Turning a completely original movie idea into a box office phenomenon is no small feat in today’s IP-driven marketplace, but that’s exactly what Rian Johnson did when “Knives Out” hit theaters in 2019. It’s even harder to make a sequel that surpasses the original, but many think Johnson has done that as well with “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.”
Johnson’s latest film brings his whodunnit franchise to Netflix, with Daniel Craig reprising his role as masterful southern-fried detective Benoit Blanc. But everything else about the film is new, as Blanc travels to Greece to solve a new case featuring a murderer’s row of suspects that includes Edward Norton, Ethan Hawke, Kate Hudson, Dave Bautista, Janelle Monae, Jessica Henwick, Madelyn Cline, and Kathryn Hahn.
At IndieWire’s FYC Consider This Brunch in Hollywood November 18, the film’s producer, Ram Bergman, editor Bob Ducsay, and composer Nathan Johnson sat down for a panel moderated by IndieWire’s Eric Kohn. Bergman says Rian Johnson has one directive for each “Knives Out” mystery going forward, starting with “Glass Onion”: “If we’re going to do it, we have to challenge ourselves,” Bergman said. “Rian has to challenge himself. That’s what continues on. Each time we make another one it’s going to be harder and harder. But if I’m going to bet on someone to figure it out, it’s Rian.”
Taking on that challenge each time is almost like being a gentleman sleuth — a puzzling, difficult exercise that also happens to be a lot of fun. “We had so much fun making the [first] movie we thought, maybe if it’s successful we can do it again,” Bergman said. “And when it did become a success it was a no-brainer.”
However, you’d practically need Agatha Christie’s brain to figure out how to make a movie in which eight or nine actors are in a scene at any given time when the COVID pandemic was still at full throttle. “The exteriors were all in Greece and the interiors were all in Belgrade,” Bergman said. “So the challenge during the pandemic was finding crew to make sets and ship them to Belgrade and make sure of course that none of the actors test positive, because the ripple effects would be extreme as there are always eight or nine people on a screen. These actors hadn’t done anything in a year and a half and so it was a challenge to ask people to be in a bubble again — I think there was the temptation of hitting the beach while in Greece, but we had to rein ourselves in because we were filming during the middle of the Delta wave.”
“Glass Onion” delighted critics when it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, with IndieWire’s Kate Erbland writing that “Johnson needn’t worry about a sophomore slump, because while ‘Glass Onion’ holds some resemblance to his 2019 smash hit (stacked casts, lavish locations, Daniel Craig having the time of his goddamn life), this sequel is zippily and zanily its own thrill ride, and Johnson can’t churn these babies out fast enough.”
Bergman also teased that he and Rian Johnson already know what the next “Knives Out” movie will be.