How Rian Johnson Looked To Agatha Christie To Create A 'Truly Different' Sequel With Glass Onion

When news first came of a sequel to "Knives Out," you'd be forgiven for expecting another mystery around the rich Thrombey family, or some sort of follow-up to Marta's (Ana de Armas) life in the aftermath of everything that happened. But as more details came in, it was clear we were getting something completely different. "Glass Onion" takes place on a Greek island owned by tech billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton), with an almost entirely different (though still star-studded) cast. The only character who's sticking around from the first film is the detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig).

This choice was inspired by the novels of Agatha Christie, whose 66 detective books have already been made into countless successful movies. In a press conference attended by /Film's Ryan Scott, writer/director Rian Johnson explained how he wanted the sequels to follow Christie's approach and "do an entirely new mystery every time, a new location, a new rogues' gallery of characters." 

More important than changing the setting or characters, however, was staying true to Christie's willingness to truly mix things up. "She was mixing genres, she was throwing crazy narrative spins that have never been done in whodunnits before," said Johnson. "She was keeping the audience on their toes, and every single book had a whole new reason for being."

The change in setting

The other big difference between the first film and the sequel is that "Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery" is set on a sunny island in Greece, not a cozy New England manor in the middle of autumn. From the trailers alone, this change in scenery creates a whole different feel from the first movie. It's a lot sunnier, and a lot more colorful in general. "I wanted to signal to the audience up front ... we're in a whole new deal here," said Rian Johnson. "Also, as much as there's a rich tradition of murder mysteries in cozy English/New English countryside houses, there's very much a rich tradition of destination murders."

He pointed to "Evil Under the Sun" and "Death on the Nile," two murder mystery movies based off of famous Christie books. "There's something to draw from in terms of vacation mystery," Johnson said. "Also, I wrote the script in 2020, in the middle of lockdown, so like a lot of us I was sitting at home, and wishing I was on a Greek island ... that might've had something to do with it." 

But whereas the recent adaptation of "Death on the Nile" made the mistake of having its detective be the main character, Johnson's always intended for these sequels to keep Blanc away from being the main focus. The first movie had Marta as the main character who drove the plot, just as "Glass Onion" will likely focus on a sympathetic member of this new cast. There likely won't be any deep dives into Benoit's backstory any time soon; yet again he'll be the aloof observer piecing things together from afar.

"Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery" will play in theaters for a limited time starting November 23 before hitting Netflix on December 23. Let's hope it succeeds in staying true to Christie's creative spirit.