Director Rian Johnson Breaks Down a Scene from 'Knives Out' | Vanity Fair
Another funny thing I don't. Know if I should say this or not. No. Every. Single filmmaker, was does a bad guy in their movie that's supposed to be a secret wants to murder me right now hello I'm Ryan Johnson I wrote and directed knives. Outs and this, is notes. On the scene no. You heard something spill. It I. Just. Heard two things. My. Will, and. Then there was more. Yelling and. Then. I heard ransom, say. I'm. Warning. You. Handsome. So. This, is one. Of the first scenes where Chris Evans character, ransom, has just shown, up and it's, right before the family is gonna read the will and, Chris. Has breezed into it and kind, of thrown everybody into chaos so, this was also kind, of the first scene where we actually had, everybody. On set, at, once and with. These actors coming together to play like in an ensemble, it. Was so much fun it was it because everyone, showed up just ready to play the way it feels in the, movie that everyone's, kind of having fun that's. Genuinely. The way it was on set so, Jamie Lee, Curtis who. I loved so. Much she and Daniel and some of the other actors everybody, was kind of setting the tone on set the, fact that when all of these people came together I'll. Be honest I had no idea was a bunch of movie stars and most of him I'm never all, of him I've never worked with before I had no idea how it was gonna go unsaid, and whether it was gonna be a nightmare, I had no clue but. You get good, people on set like Jamie and you show up on set and there's just this warm inviting atmosphere and. Everybody's playing with each other and everybody's, having fun, instantly. Everybody. Just kind of gels and actors. Like Jamie besides being fantastic on-screen, that's one of the great things she brings to it hoo-boy. This frame is actually a good example of one thing I tried, do a lot which is you, can see there's. Kind of a triangular, shape, to it in terms of Jamie here in the center, Michael. On the left and, then dawn, on the right with ransom in the background, but it creates it gives the frame depth and there's all but always several, layers of people to look at in the scene at a given time also, a little shout-out to the props Department and, know that anytime a, clock or a phone, is in set somebody. Has paid very close attention to, the time and, has made sure as like asking me what time it's supposed to be in the actual scene the, will reading we said is going to be like that 10:30, or 11:00 or something and so, it made sense that at this moment in the story it was 10 15 and the morning, thank you props also. Another funny thing I don't. Know if I should say this or not, not. Because it's like lascivious, or side because, it's gonna screw me on the next mystery movie that I write but forget. It I'll say it's very interesting Apple. They let you use iPhones, and movies but, and this is very pivotal if, you're ever watching a mystery movie, bad. Guys cannot, have iPhones. On camera, so, ya. Know. Every. Single filmmaker, was there's a bad guy in their movie that's supposed to be a secret wants to murder me right now let's see what Jamie's fans know, you heard something spill. It. Jaden. Martell it plays Jacob first of all he's just like. Insanely. Kind. And so, smart. And also such a cool kid I've been like going to premieres and like seeing him and going to like different press, things and he, always shows up and he just like looks like he stepped off the cover of a magazine he's, always wearing like the coolest stuffed I think chair then actually, wins the sweater game here with this with. The pink shirts and the and the lines it's just it it all lends up I. Just. Heard two things. My. Will, and. Then there was again. Always, looking for ways composition, wise to get more than one actor depth. Wise into, the frames you have a couple things you have Blanc who, is absorbing, all this you've got Martha, who is watching, Blanc because, she's very nervous he's trying to at this point the story kind of fooled, him and then, deep background you've got no se again which, is always fun to have Noah Sagan in the frame and then Harlan looking over at all as the portrait a little, technical thing when, we started, shooting the movie we didn't have the painting it wasn't done yet we had done a bunch of revisions, to it and we just didn't have artwork, that we weren't happy with yet so. When we actually shot. This. And every. Single shot you see, in the movie that has a painting and it was a green screen we just had green inside the frame and we, had some amazing effects, guys who went in there and comped, we, took like a highest high quality, photo of the painting and they comped it in for every shot that crazy.
