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Glass Onion Interviews: Daniel Craig & Rian Johnson
I spoke with Rian Johnson and Daniel Craig about their upcoming film, Glass Onion, at the London Film Festival.
In the final part of my interviews for Glass Onion, I spoke with Daniel Craig and Rian Johnson about crafting mysteries, Southern accents, and grounding the madness with the real world.
Look out for my review of Glass Onion soon and check out the film on Netflix Nordic starting December 23rd.
Thank you both for the film, this was a lot of fun.
RJ: Thank you! We had a good time making it.
DC: It doesn’t always translate, having fun on set, but when you’ve got a great script, it seems to work out.
Daniel, did you have or want more input on things this time around in the film?
DC: No more than the first one. The great and liberating thing about these films is that Rian writes and directs, Ram Bergman produces, and I trust them, so I just get to act.
But as far as the costumes and all that, I do like to get involved. Jenny Eagan is a friend, who I’ve worked with before, so it’s great to be able to come in and say “this would be great” and so on.
That selection at least has expanded greatly for this part!
DC: In the first one, Benoit was only supposed to be there for two days, so he only has an overnight bag. It’s winter, it’s Boston, so it’s kind of muted. But I wanted him to be dapper. Bring in that whole Agatha Christie and Hercule Poirot angle.
So, he’s very stylish, and he’s been locked away for so long. Then he gets invited to Greece, so he’s immediately like: “yep, the wardrobe is coming out!”
RJ: Like Peter Ustinov in Maiden Under the Sun.
DC: Precisely. That’s what we did.
Both together: Steal, steal, steal!
RJ: Always steal from the best.
Rian, what is it about complicated mysteries that seem to draw you toward them?
RJ: I do like films with a degree of complication. But what we try to do with these movies – and I hope that I’ve gotten better at it – is that it feels simple for the audience. That it’s a roller coaster, not a crossword puzzle.
With these films especially, I think that’s key. We’re trying to give the audience a good time, so they forget they’re supposed to solve something. So that it feels like an extra treat at the end. But more so that you have a fun ride and it doesn’t feel like homework.
A lot of the characters are archetypes, yet it feels like at the same time the world has gotten even crazier.
DC: I think that, extreme as they are, and we’re not trying to make a naturalistic movie, I don't think they're that much larger than real life.
I don’t have an Instagram or any of that stuff, but I think if you went on it, you’d find people who are way more extravagant than these people are. We want you to enjoy the film, of course, but if you end up thinking about these things at the same time, so much the better.
I’d argue that all your films are about people who try to tell stories to rewrite the world around them. In Knives Out it’s the family claiming their purchased property as a family estate, now it’s people with more lifestyles than lives. That denial of reality seems to flummox Benoit the most.
RJ: Oh that's good.
DC: You mind if I steal that from you?
Go right ahead.
DC: That’s going on the poster.
I’ll also accept a Brother Bloom crossover as thanks.
[Rian smiles at Daniel]
RJ: We’d have to get Rachel [Weisz] back.
Did all of that feel like a natural progression as the story moved more into the social media age?
RJ: Sort of, I mean, I don’t think of it as a progression, but more like following your nose to what feels interesting.
A big part of their reason for being is to take a genre that’s mostly been done as period pieces in England and very unapologetically set it in modern-day America and not be afraid, hopefully not in a way that feels message-y, but not be afraid to talk about what we’re talking about.
So, in that way, this movie was not so much thinking about what was the natural progression from the last one, but what were the things that I’ve felt over the last years. What are the things that needed lampooning, investigating, and someone screaming at them?
The film has a few great cameos, one superb one in particular, but you still had to shoot in a Covid bubble. Did that prove a logistical nightmare?
RJ: Well, first of all, the actor who plays this specific part –
DC: Who we won’t mention.
RJ: Who we’ll never mention because it’s such a delight when it’s revealed. But I hadn't met them before, and it was a case of thinking “who would bring me the most joy to have on-screen with us?” So that's how we got there.
But there’s no question, and anyone who’s had to carry on with any job in the last few years knows that everything is just more complicated today.
We also got lucky that Ethan Hawke, who has a fun little cameo, was in Budapest shooting Moon Knight. It meant that he could come over to help out.
How about that phone call (including Sondheim and others), did you get to have that in person?
DC: Oh, I wish. I wish, but no.
There’s also a new spotlight on Benoit, but it’s only slight. He’s more there to facilitate the other characters.
DC: That’s part of the joy of playing the part. His background is not obvious, he’s an enigma, and it’s his curiosity that drives these investigations.
He allows people to be obnoxious and awful because that reveals things about them. I wrote that into the script as a guideline: curiosity. Just say “tell me”, and let people hang themselves with what they say.
Is that something you share with Benoit?
DC: Curiosity? I hope so. I try to ask questions as I can. I’m old, and they say that the older you get, the less you know, so I get more curious as I go.
Benoit is a great character because he’s larger than life, but he’s also an anachronism. He exists out of time, he’s a contradiction. That allows for more scope, especially when the rest of the film is cast in such a great way, it allows everyone more to react to.
Was it easier to get a new cast after the success of the first one?
DC: You’d think it would be easier, but all these great actors are busy all the time!
RJ: It was difficult, especially with the timing, because once lockdowns started to lift, everyone took every single job they could get their hands on. So, they worked solidly for two years. Luckily, and this always ends up happening, we got the best people for the parts. It’s so important that they’re people who like being around each other, too, because these are films where we’re close to each other a lot.
DC: They’re chamber pieces, there’s a lot of people in the room, and it needs to have it to work out.
RJ: I think that’s why we (Daniel and I) like making these so much. Because the people we surround ourselves with are so great.
The rest of the cast has told us that you played murder mysteries even when the cameras stopped rolling.
DC: Listen, it’s vague that I played anything like that because I’m shit at them!
But I loved getting together for dinners, getting drunk, and watching people argue about them. It was a lot of fun. I'll take any excuse for that.
In Knives Out, Benoit would traditionally be the antagonist, because Martha is our hero. Now, as he's more in the spotlight, you’ve brought a great Peter Sellers quality to him. Was that something you wanted to bring in or was that already in the script?
DC: It was already in the script, but I was very nervous about doing a pastiche about the performance this time around. I was very keen to return but nervous. I remember Rian showing the script to Knives Out, and there was a note: “slight, lilting Southern accent” -
DC: I asked “is that right?” and he said, yes, so off I went. I didn’t want to make that bigger this time around, but I wanted to make sure it was real and believable in this world. I did a lot of work, almost more work on this one than the last one because I wanted Benoit to be in a real place. Curiosity helps again because I needed to do a lot of listening and learning.
Then there is that physical element. That Jacques Tati thing, and I’m thankful you mentioned Sellers because he’s one of my heroes.
I think it’s an incredibly humane and grounding performance.
DC: Oh, thank you.
Especially his response to things like the regulations at the pool. The kind of composed panic he has. It just brings joy to my heart.
DC: I’m so glad that it did. That’s really what we want to aim for.
Are you already talking about the third part?
RJ: Yeah. Maybe. A little. Little glances here and there.
DC: I think we’re both deeply superstitious. Like, let’s get this one home first. I know Rian has thought about it, but let’s get it done first.
RJ: Let’s see how people like this one first!