TIFF 2022: “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery”
After 15 years and 5 films as James Bond, Daniel Craig has already earned his place in cinema history as one of the most iconic characters of all time.
But with his second appearance in the TIFF-premiered Glass Onion: A Knives Out as famed Southern detective, Benoit Blanc, the English actor may be creating another even more memorable new character; a cinematic cousin to Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot.
Craig first played the quirky role in the 2019 hit mystery, Knives Out, written and directed by Rian Johnson, which also premiered at the Toronto Film Festival. This week, Craig stood on the same Canadian stage with writer-director Rian Johnson and his new co-stars as he confessed, he wanted to play the gently eccentric detective he plays with singular flair and aplomb as long as audiences would have him. “This is my second time and I hope we do it forever,” he told the cheering audience as he put his arm around Johnson and added, “I’d work with this man for the rest of my life!”
The film leaves behind the East Coast mansion and the cast of suspects featured in the first film and takes Benoit Blanc to the more exotic location of Greece, where his sharp, observant eye and instinct for sniffing out murder is put to the test with new suspects played by another all-star cast including Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Madelyn Cline, Jessica Henwick, Kate Hudson, and Dave Bautista.
As in all the best whodunits, the characters in Glass Onion all hide their own secrets, motivated by greed, lust, envy and pride. But moving from the gloomy east coast setting to a cruise and beachside setting was a gamble, Johnson admits.
“The setting and the fact that you go from cozy New England to Greece was a big obvious difference, but the bigger thing was just that it had a very different narrative gambit to it and that it was trying something different and unique,” Johnson elaborates. “With that tonally, I was going to go where the characters led me, which given the characters in the movie, ended up in a slightly bigger place.”
Talking about their favorite scenes, Leslie Odom Jr. says, “I think coming in tonight, not having seen it, I was understandably a little tense and nervous. But I don’t think I’ll ever forget the first 10 minutes of the movie with all you guys,” he adds, looking at his co-stars lined up on stage. “Seeing it all cut together, I knew it was really special.”
Kate Hudson adds, “I’m going to go with Leslie on my favorite scene. I loved seeing all of us come together because we really didn’t get that opportunity. We only did it in rehearsal and then we shot it all separately so to see that for me, I had the same reaction, like, “Oh, there we are!”
Singer and actress Janelle Monáe revealed that the mystery didn’t always remain on the set. “We really bonded,” she reveals. “We’re in the middle of making a murder mystery film and we literally were having murder mystery parties on Saturdays with Rian sending us handwritten notes!
“Fuck that we act, and we make art, and we do all these things, but it’s really the people that you have these experiences with that make them so fulfilling and rich,” she adds. “I’m forever grateful to have had this moment with every single person on this stage and the whole crew.”
Daniel Craig nodded emphatically and declared he didn’t have a favorite scene and insisted, “Every fucking one of them, every scene and all of these guys just blew me away!” He shifted his gaze from his co-stars to the audience and added, “and I’m so happy that you guys reacted the way you did. Seeing it with you means so much to us because we had a great time, but we didn’t make it for ourselves, we made it for you!”
Johnson also confirmed the late, great musical theatre composer, Stephen Sondheim, has a cameo early in the film. “Being not just a musical theater junkie, I know anyone who knows Sondheim knows he was a whodunit nut too,” he says.
Johnson is referring to the 1973 little-known mystery film, The Last of Sheila, a non-musical Sondheim co-wrote with Anthony Perkins (Psycho), based on a murder mystery party game created for his friends and starring; James Coburn, Raquel Welch, Ian McShane, and Dyan Canon, which was reportedly an inspiration for Johnson to pen his own Knives Out film.
“I had heard through the grapevine that Sondheim had seen it and enjoyed it,” Johnson adds. “Then we had this idea for the cameo as one of the people on a Zoom at the beginning of the film, playing among us. God bless him, he was incredibly game for it and was so lovely. I’m so happy he’s here in the movie and I’m even more happy that I had ten minutes in the Zoom just to tell him how much his work meant to me.”