Also. Daniel Craig wasn't there for the entire shoot he just did all of his stuff on the green-screen stage, and one day that now it's not true. Daniel. Was so. Dialed. In it's funny then the scene he's not talking at all because I'm about to talk about like the last 30 minutes of the movie where he just talks the entire time and Daniel, showed up for. To shoot those like last 30 pages and had the whole thing memorized, like it was a stage play he just had it down. And he could have done I ended up like throwing, out all my little shots and going. For longer and longer takes, so, that I could just let give him run away so you could just keep going because, he had it down and the longer you gave him the better it the better it got and Anna, Dharma says Martha who again this is mostly listening for this scene but. You. Know this is anna. Has done, great work before, and she's been working for a while but, compared, to how, high-profile. Most of the other actors, were in this movie she was one of the lesser known actors. Are showing up and she, is again really the center of the film and for. Anna to step into the center of the movie with the confidence that she had and really carried. The film to the extent, she did I I, just think she's extraordinary was more. Yelling, and. Then. I heard ransom, say. I'm. Warning. You, so. This is a good example of Michael Shannon being, you, would not maybe expect, this but he was the funniest person on, set, and so, this little like football. Goal gesture, that he does, which. Cracked, me up on the day that was entirely just, him coming, up with that but there were a lot of lines, we're gonna get to a line down down the road which were some of the funniest things in the movie that Michael just came up with on the day. This. Cookie right here, inside. His mouth. I'm. So happy I have this pen you would never never those talking about it mmm oh, look. At those cookies, delicious. These. Are these Belgian cookies, right here and actually, when we screened the movie at the Ghent Film Festival in Belgium, everyone was so excited that, we had these cookies in there because they were like Belgian, cookies, they're. Very buttery, and I picked them just because I thought they looked cool and then poor Chris. Any, time you see an actor eating food and a scene pity. That actor because they've had to eat that food all day, long. And these cookies you eat like two of them and you feel you like your throat is coated, in butter and Chris, was pounding, these all day. Long so I feel. Very bad for him. What's. That mean what. This is all about blocking. And blocking, or staging, was kind of my big lesson, in this movie anytime there's, multiple. People in the frame especially trying. To figure out how to line up your shots first, of all so there's depth so, that it's not just kind, of a police lineup with, everyone on the same for him but then also so there is kind of like a shape, to it and like multiple, things to look at so you're getting, value, out of all of these amazing actors, in the same frame at the same time I think it means our father finally came to his senses and cut this worthless little brat out of his will, so. I guess you're gonna have to sell the Beamer and give you notice at the Country Club Michael Shannon who, is, one, of my favorite actors working today I was excited, that he wanted to do, this part because usually, when. Shannon shows up on screen he can be playing very intimidating. Characters, he's incredibly. Good at, kind of playing heavy isn't bringing kind of like a menace, or bringing a strength to the screen and the idea of seeing, what he would do with a part that's kind, of supposed to be like the weaker brother who's kind of trying, to compensate, for that by acting tough but, is. Not. Really there that, to. Me seemed really really interesting, and he's also, hilarious. Like after working with him I think, he's got to do more comedy Michael, Shannon for us I know please, and, kick whatever fashioned, drug you're on because. If you think this scarf, I doesn't want my call out the scarf Jenny Egan who, is our costume designer I, gave, her the note that I wanted ransom, to be wearing, incredibly, nice clothes that he obviously didn't, take care of and so that's why he's wearing beautiful sweaters, throughout the movie that have holes in them and he's wearing you barely see them he's wearing these like Gucci, loafers, but, they're completely worn. Out and he's like stamped, the heel back on them and kind of ruined them but, this scarf. When she put that on him I was just like oh yeah that's awesome of you think that after all the bridges you burned after. All the you said after everything that you put this family through Riki, Lindhome, is a comedian. Singer and writer and she's in this singing duo comedy, duo called Garfunkel, and Oates and I've known Riki for years she had an amazing, scene with.
