Skip to main content

Director Rian Johnson Breaks Down the Arrival Scene from 'Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery'

'Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery' director Rian Johnson breaks down the arrival scene from his new film.

GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY is available on Netflix December 23, 2022.

Director: Adam Lance Garcia
Director of Photography: Charlie Jordan
Editor: Cory Stevens
Celebrity Talent: Rian Johnson
Producer: Madison Coffey
Line Producer: Jen Santos
Production Manager: Mark Bond
Talent Booker: Meredith Judkins
Camera Operator: Jack Belisle
Audio: Rehanna Chandan
Production Assistant: Rafael Vasquez
Gaffer: Gautam Kadian
Post Production Supervisor: Nicholas Ascanio
Assistant Editor: Justin Symonds

Released on 12/23/2022


And he's looking right into the camera lens.

Right here, look at those eyes.

Never do this if you're in a movie.

Hello, I'm Rian Johnson.

I wrote and directed Glass Onion

and this is Notes on a Scene.

Oh my god.

We can't hug, right? No.

I mean, can we I just wanna hug everybody.

Hi Peg. Hey.

Yes please.

Did you two stay at the hotel last night?

I didn't see you.

No, Birdie, we clearly just arrived.

But you.

Hello stranger danger.

Myles Bron, who is played by Edward Norton

is a tech billionaire.

He's invited all of his douchey friends

to a private island in Greece for a murder mystery party.

And this is a scene where everybody first shows

up on the dock.

[serene music]

This was the very first shot that we did

in the entire movie.

Day one, shot one.

You can see we got that beautiful glimpse of the sun

off the water, it was nice and early.

Matches nothing else in the scene lighting wise,

but it's gorgeous.

So who cares?

First movie, cozy brown, New England sweaters.

This movie we got the blues and yellows of summer in Greece

with beautiful swimwear.

And so instantly we know this is a whole new deal

and I wanted to establish really clearly

for the audience right off the bat,

we're going to have them be totally new deals

every single time.

And for me, this goes back to the original source

of inspiration for all of this which is my love of

Agatha Christie's work and her books.

She was coming into each one with a totally different

conceptual approach and she was trying twists and turns

and narrative gambits and she was

subverting the trips of the genre from the very start.

Leslie Odom Jr. showing up right here.

Leslie worked with Jenny Eagen, who's our costume designer.

Jenny has a task with these movies and making people look

as distinct as characters in the game of Clue

but also looking like somebody that would be walking around

in the real world.

Daniel sat down with Jenny and he said

I want to be Jacque Tati by way of Cary Grant

in To Catch A Thief.

And I was very proud the instant I saw him show

up in that hat.

I said, little Jacque Tati.

And then I saw the like, the high wasted pants and I'm like

is that little Cary Grant in To Catch A Thief?

So, my voice went up eight octaves.

[horn beeping]

Kathryn Hahn starting as Claire Debella.

Poor Kathryn, talking about costumes.

Kathryn showed up and she's like, oh,

I'm in a Benoit Blanc mystery.

Everyone wears fabulous costumes.

This is gonna be amazing.

And she shows up and she walks past the racks

of clothes and there's Kate's rack that'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 Eagen was beige.

I just wanted her in sad tans and beige.

I wanted, I think of the phrase that I used,

I said I wanted to be the sad trumpet noise

of costumes in this movie.


Hi you genius.

[classical music]

So here is Kate Hudson starring

as Birdie Jay, making a fabulous entrance.

Oh my God, here is Nicos who is a producer

at our company and he's looking right into the camera lens.

This makes me so happy,

I've completely busted Nicos.

Right here. Look at those eyes.

Never do this if you're in a movie.

Nicos, I love you so much.

And then back here you can see Birdie's lung

suffering publicist Peg who's played

by Jess Henwick back here, barely holding on.

And in terms of Jenny Eagen and the costumes

Birdie was kind of like a joy.

Birdie was the one where you just kind of

she used to be like a fashion designer in the movie

so Jenny could really go to town.

As opposed to the first movie where we kind of come

into the story through Ana de Armas character

in this one we're kind of coming into it

through Blanc's eyes.

