Rian Johnson Breaks Down ‘Knives Out’ in 55-Minute Q&A

     December 2, 2019

As I’ve said again and again, Knives Out is one of my favorite films of 2019 and I strongly recommend seeing the movie in a crowded theater. It’s one of those rare films where there is no weak link. Everything from the performances, to the script, to the music, is pitch perfect and you’ll leave the theater raving about the film to your friends.

Shortly before Knives Out opened in theaters, Collider, Lionsgate and ArcLight Cinemas hosted an early screening of the film to a packed audience in Los Angeles. After the screening ended, writer-director Rian Johnson sat down with me for an extended Q&A that ran almost an hour.

knives-out-rian-johnson-interview-arclight-screeningDuring the wide-ranging conversation, he talked about putting the film together, whether he wrote the script with actors in mind, how he assembled the incredible cast, whether or not he had multiple ideas for the ending, what he learned from early screenings, where you can find Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s trademark cameo, easter eggs, his longtime partnership with cinematographer Steve Yedlin, why they didn’t shoot on film, deleted scenes, sequel ideas, and so much more.

Trust me, if you want to learn how Knives Out was made, you definitely want to watch this Q&A.

As most of you know, Knives Out stars Daniel Craig and Lakeith Stanfield as a pair of detectives looking into the mysterious death of novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer). High on the suspect list is Harlan’s entire family, made up of Jaime Lee Curtis, Chris Evans, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, and Don Johnson. Ana De Armas also stars as Harlan Thrombey’s in-home nurse. For more on the film, read Adam Chitwood’s glowing review.


Image via Lionsgate

Check out what Rian Johnson had to say in the player above and below is the full list of what we talked about.

Rian Johnson:

  • Where’ve you been the past few weeks? Screened it as Skywalker ranch
  • What TV show would you love to guest write or direct?
  • What movie do you think you’ve seen the most?
  • Is there anything you collect?
  • What is the last thing you binge watched?
  • Have you ever watched a tv show all the way through more than once?
  • Do you remember your first TV show crush?
  • When did you know that you wanted to do this [Knives Out]?
  • When you were writing it did you have the cast in mind?
  • How did you manage to schedule all these actors / get the schedule for such a huge A-list cast to work out?
  • Did Chris Evans work for Dunkin Donuts? Did he work at Dunkin Donuts?
  • knives-out-posterWhat is it like trying to corral everyone’s acting style? Some may like more takes, some may like less takes, etc.
  • Did you do a table read?
  • Does the script get altered by the casting?
  • When you’re writing the script, how much did it change along the way? On day one, how much do you know the entire arc? It’s all about figuring out where to give information, so many little things.
  • Was the ending always the ending, or did you have multiple ideas?
  • What did you learn in the editing room when you finally started watching all the footage?
  • Did you do any friends and family screenings? Any test screenings? What did you learn from those screenings? How is it to hear actual honest feedback?
  • How long was the first cut compared to the finished film? How many scenes did you have to cut out? There’s a cut scene where we learn why Michael Shannon is wearing a cast.
  • What was the last thing to go? The very last thing before picture launch? There was actually a few things that got added back in at the last minute.
  • What easter eggs should people look out for? A hidden reference to Sleuth is in there.
  • Was the title always Knives Out?
  • Do you have any unproduced scripts?
  • knives-out-daniel-craig

    Image via Lionsgate

    What surprised you about Chris Evans? With Jamie Lee Curtis? Michael Shannon is really funny, stealth funny, hes funnier because you don’t expect it since he’s so intense.

  • How many takes do you typically like to do? As many as it takes, it didn’t take many on this one, all the actors knew exactly what to do.
  • Who ruined the most takes and why?
  • Talks about his ongoing collaboration with his cinematographer. This is the first film they’ve shot entirely digital. They shot one scene in 35mm to celebrate Rian’s birthday because Steve knew he was bummed about giving up film.
  • Are you done shooting on film?
  • Gets into the tech stuff, what cameras and lenses they used. Alexa, prime lenses.
  • Audience questions.
  • What kind of pressure did he feel writing Knives Out after The Last Jedi?
  • Were you nervous working with a massive A-list cast like this?
  • Are any of the characters based on his family?
  • Where did Daniel Craig’s accent come from?
  • Was it always meant to be as funny as it was?
  • knives-out-jamie-lee-curtis-cast

    Image via Lionsgate

    What was the big lesson in this movie? He said blocking large groups of actors, there are scenes in this that have 8 or 10 people. You start out thinking about camera angles and moves, more and more recently I think about blocking and staging.

  • Is there a story behind the drawn-out donut reference?
  • How much say do you get in the marketing? We get feedback on the trailers to avoid spoilers and stuff, but it’s tough, it’s a real fine line.
  • What helped you the most in terms of prepping?
  • knives-out-chris-evans-michael-shannon

    Image via Lionsgate

    It is a film that’s designed to be watched multiple times.

  • Toni Collette picked the song she danced to.
  • Would he like to do more Benoit Blanc films with Daniel Craig?
  • What was your favorite scene to shoot?
  • Getting Frank Oz in the film. How’d he do that?
  • Why does Blanc keep hitting the piano key?
  • Do you have a favorite movie this year so far?
  • Where is Joseph Gordon-Levitt in this film? (He’s hidden in every Rian Johnson movie)

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