While they appear second in our Glass Onion Interviews series, I meet Leslie Odom Jr. and Kathryn Hahn last on a long day of interviews. It’s nearly five PM, and it doesn’t seem like they’re getting a break any time soon. But any sign of weariness is nonexistent as we settle in for one last roundtable.
Odom Jr. and Hahn are in good spirits. Tonight is the big gala premiere. Before we even begin, a PR rep reminds us to keep the discussion away from spoilers, which has become harder as the day goes on.
Luckily, Odom Jr. and Hahn are hilarious, eloquent, and totally up to race down whatever path our conversation takes us. Frankly, it’s amazing we get anything coherent out of our fifteen minutes. Much of the conversation is animated, with eyebrows waggling, pratfalls, clandestine nodding, and general tomfoolery. I’ve tried to capture the madness the best I can. I hope it comes through.
As we enter, Odom Jr. proceeds to grab our recording devices, which he brings closer to him and Hahn.
Leslie Odom Jr.: I just want to make sure you guys hear all the answers well on tape, and that way I don’t have to shout.
I pull out my phone for secondary recording. My main device is a second-hand recorder, and it’s unreliable on a good day. I won’t take any chances.
I have two because I’m functionally an idiot. I’m sure I’ll break something.
Odom Jr.: Good for you! We all have to cover up the fact that we’re idiots.
Diving right in and avoiding any spoilers, let’s talk a bit about the characters. The archetypes set in this world are all a little bit eccentric, but Rian says that’s kind of the point, that reality has become already absurd as it is.
Hahn: He’s definitely put a pinpoint flashlight on each person, character-wise, as he did with the original Knives Out. But here’s the thing, when you’re performing in it, you’re just in the verve of the thing, so [on set], I didn’t think of being a caricature or an archetype.
Odom Jr.: Or a representative of any kind. I don’t know if people see themselves up there, I hope they do, but Kathryn is so right. The question is are you playing the truth of the moment the best you can?
For me, I saw something in that situation where everyone has a relationship with a wealthy person who pulls their strings. Sometimes he pulls them to the left or right of their integrity. Things they know to be right and true. So, I asked myself what I would do in a situation like that, and how would I get myself out from under it?
I’m glad you mentioned that because one of the fascinating things is that while everyone gets to have really opulent dresses and have bombastic elements to them, you two are as grounded as possible. I realize it must have been frustrating at times –
Hahn: Oh, not at all.
I tell you; I was comfortable. I was very comfortable. It felt really practical. It took me seven minutes to get dressed. I do love a clean palette, but what a bummer getting to work with the incredible Jenny Eagan and then…
She gestures dramatically at her wardrobe.
Hahn: … see my rack.
Odom Jr.: And by rack, she means breasts.
Hahn slumps over the table in a fit of laughter. Odom Jr. grins. The room descends into hysteria.
I’ll… write that down?
Hahn cackles, nodding, as Odom Jr. fails to keep a straight face.
Now, if we can ever recover from this. Both of your characters still inhabit this place of reality. Everyone else works with something intangible, be that social media, Twitch, or things that have a habit of blowing over. But then you’re in science and politics. These are still things that have a much greater impact on the world.
Hahn: Ooh, this is interesting, and I’m going to try and be really careful with spoilers.
Hahn thinks about it for a moment, trying to find the right words. She narrows her eyes, nodding slightly as she does.
Hahn: Because you’re right – I don’t wanna say anything about anything – but I know exactly what you mean.
We’re in agreement, that’s really what matters.
Hahn: We’re in nodding agreement, yes!
She nods decisively, holding eye contact and pointing her finger in my direction. I nod back, tapping the side of my nose in the worst Paul Newman imitation in history.
I really am trying to avoid spoilers as much as possible.
Odom Jr. reaches slightly across the table with mock sincerity.
Odom Jr.: You’re doing great.
This has already come up with others, but one of the driving forces, their inspiration, for one character is the Mona Lisa –
Hahn: Maybe. Is she? Maybe, who knows!
But what is that for you?
Odom Jr.: Music, we were actually listening to stuff together before you walked in. I think most of us found such commonality in this group because we’re fans of the art. We talked about music, film, actors, and directors; things we love. Particular moments, everything. We nerded out.
