Glass Onion's Rian Johnson On Future Knives Out Films And Crafting These New Characters [Exclusive Interview]

"Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery" is set to come out in theaters next week before it makes its way to Netflix in December. It's a mystery murder movie with many delightful layers to it (pun intended), and the film features a star-studded ensemble cast who play a gaggle of characters who reflect the world we live in — for better or worse.

In the lead-up to the movie's theatrical premiere, I had the chance to talk with writer/director Rian Johnson about how he approached creating the unique suite of characters in "Glass Onion," including how he wove those characters into the film's overall story. We also talked about what whodunit sub-genres he'd love to tackle next, and how a certain cameo came to be. Read on for that discussion!

'I was trying to pick people who have very different flavors'

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

One of the things I thought was so fun about this movie was — and you've talked about this before — how distinct all the disruptor characters are. I wanted to talk about how you created those disruptors and how you decided what their personas would be, and is there any disruptor left on the cutting room floor in terms of putting that group together?

No one was left on the cutting room floor, but I think starting out, one of the things that to me is exciting about making these movies is, I'm such a fan of the whodunit genre and so many of the examples of it that I loved over the years were all period pieces set in England. And the notion of setting a whodunit right here and now in America, that to me is what got me going on all of this.

So that's all to say, coming up with all the different disruptors in it — that frees you up, and suddenly you can have a whodunit with a YouTube influencer, and with a politician who's driving both sides of the aisle nuts, and with a tech billionaire, and trying to create a little microcosm of this specific part of society. So I was trying to pick people who have very different flavors, I guess. That was kind of the game.

To delve into that a bit more, when you were creating the story, did those characters come first, or did the plot?

The story comes first, which is kind of the plot. But the word plot, I think, makes you think of mystery, and the story is really kind of, "Okay, who's this thing about? And what is the audience actually leaning forward following and excited about?" And then based on the needs of the story, I fill it out with the characters. To me, the characters all have to have a function in the story. So one can't exist without the other.

'There's the more traditional locked-door mystery, which I haven't quite exactly done yet'

I know you said before that for each "Knives Out" movie you do, for the first two and any future ones, you wanted to have them all be different takes on the whodunit genre. You tackle two different subgenres of murder mysteries with the first two movies. Let's say you could make as many "Knives Out" movies as you wanted — what are the two or three types of stories you'd want to tell?

Oh man. Well, as soon as I say them I'll have to do them, because I get excited. I mean, that's what's exciting about the whodunit genre and thinking about what Agatha Christie did: There's so many different variations. And another thing that she did, which I think is also quite exciting, is the idea of mixing genres. It's kind of a genre that can take other genres inside of it. But there's the more traditional locked-door mystery, which I haven't quite exactly done yet. Kind of the John Dickson Carr style of impossible crime puzzle box-type thing.

There's also any number of exotic locales you could go. You could go to the top of a mountain. You could go to go the desert. You could have a lot of different backgrounds for these things. And then also look at, I mean, Agatha Christie's "Endless Night" was basically a gothic romance. Her "And Then There Were None" is basically a slasher movie. "The ABC Murders" is truly a serial killer thriller. I mean, there's so many sub-genres that you can work into it. I don't know, the possibilities seem kind of endless.

Well, hopefully you can do them all.

I hope so.

"Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery" is in theaters for one week starting November 23 and on Netflix starting December 23, 2022.