So, one thing my editor Bob Ducsay and I would do

we would keep cutting back to these little looks from him

and see him taking all of this in.

I think that's kind of a cue

to the audience to watch carefully

but it also keeps us grounded in his perspective.


Oh my god, we can't hug, right?

I mean, can we?

Hi Peg. Hey.

Yes please.

The camera is pulling back and it's pulling forward.

So here start with a perfectly framed thing

of the cart creating this great shape along the left

guiding your eye back to Birdie.

And we get a full shot of Birdie 'cause we wanna give her

kind of the dancer's introduction of hello, here I am.

And all of the lines are guiding you back to Birdie.

If you look this and this,

it's all taking your eye right here where the money is.

Kate Hudson.

So we've now introduced Birdie and now the camera

is going to move back with her

from our perfect frame rise up 'cause it's now all gonna be

about heads as we come back and reveal Kathryn

and Leslie.

Jump and we still keep Peg exactly right there.

Jess hit her mark perfectly, so she's still deep

in the background and you'll notice we're still

from their gazes going back here

and all the lines are still leading us back

to where we wanna be looking, which is Kate.

But as she goes back and forth to him and to her,

she wants to hug them, but no way.

Those lines work for Blanc too.

Oh look at that.

Oh my god, your eye is in the exact same part of the frame.


Hello. Oh my god, we can't hug, right?

I mean, can we?

Hi Peg. Hey.

If you take a look, I mean the camera was

basically like right here, essentially.

We're seeing the ground which all means we can't have

Dolly Track and to move the camera on a surface like this

you can't just roll it

because it would be bouncing all over the place.

So we're on a jib arm here.

And so we have a remote head which is basically a little

you know, robot head that the camera is on

that can move all sorts of directions on the end of a long

pole, which is a jib.

It's, if I ignore these beautiful, these beautiful actors

who basically have a dolly and then we have a

counter-weighted jib and then there's a camera head here

and then the camera itself is mounted right there.

Boy that's a horrible drawing.

The jib operator stands back here

and is also the dolly operator and he's doing two things.

He's pulling the dolly back, he's also levering the jib arm

to do that little rise that you saw before.

Meanwhile our camera operator, Dale Myron is back

off someplace else at his little station

and he's got basically a monitor

and he has a couple of wheels.

He has a wheel that turns this way

and a wheel that turns this way and he's operating the pan

and the tilts of the camera remotely.

That's what lets us do this move of jump

'cause is a fairly wide lens where they're actually

fairly tight together right here

to do that little reveal both of them.


Yes please.

Did you two stay at the hotel last night?

I didn't see you.

No Birdie, we clearly just arrived.

Again all trying to frame this in terms of Blanc taking

in this stage show and so, Blanc's little kind of

step forward here 'cause he recognizes Birdie Jay

and also just guiding it all to Blanc is taking this in.

He also looks a bit like Claude Rains

in The Invisible Man here, which I quite enjoy.

No Birdie, we clearly just arrived.

But you.

One of the things I'm always very gratified

if it gets a laugh is Kate's mask.

So I wrote this movie in 2020,

I wrote it during lockdown,

which is probably part of the reason why it takes place

on the Greek islands like everyone else in the world.

I was sitting home and fading in Greek island,

let's see if this works.

It's like where I wanted to be.

But the notion of just something I think all of us

experienced the notion of defining people's personalities

based on their choice of of mask wear.

You can see Kathryn back there has, wow very beige mask.

You'll see Lionel, who's supposed to be a scientist

he has a very proper N95 mask.

Blanc has a very dapper mask that's coordinated

to his outfit.

And Kate, I think we all knew some version of this person

she's trying, she's wearing, she's like, I'm masked,

what do you want?

First of all, I should make clear very quickly

we're gonna be on Myles' private island and get rid

of the masks.

This is not a mask movie, but for this one scene

it was very interesting.

Directing with a mask is tough because the communication

is such a huge part of what you do on set

and more than that, being an audience for the actors

is such a huge part.

Literally them just seeing you smiling at a joke

that they're doing or laughing or being back behind.

So it just, it's very tough with a mask

but it makes you focus in more on the eyes I think.

I also think it's kind of trained us how to

how to kind of see mask acting.

