Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery Filmmakers on Netflix’s High Stakes Rollout and Lessons From ‘Star Wars’ – Hollywood Reporter | Episode Movies

Writer-director Rian Johnson and Ram Bergman, his producing partner for two decades, are incredibly humble for a couple who have landed one of the biggest movie deals in recent memory — a $469 million, two-movie deal with Netflix for their T Street production Shingle are making two sequels to their 2019 crime thriller knife out.

It’s not just that the two got Netflix to loosen their wallets; They have pushed the company beyond its established comfort zone. The streamer is the first knife out Consequence, glass onion, opens in over 600 theaters on November 23 for a week-long run before switching to digital on December 23. The film’s performance in both arenas will be a litmus test for how streamer-supported films might hit the market in the future. Speaking on Zoom in early November, Johnson and Bergman seemed aware of these challenges — though they also claimed that seismic shifts in the industry weren’t their priority. “We don’t really build empires,” says Johnson, who has risen from indie darling to writing and directing war of stars entry The Last Jedi. “We just like making films.”

Their first collaboration was brick in 2005. How did you meet?

RIAN JOHNSON I wrote brick right out of college, and I basically spent my 20s just not making it. Ram ended up getting the script from another producer in 2002. We got together and liked the cut of each other’s jib. Until we met, I was doing what everyone does… where a friend of mine’s production manager reads your script and tells you it’s going to cost $3 million to make. Ram snapped me out of that thinking and said, ‘No, you think of what you can scrape together and do it for it. Then you will own and control it.” We finally did.

What is the key to such a long and monogamous creative marriage?

RAM MINER We know each other and just want to make the best film. That’s it.

JOHNSON I have no business brain at all. Ram can look at all the logistics and walk us through the process of doing business and getting things set up. And he always acts in the interest of making sure we have creative control. I know a lot of filmmakers who started indie films when I did, people who are way more talented than me who didn’t have Ram in their lives. It makes the difference.

Speaking of dealmaking, putting the sequels on the open market and getting the money you got blew many minds. Aside from money, what was your biggest consideration when choosing a new distributor?

MINER We wanted people who were clearly willing to bet on us – and on the film.

JOHNSON It was about being very aware that we had something special here. We wanted to grow it in a big way. We wanted to set it up – not just for financial success, but in a way that we could always make more of it, so we could meet up with our friends and do one every few years.

Among the swags and souvenirs from his own projects and those of others, Johnson has a slate of poker face and a framed print of the transit letters illustrated in Casablanca.

Philip Cheung for The Hollywood Reporter

Was this wide theatrical release part of those early conversations?

JOHNSON We had nothing in writing, but the agreement was that we would have the conversation when the time came.

MINER And remember, we made a deal in the middle of COVID. No one knew where the industry was going.

JOHNSON The choice wasn’t between a big traditional theatrical release or Netflix. The big theatrical release simply did not exist at that moment.

And the box office isn’t reported — at least by Netflix?

JOHNSON That is our understanding. We want as many people as possible to see it in the cinema. And then we want it to do incredibly well when it comes out on Netflix – so many people are watching it and it’s showing everyone, especially Netflix, that those two things can coexist… that a big box office hit is only going to make that word-of-mouth Word of mouth and the prestige for the service. A lot of people are betting on this, not just on Netflix.

you have soon poker facea columbo-like mystery of the week for Natasha Lyonne at Peacock. What do you find so appealing about detectives?

JOHNSON As I have seen Russian dollthis whole thing clicked for me. columbo, Magnum, P.I or Rockford files: The reason these shows work is because they have a central character who is incredibly good to watch. You want to hang out with them every week. It’s not really about the mystery – just like sitcoms aren’t really about the jokes. And it’s a form of storytelling that has been relegated to network procedures. This is in the tradition of non-serialized fall-of-the-week shows. You can get on anywhere and know how the show works. It’s something I kind of miss.

A photo collection - Natasha Lyonne on the poker face set and original Polaroids used in Glass Onion - resides on Johnson's bookshelf.

A photo collection — Natasha Lyonne on the poker face Set and original polaroids used in glass onion – is on Johnson’s bookshelf.

Philip Cheung for The Hollywood Reporter

Now that you’re doing TV and Lucasfilm is very aggressively pursuing series, there’s one war of stars series you want to do?

JOHNSON I would do one war of stars anything. And if I had an idea that excites me that would work better as a show than as a movie, this is how I would do it. Right now we’re in the process of shooting and thinking about the next Benoit Blanc movie poker face. I keep meeting up with Kathy [Kennedy] and have conversations. Who knows? manufacturing That Last Jedi was the best experience in my life so I should be so lucky.

What did you learn in the making The Last Jedi?

JOHNSON A big part of what Ram taught me was getting into every situation — with studios, financiers, decision makers — and embracing them as we went. That has served us well in the independent world and with Bob Iger, Alan Horn, Alan Bergman and Kathy Kennedy and everyone else at Lucasfilm. It was just a very respectful, joyful process.

MINER If you get people involved early in the process, they’ll root for you. And they finally let you do what you want to do.

From left: Both Johnson and Bergman were immortalized as Stormtrooper action figures after making Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

From left: Both Johnson and Bergman were immortalized as Stormtrooper action figures after they were made Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Philip Cheung for The Hollywood Reporter

What do you think of James Gunn getting the DC job? Do any of you get excited about being a suit?

JOHNSON For me personally? No not at all. God bless him. I respect people who do that – Pete Docter, moving up the ranks at Pixar, or what JJ Abrams does with producing. There are people who can engage creatively at this level and find it rewarding. I haven’t. But it’s cool to see and it’s exciting for me that a filmmaker like James Gunn is in this position.

It seems like old Hollywood history, be it Babylon or Once upon a time in Hollywood, is something that many great filmmakers eventually tackle. Rian, your wife, Karina Longworth, is a famous scholar of old Hollywood. Have you talked about a collaboration?

JOHNSON Look, I’d like to – someday. And we’ve talked about it, but we have such a great marriage, I don’t know if we want to put work into it. The thing with Karina’s podcast [You Must Remember This] She makes every creative decision, and when she goes on TV what she wants to do, it has to be that she has the same control. We will see.

What keeps you both up at night?

MINER At some point, the studios and streamers will not be able to fund and fund the same amount. Except for DC, Marvel, whatever, the budgets have to go down for them to survive. You’re not going to make 20 or 30 films and spend $200 or $300 million a piece.

JOHNSON Every time I get scared about these things, I remind myself that we did half a million dollar movies. We will always be able to do something.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity. In an earlier version of this story, the length of was incorrectly stated Screening of Glass Onion. It will be in theaters for a week, not a month.

This story first appeared in the November 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to login.

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