Hahn: Documentaries! We love them. If there was a particular inspiration for me, I think, I started in theater. All the way back in kindergarten. There was no question. It was just, “this is what I’m doing.” I had no fallback plan. I just knew that there was nothing else. That was what it was going to be.
So, I’d go to the movies and that was a different version of it. Even then, I didn’t know it was going to be like that. Seeing independent films when I was in high school, I was just –
Hahn gestures as if she could faint from it all.
Odom Jr.: That would be great if that was the end of it. You’d just –
He claps his hands to indicate Hahn tumbling under the table.
Hahn: Right? That’s it, she’s done.
But it was those moments. Like, how can anyone do these things? The art, all of it, inspired me.
The movie deals with meta-levels. It’s extremely self-aware. Kathryn, you just had an iconic part as a deliciously campy villain, complete with your own theme song. Was that any fear – or demented glee – about social media grabbing onto it as some kind of evidence as you joined this project? A murder mystery where everyone is a suspect.
Hahn: Here’s the good news about that: I have no social media. So, there are probably lots of these things, these theories. I’m blissfully unaware. So, [that theory], take it and run!
There aren’t many people in acting who don’t have social media. We’re kind of defined by it today. But you have no relationship to it.
Hahn: I mean, do I lurk around? Yes, sometimes. Not on my own stuff. It’s not like I don’t know what it is. I just want to make that clear!
She gestures around the room, emphasizing the point.
Hahn: I do know what’s happening!
Odom Jr.: But to be clear, in today’s times, you’re a ghost.
Hahn: I really am.
Odom Jr.: I think that’s enviable. Chris Rock had this joke from like five to ten years ago that’s really prophetic. It’s how everyone in the future is going to want anonymity. For the longest time, everyone wanted fame. Now it’s just the opposite. It’s so ubiquitous today.
So now, those moments where you get to hide, where you can just have a night. Go out and do things without taking pictures. It’s just —
Odom Jr. glances around the room and sees the collection of nodding heads. Social media is a necessity, not a friend.
Odom Jr.: Everyone here is like “stay off the thing, girl!”
Hahn: My kids want me to join Instagram, but I just… I think I’m OK.
Odom Jr.: You’re not missing anything.
How about you, Leslie?
Odom Jr.: I’ve gotten better. I’ve gotten more well about it. There was a spike. I was a nobody and Hamilton sort of happened –
Hahn: SORT OF HAPPENED?!
Odom Jr: That was the spike!
But there’s a fair amount of love – mostly it’s love. It’s the new fan mail. Like how back in the day someone might go to a PO box, and it’s full of letters. That’s what tweets are. But the hate gets through there too.
As an actor, you hopefully shapeshift, and you let your ego die a bit, just to do the work. But when you have that constant feedback loop, that avatar, that manifestation of your ego, it gets harder to do your work. To those blessed few who haven’t joined yet; if you don’t have to, stay where you are. You’re good.
I’m glad you mentioned Hamilton –
Hahn: Me too! I’m always glad to talk about Hamilton.
Odom Jr: I’m glad you brought it up!
It came up organically!
Odom Jr: Well, since we are now talking about it. If we must.
You’re both amazing physical performers. You have a very precise style in your movement, and, in turn, Rian’s writing and directing is very musical. Then, this is a chamber piece. It’s multiple people all moving in a strict choreography where the camera picks up everything. Was that something that helped the work or was it more clinical in putting together that dance?
Odom Jr: Oh no, there was collaboration, a fair amount, really. We had rehearsals, and you always wish you had more. But it’s all learning; the way you would learn with a new dance partner.
In this film, I had eight or nine new dance partners. So, you learn how to give and take. You figure out what the dance is. That’s a great analogy. I think it was somewhere around the middle of filming, where we got into the meat of it, that it did feel like we were really dancing together.
Hahn: A hundred percent.
Finally, when you make a film like this, it’s usually a given, and very sad, that you never get to be in the sequel. But given the chance – would you?
Odom Jr.: YES. This was ideal. Rian Johnson’s name showing up on my phone to ask for anything, that’s the easiest yes ever.
Hahn: Absolutely, without question.
Glass Onion is out on Netflix Nordic on December 23rd. Stay tuned for more interviews and reviews coming from the London Film Festival.