Did you two stay at the hotel last night?

I didn't see you.

No Birdie, we clearly just arrived.

But you, hello stranger danger.

This is another fun thing.

Leslie has now gone deep

and we pulled back a little further.

So Kathryn's here, but what's gonna happen here is

without moving the camera at all

Kate is going to transform the frame

by coming up to a closeup

and the shape of her hat then completely defines the frame.

But you, hello stranger danger.

Mr. Blanc, you are stranger danger?

Stranger danger.

That's Nicos' is one line.

Nicos is is Greek.

So, and I'm gonna stop picking on Nicos now.

You are stranger danger?

What is Kathryn doing?

Is she smelling herself?

She is.


If you watch Kathryn Hahn in the background of this movie

it's a whole other movie and I just know that she's

doing a little BO check right there, which seems very clear.

Well done Kathryn.

You are stranger in danger?

No, no that's fine because

I don't even know what that means.

Wait a second.

Benoit Blanc?

Oh my god.

Are you Benoit Blanc, the detective?

Did you solve the murder of

oh what's her name that the, the belly dancer?

I want just like a poster just of Kathryn from this frame.

She gets very excited about Benoit Blanc being

on the island and she, her mask slips down to being like

a chin bra.

She gets excited and then, she catches herself, shoot.

Oh and even just like tiny little moments like that

like accuse you into, she's a, she's very conscious of the

of the mask etiquette

The detective?

Did you solve the murder of oh what's her name that the

the belly dancer with the thing and the thing that's you?

It is.

So there's a very nice little thing that Leslie does here

where you can just see his eyes narrow a little bit.

He doesn't have much to work with.

He's got, you know, he is fully masked up here,

he's even wearing a hat.

So you just have this and there's a little moment

when he realizes there's a detective

along on this trip where you see him kind of like

you see him paying attention.

I love that moment when you're working with an ensemble

of actors and you're getting all these closeups

and you're running the scenes and just having them do it

stuff like this is pure gold when you get in the edit room

because you're looking for these little moments

the actors give you that's gonna give you a hint

of more going on than was originally on the page

and keeping everybody alive in the scene in a group.

It's a big part of what we do in the edit room.

That's you?

It is in the flesh.

I'm obviously familiar with you all as well,

governor, Dr. Tucson, Ms. Birdie Jay

what an extraordinary gathering.

Blanc, again is very much the audience

for the introduction of all these characters

and I very much loved how this pier lent itself to that.

We have him isolated on this side with the ocean behind him

and then when we cut back to them, we have a stage basically

for blocking wise these people are putting

on a performance and we're seeing each of them kind of

display their personalities for Blanc.

So, let's just completely embrace that.

Logistically very, very difficult because we are actually

on this relatively narrow little pier, little jetty

so there's nowhere to go.

So actually the boat that shows up later in the scene

we had it parked at the end the whole time

just so that we could stage camera equipment and stuff

on it and have like a little place for the actors to

to go and cool off 'cause it was also,

it was in the high nineties when we were shooting this.

But it also meant that I basically had two directions

to shoot him looking at Blanc

and then we go this shot looking back, not at Blanc.

The nice thing about this was it made me really focus on

blocking in terms of the characters

and trying to create depth,

but trying to make sure that you could see everybody

in this frame is a good example of that.

So, it also means the actors have to be very, very precise.

We have to give them exact marks to hit.

You know, if Kathryn was one step to the left

she'd be blocking Birdie.

If Lionel was one step to the right, he'd be blocking Peg.

Kind of like a very delicate dance

especially when everyone has to move into these positions.

And we'll see an even better example of that when

Dave Bautista arrives.

I promise he's coming.

I know everyone's waiting for Dave Bautista to show up.

What an extraordinary gathering?


[engine revving]

This scene used to be much, much longer in the first cut

of the movie, it was sort of a thing where when

everyone showed up, they had a little conversation

to begin with.

This scene was a bit like the library scene

at the beginning of Knives Out.

Really quickly we realized pacing wise we also kind of wanna

just, you know, get through it and get to the island

and get to the mystery.

My editor and I ended up cutting it shorter and shorter.

