‘Glass Onion’ Rian Johnson Interview: Lessons from Spielberg & Welles

Toolkit Ep. 194: The director tells IndieWire about the lessons he learned from Spielberg and Welles for scenes where “everyone’s walking around doing really complicated things and talking to each other.”

Writer-director Rian Johnson’s Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery features an impeccably cast comic ensemble that includes Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe, Kate Hudson, and Kathryn Hahn, who Johnson credited with making the film brought great ideas. Not that a great cast made things easy – on the contrary, the large number of actors combined with limited filming locations (although one of them was the architecturally impressive structure that gave the film its title) made the task of blocking far easier harder than ever in any of the action sequences of Star Wars: Episode VII The Last Jedi or Looper.

“‘Knives Out’ only had a couple of scenes where everyone was talking in the same room,” Johnson told IndieWire, “and those scenes are mostly sitting, which makes it a lot easier. There were a number of scenes in Glass Onion where we were in this huge set that we call the Atrium and everyone was walking around doing really complicated things and talking to each other. And yes, it was a bloody nightmare.”

To solve the staging problems, Johnson turned to directors who he felt had perfected the technique and examined how they achieved their impact. “It was a great kind of growth experience because even more than the first film, it made me want to look at directors who are great at directing, like Spielberg, who I think is the modern master at it. Or look at the way [Orson] Welles creates shapes in frames using the blocking of his actors or Michael Curtis – directors who are masters at consciously creating frames with shapes of people. Instead of thinking about cool shots or camera moves, think about the tools to create the shape of the frame, what are the bodies in the frame, and how does that reflect the dynamics of the scene?” For Johnson, the key was figuring out how to frame the actors to serve not only the needs of the relationships but the mystery as a whole. “We’re layering in quite a lot of information and trying to get you to look at specific moments. How can blocking help with this? It becomes a game of its own, a complicated, hard game. That was a real challenge.”

You can listen to the full discussion above or subscribe to the Filmmaker Toolkit podcast below.

The Filmmaker Toolkit podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast and Stitcher. The music used in this podcast is from the score Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present, courtesy of composer Nathan Halpern.

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https://www.indiewire.com/2022/12/glass-onion-rian-johnson-interview-1234793282/ ‘Glass Onion’ Rian Johnson Interview: Lessons from Spielberg & Welles

Lindsay Lowe

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