‘If we run out, we’re screwed’: The making of that shocking ‘Glass Onion’ scene
Warning: This story contains spoilers for “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.”
Peel back the layers of “Knives Out 2’s” titular glass onion, and what do you get?
At the heart of billionaire tech mogul Miles Bron’s (Edward Norton) garish Greek-island mansion lies a trophy room with dozens of glass statues as fragile as the ego and as transparent as the motives of their nefarious owner. In “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” Miles is eager to show off his shiny art collection to his posse of morally corrupt friends after inviting them to a murder-mystery party at his private Mediterranean estate.
While filming the follow-up to Rian Johnson’s 2019 whodunit on location in Greece, the star-studded cast had to carefully navigate a minefield of breakable, abstract figures painstakingly crafted by the film’s production team. Until, of course, it came time to shoot the climactic scene in which Miles’ esteemed guests turn against him and smash his statue garden to smithereens.
“At that point, it had been several months of us filming on this set where everyone is terrified, tiptoeing around these delicate glass structures on pedestals, not wanting to knock them over,” Johnson told The Times last month at the Los Angeles premiere of “Glass Onion.”
“So everybody was so primed to want to smash that s—, I didn’t have to tell them anything. In fact, they were all kind of calling out, ‘I want that one,’ ‘I want to smash that one.’”
The shocking moment arrives shortly after the mystery film’s denouement. To avenge the murder of her identical twin, Helen (Janelle Monáe) presents the authentic bar napkin upon which her sister, Andi (also Monáe), penned the original plan for Alpha Industries. In a desperate move, Miles — who co-founded Alpha with Andi before cutting her out of the company and persuading their mutual friends to testify in court that he wrote the idea for Alpha on a napkin — sets Helen’s only shred of physical evidence on fire.
Distraught and seemingly defeated, Helen retaliates by destroying some of Miles’ personal property. She starts by shattering one of the glass statues in his lair — then another, and another. Soon the rest of the vacationers — including those who previously defended Miles and betrayed Andi under oath — join in.
According to Leslie Odom Jr., who plays scientist Lionel Toussaint, the statue-breaking sequence was one of the last scenes they shot, “obviously, because we ... couldn’t put that stuff back together.”
Take a break from holiday shopping and solve the mystery of ‘Glass Onion: A Knives Out Experience.’ This and more theater, art and holiday happenings.
“That’s a communal primal scream,” he said at the “Glass Onion” premiere. The cast members “fed off of each other. ... And we were such a family by then. We really were dancing together. We really felt one another. ... I was just trying to take that energy, receive and give.”
Madelyn Cline, who plays conservative YouTube personality Whiskey, said she channeled “everything that was pissing me off or has ever pissed me off” while destroying the glass sculptures.
“It felt like a rage room,” she said. “It was kind of joyful to smash things and f— s— up. And I felt like that was really, really accurate to what our characters were going through and feeling, so I really leaned into that.”
If anything, the acting ensemble enjoyed wrecking the statue set a little too much.
Writer-director Rian Johnson reteams with Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc for a “Knives Out” sequel that skewers the tech billionaire class with aplomb.
“Once I actually tore them loose, it was actually a problem of slowing them down so it wasn’t over too quickly,” Johnson said. “I’m like, ‘I know this is fun, but we have to time this out a little bit.’”
Producer Ram Bergman said only three copies of each figure existed, which significantly raised the stakes of each take.
“You were always nervous,” Bergman added. “‘Let’s make sure we get it right because after the third day, we won’t have any left.’ So to me that was the stress ... because if we run out, we’re screwed.”
Inevitably, mistakes were made.
While rehearsing the chaotic sequence, Jessica Henwick — who plays Peg, the exhausted assistant/publicist of a problematic former cover girl (Kate Hudson) — dropped her statue before Johnson could say, “Action!”
As Johnson was blocking the scene, he instructed the actors to smash their statues on the count of three — “and I just heard ‘1, 2, 3,’” Henwick said, “and I threw it.”
Luckily, one of the cameras happened to catch her error, and that’s the shot they ended up using in the movie: “When I look — in horror — up, that’s me looking directly at Rian,” Henwick said. “They cut just before I go, ‘I’m so f— sorry.’”
Some industry analysts are scratching their heads over what they say was a missed opportunity for Netflix to capture more box office dollars had it gone with a wider theatrical run.
Limited statue inventory and Henwick’s blunder aside, the statue-smashing shoot went relatively smoothly and served as a compelling lead-up to the Netflix film’s explosive finale.
“Luckily Janelle and everybody else got it right,” Bergman said. “And I think we have a few [statues] left as well, so we did good. ... I had no idea what it was going to be like in the movie. But when it happened, and everybody was really good ... it’s a good feeling.”
Times audience engagement editor David Viramontes contributed to this report.
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