Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is an eye-wateringly fun whodunnit
As murder-mystery Glass Onion comes to Netflix to entertain us over Christmas, Rachael Davis chats to star Daniel Craig, director Rian Johnson and cast newcomers to find out what's in store in the latest witty Knives Out whodunnit
ON a private island in Greece, eye-wateringly wealthy tech company owner Miles Bron is hosting a murder mystery party.
He has invited an eclectic mix of friends: his company's head scientist Lionel; former supermodel turned fashion designer Birdie and her assistant Peg; politician Claire; Twitch streamer and men's rights activist Duke and his girlfriend Whiskey; and, in a move those attending find most bizarre, his estranged ex-business partner Andi.
Also arriving on the island is the world famous detective Benoit Blanc, whose presence hints that everything may not be as it seems at this whodunnit soiree.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery follows director Rian Johnson's celebrated 2019 movie, with Daniel Craig returning as flamboyant Blanc alongside an ensemble of livewire characters.
Wealth and its power is a central theme of the film, made clear by the brash billionaire persona of Edward Norton's Miles Bron and those who revolve around him – including Janelle Monae as Andi, Kathryn Hahn as Claire, Dave Bautista as Duke and Kate Hudson as Birdie – as once again Johnson brings the classic murder mystery genre firmly into the modern day.
"First and foremost, these movies are made as big entertainment, so we put things in them that we want to say, but hopefully that all lies underneath it just being a really fun thing to watch," says the 48-year-old multi-award-winning filmmaker.
"But the other thing about these movies, the whole reason behind them, was to take this genre I love of this classic whodunnit and just unapologetically set it in modern day America, and the modern day world, and really engage with the present moment.
"So that means we're going to be laughing and talking and poking fun at stuff that is in all of our minds right now at the moment, and (the theme of wealth and its shortcomings) is something that's in our minds at the moment, I think."
The follow-up to Knives Out swaps a murky Massachusetts mansion for the sunny Mediterranean, and filming in Greece, where a gorgeous villa becomes the ostentatious 'glass onion'-topped compound for the dubious billionaire Bron, was a delight for cast and creator alike.
"It was a big search," says Johnson of finding the perfect house for the occasion.
"It's on the mainland in Greece. It's not on a little island, that's movie magic. But it's this place called Villa 20, which is this cluster of villas that's owned by this lovely couple.
"And with the exception of the 'glass onion', which we added in post production, it's exactly what you see. The whole place has this gorgeous design but also slightly eerie vibe to it.
"It just instantly felt perfect for what we needed."
Soaking up the sun in a delightful striped beach co-ord and yellow neckerchief is Benoit Blanc who, when we meet him in Glass Onion, is suffering intellectually from the apparent lack of high-profile murders during Covid lockdowns.
Craig says that while he does allow some "little glimpses" into the man behind the impeccable outfits and endearing southern accent in Glass Onion, he is eager to ensure the mystique around Blanc remains.
"I am very keen on just hoping that he remains a bit of an enigma," says the former James Bond actor.
"I think it's important. I don't really want to get a backstory... maybe one day we'll think about that.
"But I feel like it's not relevant to the movies – the movies are about his interaction with these incredible, larger than life characters. I think it's important that we're not sure who he is, really.
"Curious, he is. Curious and excited about the world."
Despite wanting to keep Blanc's cards close to his chest, 54-year-old Craig says he spent his time leading up to the shoot building on his character in his own mind, figuring out his quirks and idiosyncrasies, and crafting how the detective will play his role in the mystery.
"I do tons of work when I'm not on set, which is the weeks leading up to when we start shooting, I'm talking and talking and talking about it, everyday almost, and thinking about it every day," he says.
"I think about things and I don't set anything in stone, because it's all useful. It doesn't really matter. On the day when you shoot it, it's like, if that works, that works."
Working closely with Craig in Glass Onion is actor and musician Janelle Monae, who plays Bron's former business partner Andi.
Monae's performance is pivotal to how the plot of Glass Onion unfolds, and she says that she was inspired by the production from the moment she read the script.
"It's an honour to play a character like Andi, who's this tech entrepreneur, super smart," says the 37-year-old Make Me Feel singer.
"When I read the script, I was blown away by just, like, the whole concept.
"Being able to work with Rian Johnson, the way that he innovates in this whodunnit space, made me want to be a part of it. These characters... they just come right off the page. And my character in particular is mysterious. I had so much to play with.
"This is the first comedy I've been in. The comedic elements are just like, I needed it, my soul needed that.
"I just think that Andi has a lot to say. She's a connector. She and Miles have history. And you'll have to find out why."
Naturally, this connection between characters is central to Johnson's storytelling in Glass Onion, encouraging the audience to follow the threads and see what ties them all together.
Hamilton star Leslie Odom Jr., who plays Bron's head scientist Lionel, says developing this 'frenemy' dynamic between the lines of the script was "interesting", because, "Rian's plotting is so great, but part of the richness is those grace notes, part of the richness is what's unspoken between the characters".
"I felt like when we got toward the end of the film, because we'd spent so much time together, we built some of that stuff. Some of that stuff was there without us even knowing it," he says.
"We really learned how to dance together, and breathe together."
"These are so rare, these kinds of projects," the 41-year-old actor adds.
"It's a slight risk, of course, because the first movie is now beloved. So it's a slight risk, but a risk that you've got to take if you get invited.
"If you get invited to be part of a Rian Johnson movie, say yes. It's pretty great."
:: Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is available on Netflix now.