There used to be, when you hear the gunshot

we have these beautiful drone shots of Dave

and Maddie riding on this motorcycle along

like a coastal road that's absolutely stunning.

And so we cut away to that and big sweeping music.

But it's a sort of thing where it looks gorgeous

and it's beautiful and it's awesome

and then you put the scene together and the scene's too long

and it's just, well hear the gunshots, see him arrive.

And luckily we had done this little transition shot going up

and over the luggage, so the cut works.

[engine revving]


we've arrived.

I love that insert shot.

I don't know, it's a little Coen brothers like detail

but I spent a lot of time getting that insert shot

exactly right.

Although I think you can kind of see it's not

our first take.

You can see the scrape on the ground.

It's already there from-

Movie magic that I'm ruining for you all right here.

Disruptors have assembled.

This shot I was quite proud of,

this take because the blocking of it evolves as we go back,

we start this with Dave, we reveal Jess,

no way am I hugging you.

Kate comes in and then keeping Blanc alive back here

is the other thing and all these reverses.

Again, always thinking that we're seeing the,

seeing the scene through Blanc's eyes.

Also, may I point out Kathryn's sad yellow visor,

which she took great joy in.

Hey guys, remember my girl Whiskey?


Of course, Whiskey.


Who's that?

Why are you in Greece Mr. Blanc?

This type of blocking where it's a lineup

and it's a very exact and precise.

You know, Wes Anderson is like the first director

that I go to who does this a lot.

It's something where you're also trying to create depth

in the frame.

So, it's foreground, mid ground, and then background

with Jess doing her weird like stretches.

This is also a good frame to talk about the influence

of The Last of Sheila on this movie.

The Last of Sheila is a murder mystery from the seventies

that was co-written by Stephen Sondheim and Anthony Perkins.

It's an incredible murder mystery.

We take a real page from it

in terms of the setup of this movie.

There's a scene at the beginning where they all arrive

at the dock and there's a famous thing where they all line

up for a photo.

Kate is very much channeling Dyan Cannon from that movie.

Why are you in Greece Mr. Blanc?

I was invited by Myles Bron.

Tight with Myles?

No, never met.

You're trying to be as economic as possible

in terms of the storytelling.

You're trying to get across as much as possible,

the whole gag of everyone hears his gun

and he is firing his gun and he makes a big deal out of it.

Not a huge spoiler that in the murder mystery

the gun will probably play a part

at some point in the story.

So, we're trying to set it up through moments that don't

feel like they're setting it up.

The other thing that we're trying to communicate

and the blocking has a lot to do with this

is the characters relationships to each other

and how they kind of relate to each other.

Claire and Lionel kind of have a connection in this movie,

sort of the grownups of the whole group.

So grouping them together in the foreground

and putting them on equal plane,

connecting up Duke who Dave plays and Whiskey,

who Maddie plays, having them always paired together

is important and then, Kate in the background with Peg,

always deep background.

There's kind of a running gag that Peg

because she's the assistant

she's just constantly ignored throughout the weekend.

And so, having her always present in the frame

but always kind of in behind, behind, behind

in the deep background.

Oh, I get it.

The murder mystery thing.

Benoit Blanc is gonna help solve the mystery

of Myles' murder.

This should be fun.


Well, we'll see.

[horn beeping]

And here's the boat.

Casting wise with this movie,

I mean I just I'm the luckiest guy in the world.

Look at this lineup right here.

With casting, with these movies

you're trying to obviously get the best person

for each role and the best actor for each role.

You're also kind of throwing a dinner party

and putting together an invite list for a dinner party

because this is a true ensemble

and every single one of these people could and have

carried their own movies entirely.

And they're coming out for a few months to Greece

to click together and work in frames like this one

that you're seeing here where they're all playing together.

This is also giving every single one of these actors

and characters an entrance.

And giving them a theatrical entrance where

they part the curtains, step out to center stage

and get a little round of applause and recognition

before we actually get into all the murder and mayhem.

Which is good for several reasons.

It's mostly good from a storytelling point of view

because you need to be able to track every single one

of these people going forward.

So having a scene at the beginning where

they step out to the end of the stage

and make their introductions like this,

it was a great way to start.

Up Next