The opening gambit of writer-director Rian Johnson’s Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mysteryhis second in his series of Agatha Christie–style whodunits, is one of mischief. Tech billionaire Miles (Edward Norton) has sent each member of his gang of longtime friends a wooden puzzle box that, when unlocked, calls them all to his Greek island to “solve the mystery of my murder.” It’s a game, of course, but not everyone wants to play.
Obviously, this is where the twists startWhen the group arrives in Greece, they find that detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) has been invited to their annual friend gathering, too. Soon, old grievances come to light, and Miles’ former business partner Andi (Janelle Monáe), politician. Claire (Kathryn Hahn), fashion designer Birdie (Kate Hudson), Birdie’s assistant Peg (Jessica Henwick), men’s-rights influencer Duke (Dave Bautista), Duke’s girlfriend Whiskey (Madelyn Cline), and scientist Lionel (Leslie Odom Jr.), all find themselves questioning one anothers’ motives. And that’s before one of them turns up dead.
No spoilers here, but one thing that does come out during Blanc’s investigation is that Miles is every bit the tech billionaire archetype: He buys fancy toys and homes, walks with overconfident swagger, and believes so much in his big ideas he’s unwilling to acknowledge when they’re bad—or dangerous.
Johnson wrote the screenplay during the height of Covid-19 lockdowns, long before Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, but acknowledges that his movie, which lands on Netflix today, ended up being surprisingly au courant“A friend of mine said, ‘Man, that feels like it was written this afternoon,'” Johnson notes.
But Glass Onion is a lot more than that—it’s also a really fun time. WIRED hopped on Zoom with Johnson to talk about his new film, scripts written by AI, and what’s happening with his Star Wars movies. The interview has been edited for length and clarity .
WIRED: One of the things that initially stands out about Glass Onion is that it takes place during the Covid-19 lockdown. What was your thinking in doing it that way?
Rian Johnson: As a huge whodunit fan, growing up, so many of the ones I loved were period pieces set in England. It’s a type of genre that is specifically good at engaging with culture and society. It just felt like, “Well, OK, we wanna treat this with a very light touch, obviously, because these aren’t very serious movies and Covid is a very serious thing,” but it felt like if there’s a way to have lockdown in there, it felt right.
Right. The period is those isolated days of 2020. A few recent films have tried to engage with Covid-19, or include the pandemic in stories. How does that work in a whodunit?
You’re building a little microcosm of society with the suspects and the power structure within the suspects. It’s this thing we all went through and we now have all these encoded signs for getting insights into these characters, like their mask choice.
You’ve said before that Knives Out movies are not meant to go in order, that one isn’t a sequel to another. Does setting this one squarely in 2020 change that?