cold gunfighter or whatever, but at his heart and soul is a man or woman who kind of just operates by the rules of law.

He treats you very, very strictly but if you’re outside of it and a good person, he’ll reward accordingly and so I always look at it that way. And, also, when you look at the characters I grew up with, from Magnum P.I. to Indiana Jones and James Bond, like there’s so many of them, you kind of loved them. They look like your favorite uncle, your dad, who you wanted to be and emulate and replicate.

ROHAN: How do you write a good action sequence? Or rather, how do you effectively infuse character into a mega action sequence?

DEREK: A lot of times in screenplays, I would even say in the third act of Nobody because we were in crunch time, I think in the script for that, it was four lines of really kickass action scene. I gotta go back to Act 2 because that’s where we spend most of our time with it, and so when I saw the third act for Nobody, I was the one giggling, going “Ohhhh,” because I didn’t know what was coming, but in everything else a lof of the time is you want to just have the dance on page. I didn’t have everything that they had, they used some of it, but it’s enough to see the seeds that are brought to harvest in regards to these sequences that you just giggle.

So, I want to make sure that the screenplay reads well as well as being a template and blueprint for what is to come. When you look at action, I love that the best action scenes are intimate, it’s a small confined space even if you’re falling through starships and going through dimensions and stuff, if the focus is on the two characters beating the shit out of each other, then you’re doing something right, but I would also say that the best action, it’s a character beat. There’s no wasted action for action’s sake in these things because we spend a lot of time making sure it’s part of that character’s evolution, that it’s part of that hero’s journey.

ROHAN: Chad Stahelski told me once that John Wick’s journey ultimately ends with his death, which makes sense, but now with Nobody, you see a character like Hutch find some semblance of peace, which could again very easily be shattered at any given moment.

It feels like we'll keep getting more movies until either Keanu Reeves or Bob Odenkirk gets tired, but do you sort of have an endgame in mind for these characters? Or is death the only answer?

DEREK: It’s always a tough question because on both of those, I never gave it much thought. The ultimate is still Shane, you watch that movie as a kid and he rides off into the sunset, and you’re like, “Oh, it’s a standard Western,” but then you watch it as an adult and it’s like, “Oh, Shane’s dead,” but I think too it’s like the best showrunners on TV, you begin with something in mind and suddenly the cast comes into play or someone says something random on-set and you just have to be malleable to the point of, “That’s better.”

So, the idea that I have a locked in ending for these characters, never man, and yet at the same time, when it gets there, it’ll get there it’s supposed to go. That’s what’s been a joy of working with a guy like Keanu and a guy like Bob is they spend just as much time on the elements of the script that have nothing with their own dialogue because they know the world build is what brings us back to that character that they’ve inhabited.

ROHAN: I think the cat’s out of the bag that you’re writing a Nobody sequel, and I don’t want you to give anything away, but could a sequel turn into a bigger family affair with more RZA, Christopher Lloyd and, of course, Connie Nielsen? ?

DEREK: Honestly, with Becca, his wife, that’s where I’m kinda, I want to see a little bit more of her, and as soon as you say it out loud, you’re like yeah, but I also want to see more RZA and I want to see more Christopher Lloyd, I want to see his kids and see what they can do. In my head, it never becomes like The Avengers, because at its heart and soul, it is the character of Hutch, it is Bob and yet, the characters around him, they educate and inform his character and so to me, I don’t see thing as ever becoming kind of your Ocean’s 11, but looking back at Bond, when Q shows up, he steals the show, when Felix Leiter showed up, he stole the show, when M showed up, he stole the show.

That’s really what we’re trying to do here is make it Hutch Mansell’s journey, but the characters around him, they’re not just fluff, they’re there to actually encourage and challenge him and so, again, nascent stages as to where these stairs may go, but I don’t want to leave any of them, I want to make sure that they’re along for the ride.

ROHAN: You created both characters, but have you ever had any serious discussions with David Leitch or Chad Stahelski about merging the worlds of John Wick and Nobody?

