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