Rian Johnson Breaks Down Glass Onion’s “Arrival” Scene

Lights, camera, action! Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery director Rian Johnson chatted with Vanity Fair for the Notes on a Scene series where he broke down the “arrival” scene which sees Daniel Craig’s detective Benoit Blanc meet the “douchey friends” of Edward Norton’s eccentric billionaire Miles Bron—Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson), Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr.), Claire Debella (Kathryn Hahn), Duke Cody (Dave Bautista)—at a port before shipping off to Bron’s private island for an all-to-real murder-mystery party. 

The first meetup of the starry ensemble was “day one, shot one” for the hit sequel, says Johnson, which premiered in theaters on November 23 for a limited theatrical release and is now available to stream on Netflix. Glass Onion is intentionally a far cry from the original Knives Out and features a new color palette, “the blues and yellows of summer in Greece with beautiful swimwear,” says Johnson, rather than the “cozy brown, New England sweaters” of the original. 

“We’re going to have them be totally new deals every single time,” Johnson says of the films in the Knives Out franchise. Johnson’s decision to have each film exist in a completely unique universe goes back to the “original source of [his] inspiration for all of this,” his love of Agatha Christie. “She was coming into each one with a totally different conceptual approach. She was trying twists and turns and narrative gambits,” Johnson says. “She was subverting the tropes of the genre from the very start.” 

To create the vibe of the Glass Onion, Johnson shared how he worked with costume designer Jenny Eagan to create looks for the ensemble cast that were “distinct as characters in a game of Clue, but also looking like somebody that would be walking around in the real world.” As such, Hudson’s former fashion It girl was outfitted in fabulous colors, while Hahn’s politician was in decidedly less glamorous attire. 

“Poor Kathryn,” says Johnson with a smile. “Kathryn showed up and she’s like, ‘I’m in a Benoit Blanc mystery and everyone wears fabulous costumes. This is going to be amazing.’ She shows up and she walks past the racks of clothes, and there’s Kate’s rack and it’s glimmering colors, and there’s Daniel’s rack that’s all these fabulous outfits. And then she gets to her rack, and as you can see here my directive to Jenny Eagan was ‘beige,’” he says. “I just wanted her in sad tans and beige…. I wanted it to be the sad trumpet noise of costumes in this movie.”

There was one piece of costuming that really helped with character development: masks. “I wrote this movie in 2020. I wrote it during lockdown, which is probably part of the reason why it takes place on a Greek island,” Johnson said. “Fade in Greek island…that’s where I wanted to be.” While Johnson promised that Glass Onion isn’t a mask movie, he was compelled by, as he put it, “the notion of defining people’s personalities based on their choice of maskwear.” As such, Johnson says he put Hahn in a—you guessed it—beige mask; Odom Jr.’s scientist Lionel in “a very proper, N95 mask”; and Craig’s stylish detective in “a dapper mask that’s coordinated to his outfit.”

Johnson’s favorite mask—or lack thereof—was Hudson’s Birdie, who’s high-fashion chain-link mask full of holes was particularly funny to Johnson. “I think we all knew some version of this person,” he says. “She’s like, ‘I’m trying. I’m masked. What do you want?’”

For more insights on Glass Onion’s arrival scene, check out the video for Johnson’s Notes on a Scene with Vanity Fair. 

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