DEREK: You know it’s funny, but I got texted all of these memes from the first John Wick when he says, “That nobody is John Wick,” and what’s so funny is I had forgotten about that line, and I think the Nobody side of things was Bob cause he’s nobody, absolutely nobody, and you think at first that nobody is a negative thing and then you believe it’s a horrifying thing. I always loved the idea of shared universes, I never really give it much thought, but I also like the idea that these guys, that they exist in various universes that are detached, and yet if I did have them in the same universe, it would literally be like one holds the door open for the other and go like, “Hey man,” or “Hey, dude,” and that’s it.

I love those cameos where they’re tiny, where you missed it, like he drops something and picks it up, all those kinds of things, but they’re very different characters. John wants out and Hutch wants back in and yet, that yin and yang of it all, I kind of wonder what the next iteration of that character will be doing outside of those two and if it’s a semblance of both or far removed.

So, my whole thing is I just hope John and Hutch get to play for a long time and when you look at the worlds that they’re building out alongside them, you can splinter off a character and follow them for a while. That’s just the kind of cool shit that I used to play in the playground of saying, this is the late ‘80s, mid-80s, talking about wouldn’t it be cool if Boba Fett had his own show and thirty [frick]ing years later, he gets his own show and you’re like, “WHAT?! (makes head exploding motion)” *laughs*

So, in that respect man, I don’t know if they do or not, but I hope that should they, they’re back-to-back against a greater evil.

ROHAN: I’m very curious about your journey, because it took you a while before you started finding success as a screenwriter. What kind of advice would you give aspiring screenwriters/filmmakers in this generation where immediate success or instant gratification is sort of what a large chunk of young people seem to be seeking.

DEREK: To give you the short elevator version, I was a kid who loved movies and I would watch everything - every genre, every year, black-and-white, silent, musical, you name it - I just thoroughly loved movies and my family loved movies and the weekends, Friday nights, we’d go to a movie, or Saturday afternoon, we’d go eat pizza and then go to a movie. It was that excitement and I always loved to read and I loved to write, so that’s where screenwriting came to be, but I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin - I’m actually just outside of Wausau in Junction City right now - and on Lake Dubay.

To be honest, it was a world apart from Hollywood and I went to school, I got my degree, I went and followed the family trade and got into business. The breaking point was talking to my brother, who’s younger than me, and me breaking down, going, “But, there’s this thing I want to do.” So, I drove up to Hollywood knowing one guy, who I went to kindergarten with, Jeff Tanner, I lived with him out in Diamond Bar for a while and then slowly worked my way up and you had at the time and I would argue, even now, you had to be within that gravitational pull of the city and I worked hard to get to that point where you get to work hard and I still love what I do.

I don’t watch as much as I used to because i’d rather have a blank page because now, not only can I send you a script, but you’ve seen some of the cool shit that has been made, going “Okay, see that? I can do that, but here’s this new thing that’s kind of like that, but a little bit different.” That’s phenomenal, but the reality is I got the education first, just in case, I like having the stop gap, the kind of safety valve and it paid the bills, kept the light on, and now that this is a full-blown career, you have to look at it knowing, “I’m blessed,” because the other thing too is I have friends who have done this far longer than I have and they have a good living, thinking of three or four of them, but they’ve never had anything produced and that’s tough.

Just to think that, within this eight or nine-year timeframe to have these things made and have them made with talent and good people and have them received well and have them do okay, holy shit dude that’s a blessing. So, even know, it’s not an easy job, but I get to write and do what I’ve always loved, and then to see it on-screen, to watch it with an audience, and hear that guy or that girl or that aunt or uncle or grandfather, grandmother, who don’t go to these movies cackle when Bob wraps the cord around the guy’s neck on the bus and as he’s punching him going, “Ding, ding!,” like I’m still the guy going, “Oh shit, this is awesome.” *laughs* And, that was his idea.

Nobody is now available on 4K Ultra HD & Blu-ray!

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