Rian Johnson grabs another knife – The New Yorker | Episode Movies

Seven years ago, filmmaker Rian Johnson was chosen to write and direct Star Wars: The Last Jedi. He was a surprising choice for what is arguably Disney’s largest film property alongside Marvel. Johnson had made his mark writing and directing the low-budget noir film Brick and the sci-fi thriller Looper, both of which were whimsical and critically acclaimed, and he displayed an obsessive familiarity with them respective genres coupled with a desire to cheekily reinvent them. The Last Jedi was an expected blockbuster and the highest-rated film of the recent trilogy, but some fans dismissed its departure from typical Star Wars cuisine in its storytelling style and unique sense of humor. (Ironically, Johnson is a lifelong Star Wars nerd and superfan.) After the film’s release, Johnson, who is now 48 and lives in Los Angeles with his wife, film historian and podcaster Karina Longworth, switched to other projects .

However, it turned out that blockbuster franchises were still in his future, but not in the way he expected. After Star Wars, Johnson had decided to move on to a genre that had always fascinated him – crime – and the result was the 2019 film Knives Out, which showcased his sense of humor, progressive politics and his A love of film combines secrets into one hit. Johnson spent the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic writes a follow-up, “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” lasting exactly one week, on 23 The film and its eventual sequel.

As in the original film, this film stars Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc, a famous fictional detective who must solve a new mystery in each Knives Out installment. Glass Onion is set on a Greek island, where a billionaire played by Edward Norton has for some unknown reason invited over a bunch of old acquaintances – numerous eccentric characters portrayed on screen by Janelle Monáe, Kate Hudson and other stars. Blanc, who has also received a mysterious invitation, soon tries to solve a murder. Critics and audiences alike hailed the original Knives Out as the kind of movie they can’t get enough of watching: dialog-heavy, fx-less, intelligent entertainment. (The first film reportedly only cost forty million dollars to make.) This one packs heaps of celebrity guest appearances and even more political commentary than the first, which acted as a parody of wealthy and seemingly Trump-supporting murder suspects.

I recently caught up with Johnson at his Los Angeles workspace, which has a feel of a tech company with an open layout, visible (though minimal) snacks, and glass doors. At one end is a small screening room; at the other end is Johnson’s humble office. He was dressed casually when I arrived and has a welcoming, laid-back demeanor. It’s a bit difficult to imagine him bossing actors around, but he listens carefully and keeps eye contact. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity. In it, we discuss what he learned about directing from Steven Spielberg, his obsession with crime fiction, and how Netflix appears to be able to spend so much money.

There were many COVID and mask jokes in the film.

That’s because I wrote it in 2020. That’s probably why it’s set on a Greek island.

What was it like when shooting a movie COVID was worse than now?

It’s so much harder to direct with a mask just because so much is directing, in a weird way, and there’s an audience for the actors, and when you lose that ability it becomes a lot harder.

I read that you once said that you decide on a project by first deciding on a genre.

This is the first starting point. Mostly it’s a genre that I had an emotional connection to. As for crime fiction, I’ve been an Agatha Christie fan since I was a kid. Of course, with Star Wars it was its own thing, and with Looper it was science fiction, so it’s usually something I have ingrained feelings about. It’s a combination of that and something I want the film to be about. Something I want to work out or wrestle with to make. This is the combo I started with.

My memory of Agatha Christie was that mystery was a big part of her work, whereas with Knives Out I always felt that what you’re really interested in was less “Who was it?” than the other stuff.

Yes. But as a huge Agatha Christie fan, I don’t think that’s entirely true, because I think she was a great storyteller, and I don’t think great storytelling comes from finding out who did it. I think that’s simply because she creates good characters and dramatic situations. I think it’s very often simplified in the culture of how people think about their work. So I always find myself a little defensive. [Laughs.] She did what I describe as genres, namely to put the crime story as a shell above other genres. The ABC Murders really is a serial killer thriller and And Then There Were None is a slasher movie.

What made me want to do Knives Out was to play it in modern America and not be afraid to play it in modern America and engage with today’s culture. Christie did exactly the same. Her books were not historical pieces; They were very busy with what was going on at the time. And in a way it’s a very traditional, conservative form of storytelling, where a crime creates chaos and the fatherly detective puts things right at the end. And using that again as a shell, what can we put in here that’s really interesting to look at and talk about?

Always wanted to tell stories about movies?

Once I knew that was a job you could have. I was one of those kids who just had a camera in my hand. I started making films in junior high. I got a Super 8 camera and then camcorders and made movies with my friends through high school. I was reading a book about George Lucas and he was talking about how he got into USC and I was like, oh, maybe there’s actually a way to make a living out of it. But I’ve always written and told stories, and movies were predominant because I was a kid in the golden Amblin age.

Have you always wanted to write separately from films?

Yeah, and that was the other thing I did all through high school: writing stories. Writing has always been separate from making films as a kid. And so it wasn’t until I really started thinking about features that I started putting these two together.

When you write and direct a film, does it change the nature of writing? Imagine how you will film a scene?

There are a million ways to skin a cat, but for me, I absolutely see the movie in my head. I’m a very structured writer and I spend a lot of time sketching in the beginning and I really need to know what the movie is down to a breakdown of each scene before I start typing. Otherwise I’ll quickly run out of gas. I’m going to spend eight or nine months just working in small Moleskine notebooks and just making charts. And then there’s the last few months where I’ve been panicking and realizing everyone’s waiting for the script. But at this point the actual writing of the script can go very quickly because you have the film in your head.

And you found Robert McKee helpful in that?

My father wasn’t in the film business at all. He was in the housing industry but I think he was always frustrated. He always wished he could have made films. So he tried to write a screenplay and he went to one of McKee’s seminars when I was in high school and he took me. I feel like everything I know about structure and what structure actually means in terms of storytelling has been implanted.

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