Daniel's. Character, with them while Blanc that, is one of two scenes that ended up getting cut from. Theatrical version in the movie and they, are both extras, on the home video so you'll finally be able to see her great work in this scene with Daniel which I'm really happy with and then Katherine, Langford, is awesome. She, as, along. With Toni she Katherine's also in Aussie and she's so good at accents, I slowly, realized like, when you're just talking to her in between takes depending. On who she's talking to she will adjust her natural, accent, to match yours. So, when she's talking to me she's talking in an American accent talking. To Tony she's back into our Australian. Accent Daniel. I swear it starts like lilting it's just she has the she's, just so skilled daddy it's just like psyche she's not messing with you it's just like second, nature to her and she's been working so much internationally. Also she's like every, single movie she does she's in a different country so it's. Possible her brain is just not sure at this point what accent she's because, it actually is but, she was she was lovely and Tony, Cole that's the. Thing that I had seen that she had done before the oh she's working constantly, but you know obviously her amazing performance, and hereditary. Was. So intense, and I. Think, it was fun for her they bust out this like California. Lifestyle. Guru thing. And kind of get, into a bit of the, you. Know a little, bit lighter than hereditary. Just a little you, put this family through for the last ten years that any of us are gonna support you, that, any of us are gonna give you like dad like to say a single. Red dime, you're. Nuts. Story. Was, ransom. Who is kind of a very, main, character, in the movie I'm not sure how far we are into the movie here probably about 40 minutes or so 45, maybe a little bit more and. Deciding. To wait until, then to have him show up one of my favorite kind of like movie statistics. Is that Han Solo doesn't. Show up in Star. Wars until, 45 minutes and to a new, hope and there's something, about the. Energy of what ransom means to the story it's like a fresh breeze coming into the movie just, when you kind of feel like you have a handle of all the chess pieces that are on the board that to mix two metaphors it kind of, refreshes. Things and the nice little. Don. Johnson ladies, and gentlemen my less attractive, younger, brother Don Johnson. Because. Don has done his TV show first of all you obviously working on Miami Vice, they also, Nash Bridges cuz, he's done for so many years, he's a directors, actor, he's very aware of the technical, elements of shooting. And so, he is aware of what you're doing with the camera and why and, he's very good at playing to that he's got an incredible, skill and he's an incredible Pro and I think. He's he's quite funny in the movie, son. Father. Did. Harlan, tell, you he was gonna cut you out of the will. Yep. I. Love. Michael, Shannon just joined that little thing. Which, why. Do I feel like we shot Shannon's thing first so he don't know how he knew it to even do that. Well. When he's done what none. Of us were strong enough to do. Maybe. This might finally make you grow up. This. Might be the best thing that could, ever happen to you thank. You my, mother ladies and gentlemen there's all these crazy, I mean we've been kind of in close-ups for a while here but like you can always watch the movie, if slash when you get bored, you can always just look at the background and David, Schlesinger who was our set.
Decorator, He. Filled this place up with all of this incredible stuff back there there's always something, to look at whether it's the paintings on the wall or the knickknacks, on the table or what have you all of that stuff is David David crank was our production, designer and. He. And Schlessinger, just really, went to town on this look. This is not gonna be easy for you. So. With, ransom here there was that other angle which is kind of 45, degrees off to, the right of this and then there's this angle and we have two cameras, on him getting them both simultaneously, which. Is really, useful because, of eyelines. Which. Is an absolute, nightmare anyway. And in that situation, it is a it. Is a beast, essentially. The deal is right here Chris is looking left. To right he's looking this way at Tony. Who's talking, to him and the reason for that is because on, Tony's, shots if I can get back here, she's. Looking, right, to left she's looking that, way so, the characters are essentially, you feel, like they're looking at each other it creates that illusion basically. It's it's the reason we have that other coverage on him is because there are other characters, who have the opposite orientation, like Don is looking that, way at him so this would feel like they were looking across from each other if Chris is chairs here, and Chris's, sitting. In the chair right here this is Chris, essentially. The camera you're looking at is low, and here. You. Know and Blanc, is like back here and the. Other camera, for the other angle, is over, here. And. So. This. Simultaneously. Covers, if he's looking, Tony, who's over here so it was Isla is this way so you. Can see with this other camera he'd be looking left to right not right to left but, with this camera because Don, he's, like over here, this. Camera covers for when he's looking at these other characters, so anyway. And, we did, that a lot we figured out how to use multiple, cameras, to cover, eye lines very, occasionally, there will be situations, where we'll use two cameras, and get kind of a wider shot and a closer shot usually. Not though usually we if we're using two cameras, it's similar. Size on the same person and that's because of lighting if you take a look at the lighting on Chris there's, this beautiful shaped, lighting, that Steve has done where, the sizes faces kind of shadowy, you have right, here, and there's all of this equipment, there's probably right off screen here like a massive. Lit. Up flag, that's kind of creating, that shape, and. You. So that's a lot of times where if somebody is in a wide shot you just can't light their face with the same amount of detail and so, it doesn't, behoove you to shoot both at once you're gonna be sacrificing. One or the other, the. Other thing I like again even though this is for all intents and purposes.
