My ridiculous quest to drag home the 100-pound trunk from the Keanu Reeves thriller John Wick
I own John Wick's trunk.
That's a weird thing to say, but it's true. This massive wooden trunk, which belonged to a fictional assassin in the 2014 thriller John Wick, is now sitting in my Brooklyn apartment.
Last month, a friend and fellow film critic tweeted the link to a Craigslist post titled "Free Chest Used in Movie 'John Wick' — MUST PICK UP AND REMOVE." The extremely detailed post (which has since, sadly, been removed) read as if the seller was trying to talk potential buyers out of expressing any interest. "Whomever is picking this up, make sure that you AND your friend (and maybe a third friend — I'm serious) are very strong," she wrote. "Also, no, I cannot offer my or my husband's help on this. I seriously can't risk him hurting his back over a piece of furniture that he didn't want in the first place."
Perhaps realizing that the trunk had been undersold, the seller later updated the post to suggest some of the trunk's possible functions: a bed for a toddler, or a platform for folding laundry. "These are just suggestions," she wrote. "Maybe you could find more uses after you please come & take this piece of furniture off my hands."
I definitely had not been in the market for a trunk. I don't have a toddler, and my bed is just fine for folding laundry. But I do love John Wick. If you were unlucky enough to miss John Wick in theaters, let me summarize: Keanu Reeves plays John Wick, a retired assassin who receives a tender posthumous gift from his wife: an adorable puppy. Unfortunately, Wick runs afoul of a smug gangster (Alfie Allen, best known as Game of Thrones' Theon Greyjoy) who wants his car. He tracks Wick down, steals the car, and kills the puppy when it gets in his way. In his grief and rage, Wick falls back on his assassin skills in an attempt at revenge — and that's where the trunk comes in:
John Wick is the kind of guy who will store a trunk full of guns and ammo under a concrete floor just in case he ever needs to use them again. And I am the kind of guy who will accept a free John Wick trunk with pretty much no questions asked.
When I emailed to ask if the trunk was still available, I received a return phone call in less than 30 seconds. The very friendly seller, who introduced herself as Kathryn, was almost suspiciously eager to tell me that the trunk was all mine. I made arrangements to pick it up that Saturday morning.
In Hollywood parlance, the John Wick trunk is what's called a "hero prop": an on-screen item that's convincing and detailed enough to hold up under an audience's scrutiny. Though the trunk's actual time on screen in John Wick is extremely brief, it is seen in extreme close-up, so it was custom built expressly for the film. John Wick implies that John has owned this trunk for years — long enough, at least, that it goes back to his days as a professional assassin, before the movie begins. In practical terms, that means that the props team commissioned a beautiful, customized wooden trunk, then battered and tarnished it until it looked like it had been through a war zone.
How does a prop from John Wick end up in the home of a random Brooklynite? As it turned out, Kathryn wasn't a fan of John Wick. She was just a fan of trunks. After John Wick wrapped, the production was left with a bunch of props no one wanted, including the trunk. Kathryn bought it from the set, intending to use it for storage, but an impending move — as well as her husband's total disinterest in owning it — led her to dump it on Craigslist for anyone who could dispose of it as quickly and cleanly as possible.
After I called, Kathryn fielded a number of inquiries from John Wick's surprisingly passionate cult fan base. One couple, who claimed to have worked on the film, said they wanted the trunk as a souvenir; another guy, identifying himself as a hardcore fan of the film, wanted it as a conversation piece. But Kathryn held strong; I contacted her first, and it would be mine until I realized it made no sense for me to take it off her hands.
That realization never came. Saturday morning arrived. Per Kathryn's instructions, I had enlisted the aid of a couple friends, who I plied with the customary rewards for helping someone move: coffee and bagels in the morning, beer and pizza at night. When we arrived at Kathryn's apartment, it was immediately clear that her extremely detailed post had not exaggerated at all. The trunk was enormous — "John Wick could probably hide a couple of bodies in here" enormous. Pictures did not begin to do it justice. It was a totally impractical thing to cram into a one-bedroom apartment. It weighs at least 100 pounds.
But it was also, unmistakably, the trunk from John Wick. Cranky, scruffy Keanu Reeves had thrown this very lid open on screen. I was delighted to discover that the trunk still contained small chunks of concrete — presumably leftovers from the hole in the floor John Wick had smashed open to retrieve it. It was the perfect weird movie prop to own, and there was no way I was going to pass on the chance to haul it home with me.
So I had to figure out how I was going to do that. In a moment of idiotic bravado, I suggested that we'd only get the full experience if we carried the trunk across the city — an hour-long walk — from Kathryn's apartment to mine. (It was, after all, what John Wick would do.) When literally everyone told me that was a terrible idea, I relented. We called a car service that promised to send an SUV, loaded the trunk into the back when they arrived, and arrived outside my apartment. After dealing with plenty of awkward jockeying — and one random stranger who attempted to buy it from us while we lugged it to my apartment's doorstep — we managed to haul it up the stairs without anyone getting crushed to death. Kathryn kindly checked in later that afternoon to make sure we had survived.
A week later, the trunk still sits in the middle of my living room — serving, at least for now, as a weird hybrid of coffee table, storage unit, and conversation piece. It is obviously much too big for the room, and it doesn't match any of the other furniture I own. But as someone who often writes about film on a macro level, the process of acquiring the John Wick trunk has given me a new appreciation for the painstaking effort that goes into even the smallest detail of a Hollywood movie.
Nevertheless, as fun as it is to say I own the John Wick trunk, my appreciation for the prop has already shifted away from its appearance in the movie and toward the weirdness of my own experience obtaining it. The trunk was designed for a fake assassin to store his fake guns, but it's already acquired a new, distinct meaning for me — that time when I dragged a couple friends to the home of a stranger to collect it.
That said, Keanu: If John Wick needs to come out of retirement again in John Wick 2, I have a great trunk you can borrow. (As long as you're willing to pick it up yourself.)