‘Knives Out’ director plots whodunit franchise after ‘Star Wars’

Director Rian Johnson at the world premiere of ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ in Los Angeles, December 10, 2017. — Reuters pic
Director Rian Johnson at the world premiere of ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ in Los Angeles, December 10, 2017. — Reuters pic

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LOS ANGELES, Feb 12 — Hit murder mystery Knives Out is set to become a whodunit movie franchise, with Daniel Craig’s Southern gentleman sleuth tackling a brand-new set of suspects, its creator told AFP.

The 2019 movie was a massive success for writer-director Rian Johnson, previously best known for the divisive blockbuster Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

An Agatha Christie homage about a family patriarch murdered in his sprawling mansion, Knives Out yesterday passed US$300 million (RM1.2 billion) at the global box office, despite a budget of just US$40 million.

“It’s always been in my head that if this one does alright, then it’d be really fun to do more of these,” said Johnson.

The film was nominated for the best original screenplay Oscar — losing out to history-making Parasite — and last week studio Lionsgate confirmed a sequel.

“It’s really more like another case, another set of suspects, another type of mystery, but with Daniel’s Benoit Blanc character there to solve it,” said Johnson.

He has begun writing the second film, with plot details under wraps — “I’m just starting to fish around... There will be a murder, I can say that!”

But there will be “a whole new cast and whole new location and everything.”

The first film boasted an impressive ensemble cast including Captain America Chris Evans, soon-to-be Bond girl Ana de Armas and veteran actress Jamie Lee Curtis.

“That’s the other fun thing about thinking about the next one... what other actors could we rope into this?” said Johnson.

‘Wood-panelled rooms’

Johnson first came up with the notion of Knives Out a decade ago.

Having dedicated four years to making 2017’s space epic The Last Jedi for Disney, Johnson was itching to quickly switch to something galaxies away from that “big filmmaking world.”

“I had a great time working on Star Wars... I genuinely enjoyed that aspect of it,” said Johnson.

But the idea of a film “we could make quickly, and just have some fun with actors talking in wood-panelled rooms — you can see how that would be appealing,” he added.

Johnson remains linked to a brand new Star Wars trilogy, announced in 2017 but plagued by rumours it had been cancelled after the experimental Last Jedi enraged die-hard fans.

“I still have a great relationship with Lucasfilm, and nothing’s been announced,” said Johnson.

‘Foghorn Leghorn’

Beyond the traditional detective formula, Knives Out earned praise for its comedic aspects, including its satirical look at the wealthy family’s prejudices.

And, of course, there was British 007 actor Craig’s drawling “deep South” accent, based on the late American Civil War historian Shelby Foote.

“It ended up being kind of Shelby Foote by way of Foghorn Leghorn,” joked Johnson.

“He would go, ‘Was that too much?’ And I’d say, ‘No keep going!’”

The accent drew scorn from some viewers, but Johnson insists Craig’s deliberately “humane and clownish” accent was “never just like a joke.”

“It takes a really, really good actor to go big and stay real.”

Although Craig is the only actor resuming his role, social and class themes from Knives Out are likely to return.

The genre provides the perfect chance to tackle social issues without appearing to lecture or preach, said Johnson.

“In a whodunit, you have this little microcosm of society with your group of suspects,” he said.

Just as Christie used the genre to turn “the lens on contemporary British society of her time,” the franchise offers “a great opportunity to me to set it modern-day in America and turn the lens on ourselves a little bit,” he added.

Knives Out is released on DVD, Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD by Lionsgate on February 25. — AFP

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