Close Up the fact that you still have some depth back behind him though you have Blanc kind of lingering over one shoulder and Harlan. Over, the other shoulder which I quite like and that's, one thing when, you're especially, when you're shooting close-ups especially, when you're shooting anything, with. An actor always, trying to figure out when you're doing the blocking geography, was having. Part of your brain thinking, is there depth back behind them it's always, gonna be prettier than if they're just up against a wall sometimes, it's unavoidable but, and it can get tough when here because this was a real location this was a real living room actually in a real house and it. Can be tough, because that means you're usually kind of like scrunched, in and it, can be a battle and a lot of times it's incredible, what you'll end up cheating and, what you can get away with in terms of cheating not in this shot and this shot that kind of like worked out but, very often you'll have something where let's, say if in the space of the room. The. Chair that they're sitting in is actually literally right up against the wall and you have to be shooting in this, direction you'll. Be amazed, especially, in a shot like this, where, it's sort of a longer lens and the background is kind of a focus, very, often, I mean usually, what will pull the chair out and, absurd, them out sometimes even like halfway into the room and find, that when you shoot it you can get away with the cheat and it just ends up looking a little prettier, it'll. Be good, nothing. That is ever easy, up. Your ass Joanie you've had your teeth and his family's tit for a long time you're. The. Original line actually is ran and the script it, was you instead, of it and. So. He was like do you. You and there was gonna be but, essentially. I changed, it right before shooting but could because I realized, that we've given us an r-rating and a big thing with this movie, for, me was remembering.
Back To the Agatha Christie movies that I grew up watching with my family, when, I was you know 10. To 13, years old like in that rain remembering. How much fun those movies were the whole family saying I'm watching him together and I realized, before shooting you know what I want this movie to be pg-13. So, I went through there were actually a ton of f-bombs in, the movie I ended up taking out all of them out except for two I think we got away with two we had cast Chris at that point so we were riffing like what should he say besides, you. And Chris. Is like I think a good eat always, works. I. Trust, you Zach. One of the nice things about the house was the. Natural, light it was a beautiful. Beautiful Southern when we first walked through my, cinematographer. Steve Gadlin and I we, just noticed how gorgeous, the light was this. Is the first movie that we shot entirely digital we then shoot on film for this even, though I love, film and I wanted a filmic look and Steve did all of this, crazy, color science and added grain and had a gate weave and headed all the stuff you needed to make it look like film one. Of the benefits. Of shooting digital was if, you shoot film you just need more light and, so generally, with something like this we would have big, light, fixtures, outside the windows pumping, in lots of light and then we would be giving, fill light inside, also with, digital one of the advantages, is we could just let the natural light light the scene and match to that and, in this and in a lot of the stuff in the house that ended up being a big, advantage. Okay. So this is actually an example of where we break the eye line it, doesn't really, matter, because, he's talking to the other people, but, I want to show you this you can see if this were in a dialogue, situation. It would be a problem so, in this this, is the eyeline from when he's talking Tony says living left to right if he, was talking to dawn and then we cut to dawn you, can see there, would be a disconnect, there because it looks like they're both looking at, the same direction it doesn't feel like they're looking at each other that's, why you pay, attention to headlines on set.
So, If yeah just for a second, just because Don is yelling but watch Jamie's, reaction watch, what Jamie's doing. This. Little toss of the baseball, besides, giving him just a little bit of business to do it, guides us into the. Next scene anything can do to kind of do this in terms of the action the scene the next scene the baseball is gonna play a big part because the dog is gonna come up and want the baseball and these throws is and that's how he gets the clue so using, this to kind of dovetail, into what's coming next. I'm. Not eating one iota. Is a Mike Shanin special, that's the that's, another one that you just like came up with and here, you can kind of see the layout of the room and you can also see it's a big room for a room in a house it's, another big room to stage a bunch of actors and especially, once you get the camera in there you, also have to kind of realize that getting the camera in is not just like a camera on the tripod you, usually have a dolly and usually, have track laid for the dolly so, the camera equipment itself, can take up like you know but in feeling it's taking up half the room so once you're dealing with real world spaces, you're. A lot more hemmed in than you think you can actually see, the tiny little detail, but this, is the sort of thing that when, we're talking about color management and, what Steve does to make it look like film so, film does this thing called, halation. And if. You look at the, bright edge between, the window between, the darkness of the window and where, it's flaring out outside, you, can kind of see if you look up close there's, kind of like a rainbow, a sort, of glow to it and that's, something you get with film and you get it on the edge of if there's an actual lamp or a light unset or if, there's an example like this you'll get that halation. Effect, that you don't get on digital and so Steve actually, wrote a script, as such a tiny detail that he wrote a thing. That created, that and he would apply that to every shop where it would make sense it's just almost, like a subconscious, thing he would never even look twice or think about that just adds to, kind, of the soup of, stuff. That we look. At and we say oh yeah that feels filmic, I think. We've covered it that was a that, was a extensive. Breakdown, of the, eat. Seen from knives out so thank you so much Vandy for and for, let me do this and thank you guys for joining.