‘Knives Out’: Making the glass onion

Academy Award-winning production designer Rick Heinrichs talks about the eponymous glass dome and the tech mogul’s hideout he built around it.

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When Academy Award-winning production designer Rick Heinrichs (“Sleepy Hollow”) was first hired to create the title structure for Rian Johnson’s “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” he treated it like a literal onion, taking the model apart and cut in to study the strata. “There was something so cool and architectural about it that it became part of the design,” he told IndieWire. “You really see the deep layers in the dome. The glass onion metaphor works so well and I tried not to invent anything that wasn’t there.”

For Johnson — whose latest crime novel drew inspiration from such iconic films as Sleuth, The Last of Sheila, and Evil Under the Sun — The Glass Onion’s metaphor was wrapped around the narcissistic, evil spirit of tech, billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton). Bron hosts a crime weekend getaway on his private Greek island with his Disruptor friends and – the greatest Disruptor of them all – Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig).

For Heinrichs, who previously worked with Johnson on Star Wars: The Last Jedi, it was a production designer’s dream: to wrap his head around Bron’s conspicuous consumption and need to be the center of attention. His taste in art is both classic and modern, and he has a particular fondness for glasswork, with the Glass Onion Dome (which was built in London) being his ultimate expression. In fact, the intricate puzzle box invitation sent to all guests was recreated as a microcosm of the dome. It begins with an ornate wooden spinning wheel and then reveals a series of brain teasers including a projection, a Fibonacci number sequence, an abacus and a combination lock.

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery Puzzle Box

Courtesy of Netflix

“It opens and reveals itself,” Heinrichs said, “but it doesn’t reveal its secrets until you find out.” Like the mystery that goes on in the film, it’s constantly opening up and constantly changing. There’s that point in the middle of the movie where everything spins and your understanding is completely reset.”

The main challenge for the production designer was finding the right architectural fit for Bron’s mansion. He discovered Villa 20 at Aman Resorts in Porto Heli and decided to use it as a major filming location. It had the right modernist take on Greek classicism, and Heinrichs particularly liked the hierarchy of steps leading up to the resort. The dome was placed on the resort via VFX.

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

“Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery”

Courtesy of Netflix

In terms of interior design, the outrageous atrium, with its Greek temple mosaic, houses Bron’s eclectic art collection, including Picasso, Monet, Mondrian, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, and – his most prized possession – the Mona Lisa, protected in a glass case. Plus, it’s filled with an array of kitschy glass sculptures. “It was an opportunity to build his character with some of my favorite artwork,” added Heinrichs. “But they’re also incredibly beautiful and colorful, and seeing them behind the actors added to the ambiance. The fact that Miles pushed everything so hard is more his curiosity and desire to appear powerful and overpower people.”

The highlight for Heinrichs, however, was having a copy of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s legendary “In This Head” painted, with its solid skull and a single eye looking very menacingly to the viewer’s left. It’s the one painting that sums up Bron perfectly. “It sold for $93 million to an unknown buyer and I got it as Miles,” he said.

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https://www.indiewire.com/2022/11/knives-out-making-of-glass-onion-1234783551/ ‘Knives Out’: Making the glass onion

Lindsay Lowe

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