Why making ‘Glass Onion’ scared Rian Johnson much more than ‘The Last Jedi’

One of the undisputed hits of this yr’s Toronto International Film Festival has been writer-director Rian Johnson’s “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.”

Full of shock cameos, with a narrative by which who will get killed is as a lot part of the thriller and pleasure as whodunit, the film is the follow-up to Johnson’s 2019 “Knives Out,” which made greater than $300 million worldwide and earned him an authentic screenplay Oscar nomination. Don’t fear: The movie’s revelations shall be stored secure right here. What will be safely mentioned about “Glass Onion” is that it includes a tech billionaire who invitations a bunch of outdated associates and colleagues to his non-public island for a weekend homicide thriller get together, and that his plans rapidly go off-course.

The solid consists of Daniel Craig, returning as detective Benoit Blanc, together with new additions Edward Norton, Kate Hudson, Leslie Odom Jr., Kathryn Hahn, Dave Bautista, Jessica Henwick, Madelyn Cline and Janelle Monáe. Shot at a luxurious resort in Greece, with soundstage work executed in Belgrade, Serbia, the movie’s beautiful consideration to element comes from longtime Johnson collaborators together with cinematographer Steve Yedlin, editor Bob Ducsay, composer (and cousin) Nathan Johnson, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” manufacturing designer Rick Heinrichs and “Knives Out” costume designer Jenny Eagan.

As a lot because the film attracts from crime fiction, it additionally pulls from a wellspring of different cinematic references, reminiscent of Guy Hamilton’s 1982 “Evil Under the Sun,” starring Peter Ustinov as Agatha Christie’s detective Hercule Poirot, and Herbert Ross’ 1973 “The Last of Sheila.” (That movie’s co-writer, Stephen Sondheim, has a short cameo in “Glass Onion” filmed earlier than his demise in November 2021.)

“‘Last of Sheila’ is the cooler reference,” mentioned Johnson, “but the reality is there’s probably a lot more of ‘Evil Under the Sun’ in this movie.”

The film will start streaming on Netflix on Dec. 23, with a theatrical launch nonetheless to be introduced. (More on that beneath.) The filmmaker sat down for a dialog the morning after the movie’s raucous Saturday evening world premiere, the place many of the solid was in attendance.

“The cast hadn’t seen the movie yet, and so for them to experience it for the first time with a crowd like that — it made me feel good that they felt really good,” Johnson mentioned.

The star-studded solid of “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” consists of Kate Hudson, left, Leslie Odom Jr., Kathryn Hahn, Edward Norton, Jessica Henwick, Madelyn Cline and Dave Bautista.

(John Wilson / Netflix)

You clearly have some expertise with writing a sequel from “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” Did you method this in the identical means?

Rian Johnson: No, it’s a really completely different animal for a pair causes. First of all, “Last Jedi” was really a correct sequel, persevering with the occasions from a film that I didn’t write. With this, to begin with, it’s not even actually a sequel, it’s type of like one other ebook, principally one other thriller with the identical detective. If something, going into it was somewhat scarier even than the “Star Wars” film, as a result of the primary one, once we made it, it was in such a vacuum and we had no concept if individuals can be into this type of factor. Genuinely, it was simply one thing that I actually beloved, a style I beloved, and I’m like, “Let’s try this.”

And then the truth that individuals loved it and the truth that it was well-liked — once you put one thing on the market, this occurs anyway, however particularly, I feel, on this case — it turns into one thing exterior of you and also you type of neglect the way you made it. And so, it was scary. I’ve by no means skilled nerves fairly like really sitting down to put in writing one thing. I additionally spent 10 years planning “Knives Out,” whereas this, I used to be type of ranging from scratch.

The incontrovertible fact that this film is so particularly set in 2020 within the early pandemic actually emphasizes that each of the flicks are set in our modern-day. This isn’t a quaint, retro factor. Why is that vital to you?

Johnson: I feel that is the case with plenty of style stuff, and in a means that was the identical factor that kicked me off with my first movie “Brick,” studying Dashiell Hammett and feeling like I used to be getting kicked within the abdomen by that prose and feeling like over time the thought of movie noir had change into form of gilded, separated from that very fast gut-punch response that you simply get from simply these uncooked phrases. And eager to do one thing that didn’t reinvent it however that received again to the vitality of it by shaking off the nostalgia that’s hooked up to it.

The means to try this with the whodunit is to simply set it in modern-day America, to very openly interact with what’s occurring proper now with America. Not that these are extremely nuanced message motion pictures or commentaries in any respect. They’re huge, well-liked entertainments, however a part of it’s not shying away from, “Yes, this is set right here and right now, and we’re gonna be talking about stuff we’re talking about right now.” That’s what Agatha Christie did again within the day. She wasn’t writing interval items.

You appear to take explicit pleasure in writing the character of Benoit Blanc. Why do you get pleasure from writing for that character a lot?

