Rian Johnson had just come from the ultimate franchise, Star Warsbut the filmmaker didn’t intend to launch his own new movie series when he went to work on it Knives Outthe 2019 whodunit hit that netted him an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
But at some point during production on the film’s chilly Massachusetts set, Johnson (The Last Jedi) and star Daniel Craig decided there could be many more mysteries to be solved. The writer-director had cast the James Bond actor as Benoit Blanc, the gentlemanly Southern sleuth hired to determine which snooty member of an absurdly wealthy family had killed its patriarch (Christopher Plummer). And Craig was having a hoot.
“You know, we didn’t want to jinx it, but we had conversations like, ‘If people like this, maybe this would be really fun to keep doing these,'” Johnson told while promoting Glass Onion, the acclaimed new sequel. “But the idea was always to do them the way that Agatha Christie did her books where each one is its own mystery. Completely different world, completely different tone and mystery and cast and everything. In that context though, from the very start, Daniel and I were like, ‘Let’s see if we can keep this going.'”
“I don’t know if that’s true, but that’s how it should be written down,” laughed Craig, who shared his side of the story in a subsequent Zoom interview where he was joined by Johnson.
“Rian and I have been sort of flirting with each other for years about working together and I’m just so grateful that we kind of hung out for this. … I’ve known him long enough to know that I like the guy and working together couldn’t have been more of a joy. And not just because of the relationship we have, but the relationship he has with everybody else on set and how he treats everybody and the respect that’s just sort of going around and for everybody’s space and work and what they need to do to get the job done. All of those things I just find allow me to relax on a movie set and allow me to just sort of get on with my job.”
The decision to expand into a series was accompanied by a major financial windfall. In March 2021 — three months before Glass Onion went into production — Netflix bought the rights to two Knives Out sequels for an eye-popping $469 million. Both Johnson and Craig stand to earn $100 million from the deal. (Johnson does insist, though, he wouldn’t have done a sequel without Craig.)
Craig is the only actor to reprise his Knives Out character in Glass Onion (Johnson mainstay Noah Segan plays a new role), which moves from nippy New England to a sun-kissed private Greek island owned by the Elon Musk-like tech billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton), who has invited several opportunistic “friends” to play an elaborate (fake) murder mystery game — when a real murder occurs.
The other new cast members, from Norton to Janelle Monae to Kate Hudson to Kathryn Hahn to Jessica Henwick to Madelyn Cline, were among the many viewers who loved the first film.
“When I saw it, I was super-excited to know what he was going to do next,” says Monae, who plays Cassandra Brand, Bron’s wronged ex-business partner. “Although you see his inspirations, he talks a lot about Agatha Christie. … he was still doing something a little more innovative.”
“I went into the first Knives Out not knowing what to expect,” says Hudson (Birdie Jay, the model-turned fashion designer who keeps getting canceled on social media). “And it felt like such a reinvigoration of the genre through Rian Johnson’s eyes.”
“I’ve seen it multiple times, the first one,” reports Cline (Whiskey, girlfriend to Dave Bautista’s mens-rights-espousing Twitch star).
“I remember thinking, ‘What is this?,'” adds Henwick (Peg, Birdie’s assistant). “‘Who is Benoit? Who is this character?’ And then two minutes in went, ‘Oh, he’s a genius.'”
Once Craig agreed to return, Johnson and the actor had the opportunity to flesh out the mysterious detective Blanc.
“I think we were both kind of on the same page that these movies first and foremost have to be about the mystery, and Blanc is central to that in that he’s central to solving the mystery,” Johnson says. “But I think both of us kind of came into it thinking about the notion of building out a backstory for him. And it’s fun to get little glimpses of that. We get a little glimpse of his home life.”
The most notable revelation about Blanc in Glass Onion is that he’s gay. That’s made clear in a brief scene showing the detective at home with a man (Hugh Grant) who appears to be his partner.
“It was something we kind of discovered about him as we wrote,” Johnson says, acknowledging he hadn’t originally conceived Blanc as queer. “These are all about the mysteries and his function as a detective. That’s why something that is as integral to his character as that only started to really come into shape in the second movie when we had to show him at home. … Then it was a conversation with Daniel and he was like, ‘I think it makes sense. I think it makes sense that Blanc is gay and that’s part of who he is.’”
Craig says that discovery didn’t change how he played Blanc.
“It just seemed like a beautiful organic decision to make and we made it very, very quickly,” he says. “It was just like, ‘Yes, yes, that’s it. Let’s move on.’ We didn’t want to make something of it, it just seemed like a good thing to do. And we’re happy we did.”
Glass Onion premieres on Netflix Dec. 23.
Watch the trailer: