Rian Johnson talks ‘Knives Out’ and crafting a whodunit with a Hitchcockian thrill

The ensemble cast of "Knives Out" includes (from left) Don Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans, C Callan, Ana De Armas, Christopher Plummer, Michael Shannon, Jaeden Martell, Riki Lindholm, Toni Collette and Katherine Langford.
(Claire Folger / Lionsgate)

Rian Johnson’s latest film, “Knives Out” is a star-studded, Agatha Christie-style whodunit set in 2019 America.

On this episode of “The Reel” podcast, host Mark Olsen sits down with Johnson, who directed and wrote the film.

“I wanted to just kind of make it a really fun ride and make it more of a suspense movie for most of it but still have all the pleasures of a whodunit,” said Johnson.


The “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” director talks to Olsen about switching gears and creating a film in this mystery genre.

“I grew up reading Agatha Christie. I wanted to make a whodunit. I love the genre and all the conventions of it. But then trying to kind of put an engine in the middle of it that is more of a Hitchcock thriller,” Johnson said. “So it’s not just you’re gathering clues and trying to guess whodunit. That’s kind of the least interesting part of a whodunit. You know, I love all the characters in a whodunit. I love the eccentric detective, I love him putting it all together at the end.”

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Johnson has directed films across many genres including the science fiction thriller “Looper” and the comedy-drama “The Brothers Bloom.”

“What I really try and do is kind of learn my vision and figure out what is the heart of what I love about these things, for me. It’s going to be a very personal thing. What is the thing that really connects for me about this genre? Whether it’s a whodunit, or heady sci-fi, or noir or ‘Star Wars.’ It’s always about figuring out what is the thing that’s at the heart of this for me,” said Johnson.

Olsen also asks Johnson about the polarized response to his “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” movie. It’s still a popular subject among fans, even two years after its release.

“I know how passionate people are about ‘Star Wars.’ I know that every fan has something slightly different they want from ‘Star Wars.’ And no ‘Star Wars’ movie is going to please everybody, and people are going to get really passionate and excited about it and very angry and upset on both sides,” said Johnson.

Check out other episodes of The Reel here.