Rian Johnson brings ‘Knives Out’ to Philly

By Samantha Aman

Rian Johnson (left) discusses his new movie “Knives Out” with Michael Lerman, artistic director for the Philadelphia Film Society, during the closing night of the Philadelphia Film Festival at the Philadelphia Film Center on Oct. 25. Photo by Samantha Aman

Director Rian Johnson (“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” “Looper”) screened his newest movie, “Knives Out,” during the closing night of the Philadelphia Film Festival on Oct. 25.

After the screening, Michael Lerman, artistic director for the Philadelphia Film Society, the organization that produces the film festival, facilitated a Q&A between the director and the audience.

Q: When you wrote “Knives Out,” how did you keep the audience on the edge of their seat while also making sure that they can look back at [the film] and make all the necessary connections?

A: I love whodunnits, but I also agree with Hitchcock, who hated them. The danger of a whodunnit is that it’s all based on surprise. It’s just finding clues, and at a certain point you’re just waiting for the detective to give you the answer you never could have guessed. That’s anathema to Hitchcock’s view of what makes a good movie. Hitchcock was about suspense, and so my whole approach to this was, can I have a whodunnit, and have all the stuff I love about a whodunnit, and put the engine of a Hitchcock thriller in the middle?

Q: “Knives Out” has such a smart class bent to it. When did that enter into the story?

A: Part of what was really exciting to me was the idea of setting this in present day. I feel like so often when you see a murder-mystery these days, it’s a period piece, and I liked the idea of doing what Agatha Christie did in her books. She was always plugged into the British society of her time. My idea was let’s do that, but let’s do that for today. Let’s create character types that could only exist in 2019, for better or for worse.

LaKeith Stanfield (left) and Noah Segan in “Knives Out.” (Lionsgate/IMDb/TNS)

Q: The cast of “Knives Out” is so insane. Did you have them in mind when you were writing?

A: Daniel Craig was the first to sign on [playing the film’s lead character, Benoit Blanc]. He’s the reason the movie got made. I had met him a few times over the years and I could tell he was itching to cut loose and have fun in a movie. Everyone wants to work with Daniel, so then the whole cast kind of came together.

Q: Do you have any plans to work with him again?

A: Listen, please tell your friends if you like “Knives Out,” because if this movie does alright, I’d love nothing more than to get together with Daniel again every few years and make a new Benoit Blanc movie.

Contact Samantha Aman at communitarian@mail.dccc.edu

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