Johnson: When I wrote the primary one, I didn’t know who was going to play him. I actually didn’t know what the character was going to be like, oddly. I began writing and I feel I had it in my head, “Let’s create a new, iconic Poirot.” And I manufactured all these quirks and it received horrible. And so I lastly simply cleaned all of it out and mentioned, I’m simply going to write this man to his function within the script and provides him a Southern accent and we’ll get an excellent actor in there after which it’ll type of outline itself as we make it.

I heard Daniel speaking about how he needed to virtually relearn the accent as a result of he didn’t need to do a caricature of it. So he type of began from scratch and I form of needed to do the identical factor with Blanc. I didn’t need to write a pastiche of what Blanc is in my head from now having seen the primary movie so many occasions. … And this film is way more from his perspective than the earlier film, which was additionally enjoyable.

A man in a pink suit sitting at a table in a glass room

Daniel Craig as detective Benoit Blanc in “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.”


One factor I’ve come to understand and admire in your work is your willingness to be foolish. You take what you do significantly, however you continue to will be playful and have enjoyable with it. Where does that come from?

Johnson: I’m a deeply foolish particular person. All my favourite filmmakers have a streak of silliness operating by means of their stuff. Even filmmakers who make extremely critical work generally, the Coen brothers or Kubrick — anybody whose work is value a rattling will not be afraid of silliness. But notably with this style, due to my touchstones with it, the factor of silliness to Poirot is important to what makes that character tick. And additionally, by the way in which, utilizing it as a story device. Silliness is a solution to disarm. For Blanc to disarm the opposite characters but in addition to disarm the viewers. When you’re planting a thousand issues and also you’re making an attempt to make them stick within the viewers’s thoughts with out realizing that it’s one thing that’s going to be vital later, so it doesn’t stand out — if you are able to do that with a joke, [it] seems like the rationale I’m telling this data is as a result of there’s a punchline on the finish. The actuality is it’s going to repay on the finish of the film. That’s extremely useful, simply from a technical standpoint.

Your take care of Netflix was reported as being for 2 motion pictures, and after the premiere your producer Ram Bergman confirmed that there shall be a second film. Are you already at work on that? Are you already writing?

Johnson: I’m not writing but, however the gears are beginning to flip. We’ll see what occurs. I had initially thought, “Boy, I should probably go and do something else before I do the third one of these,” however I’ll inform you the reality, I’m simply so creatively jazzed by the prospect of what the third one will be. And additionally the thought of doing a 3rd one which actually defines what this sequence will be, by way of how the third one could possibly be as completely different from this one as this one is from “Knives Out.” That can actually type of show that is one thing that may hold going for some time and never get stale.

Will you and “The White Lotus” be competing for luxurious resorts around the globe?

Johnson: That’s the enjoyable factor for me, is there’s no cause the following one couldn’t suck again in and be a chamber piece once more. That’s what Agatha Christie did. She would go huge, she would go small. It wasn’t in regards to the scale. It wasn’t in regards to the scope or the setting. It was about discovering a enjoyable, distinctive narrative gambit every time and discovering a brand new factor to speak about with every new story.

You mentioned on the premiere that you simply see these very a lot as motion pictures, and a part of the enjoyable of a film for you is seeing it with an enormous crowd. Is that contradictory to Netflix’s technique?

Johnson: I can’t communicate to Netflix’s technique, but it surely’s not contradictory to what I would like with the discharge. I would like as many individuals as doable to see this with a crowd. I additionally am very conscious extra individuals most likely found [“Knives Out”] at dwelling with their household than noticed it within the theater the primary time. … We’re engaged on it. We’re figuring one thing out. But my objective is if you wish to see this within the theater, you’ll be capable of see it within the theater.

Since you made the take care of the corporate and because you’ve been working with them, has your perspective on windowing and what a theatrical launch can seem like modified in any respect? Have you discovered something from them?

Johnson: I really feel like proper now all people is simply operating on prime of the avalanche. Nobody is aware of s—. There’s a number of data that everyone has proper now about what works and what doesn’t. And on the finish of the day, I feel what works is an effective film that individuals need to go see. I’m both pessimistic or optimistic relying the way you outline it, the place I simply really feel just like the trade has been in a state of collapse since its inception. … It simply feels prefer it’s a continuing state of affairs. It’s consistently reinventing and discovering itself. I consider that the theatrical expertise isn’t going anyplace, it’s coming again. And I consider it’s an important a part of what makes motion pictures, motion pictures.

I spoke to you earlier than the premiere of “Knives Out” right here at Toronto and on the time I requested you about the truth that the film was premiering on the pageant and opening in November. It was scheduled like an Oscar film, and also you laughed and had been dismissive about that concept.

Johnson: Get prepared for me to snigger once more. History is repeating itself.

Then you had been nominated for an Oscar and now this film has some expectations — even a number of the press out of the premiere needed to do with its awards possibilities. Do you’re feeling any type of strain in that regard? Are your emotions completely different this time due to what occurred with the earlier film?

Johnson: No, zero p.c. It was an extremely improbable, wonderful honor and shock to get that nomination final time. But that’s not the prize that now we have our eye on with these motion pictures. We make these motion pictures as well-liked entertainments. The solely factor that we’re gunning for once we make this stuff is to offer an viewers an excellent time. I don’t consider these as awards motion pictures.

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