‘Glass Onion: Knives Dissolves Mystery’ Filmmakers in Netflix’s High-Stakes Show and ‘Star Wars’ Lessons

Writer-director Rian Johnson and Ram Bergman, his producing partner of two decades, are improbably modest for a pair who struck one of the biggest movie deals in recent memory — a $469 million two-picture deal with Netflix to produce T-Street shingle making two sequels to the whodunit. for the year 2019 Take out the knives.

It’s not just that the two made Netflix loosen up the suitcase; They have pushed the company beyond its well-established comfort zone. first streamer Take out the knives sequel, glass onion, opens November 23 in more than 600 theaters for a week before switching December 23 to digital. The film’s performance in both arenas will be a litmus test for how streaming-supported films pan out in the future. Speaking over Zoom in early November, Johnson and Bergman seemed well aware of these risks — though they also emphasized that seismic industry shifts are not a priority for them. “We’re not really empire builders,” says Johnson, who made the transition from indie to writing and directing star Wars Entry last jedi. “We just love making movies.”

It was your first collaboration brick Back in 2005. How did you meet?

Rian Johnson I wrote brick I’m straight out of college, and I’ve spent my twenties failing at it. Eventually, the script was passed to Ram by another producer in 2002. We got together and loved cutting each other’s arm. Until we met, you’d done the thing everyone else does… where you have a line producer friend read your script and tell you it’s going to cost $3 million. Ram snapped me out of that thought and said, “No, you figure out what you can scrape together and make for it. Then you will own it and control it.” This is what we ended up with.

What is the key to such a creative long monogamous marriage?

Ram Bergman We know each other, and we just want to make the best movie. This is it.

Johnson I don’t have a business mind at all. Ram can look at the big picture logistics and walk us through making deals and how to set things up. And he always acts in order to ensure our creative control. I know a lot of filmmakers who got their start in independent films when I did, people more talented than me who have never had a ram in their lives. Makes all the difference

Speaking of deal-making, taking sequels to the open market and getting your money’s worth has blown many minds. Other than money, what is your biggest consideration in choosing a new distributor?

Bergman We wanted people who were obviously willing to bet on us – and bet on the movie.

Johnson It was about being very conscious that we had something special here. We wanted to grow it big. We wanted to set it up — not just to critical success but in a way that we could keep making more of it, so we could get together with our friends and do one every couple of years.

Among souvenirs and souvenirs from his own and others’ projects, Johnson has a list of poker face and a framed print of the transit characters featured in White House.

Philip Cheung for The Hollywood Reporter

Was this wide theatrical release part of those initial talks?

Johnson We didn’t have anything in writing, but the agreement was that we’d have the conversation when the time was right.

Bergman And remember, we made a deal in the middle of the coronavirus outbreak. Nobody knows where the industry is headed.

Johnson The choice wasn’t between a traditional big theatrical release or Netflix. The big theatrical release did not exist at that moment.

And won’t the box office be reported — by Netflix, at least?

Johnson This is our understanding. We want as many people as possible to see it in theaters. And then we want it to do incredibly well when it hits Netflix – so a lot of people see it and so it shows everyone, most of all Netflix, that those two things can coexist… word of mouth and prestige when you get to the service. This is something a lot of people are betting on, not just on Netflix.

You will have it soon poker facea Colombo– Mystery of the Week, by Natasha Lyonne at Peacock. What do you like about detectives?

Johnson when I saw Russian dollThis whole thing clicked. ColomboAnd the Magnum, B.; or Rockford Files: The reason these shows work is because they have an incredibly watchable central character. You want to hang out with them every week. It’s not really about mystery – the way sitcoms aren’t really about jokes. It is a form of storytelling transformed into network action. This is in the tradition of non-sequitur, case-of-the-week shows. You can hop anywhere and see how the show works. It’s something I kind of miss.

A set of photos—Natasha Lyonne on the Poker Face set and the original Polaroids used in Glass Onion—are on Johnson's bookshelf.

Picture Collection – Natasha Lyonne On poker face Collection and original Polaroid used in glass onion – on Johnson’s bookshelf.

Philip Cheung for The Hollywood Reporter

Now that you’ve made TV, and Lucasfilm is aggressively pursuing the series, is there star Wars Series would you like to make?

Johnson I will star Wars anything. And if I had an idea that I was excited about that worked better as a show than a movie, I would do it that way. Right now, we’re between making and thinking about the next Benoit Blanc movie poker face. I keep running into Cathy [Kennedy] and hold talks. who do you know Prepare The last jedi It was the best experience of my life so I must be very lucky.

What did you learn from making last jedi?

Johnson A big part of it, Ram taught me, was getting into every situation—with the studios, the financiers, the decision-makers—and embracing them in the process. That has served us well in the independent world and with Bob Iger, Alan Horn, Alan Bergman, Kathy Kennedy, and everyone else at Lucasfilm. It was just a very pleasant and respectful process.

Bergman If you get people in the process early, they root for you. In the end they let you do whatever you want to do.

From left: Both Johnson and Bergman were immortalized as Stormtrooper action figures after the work of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

From left: Both Johnson and Bergman have been immortalized as Stormtrooper action figures after they were made Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Philip Cheung for The Hollywood Reporter

What are your thoughts on James Gunn getting the DC job? Would that be an attractive suit to any of you?

Johnson for me personally? not at all. God save him. I respect the people who do that – Pete Docter is ahead at Pixar or what JJ Abrams is doing in production. There are people who can get involved creatively at this level and find it rewarding. I don’t have that. But it’s cool to see, and it’s exciting to me to have a filmmaker like James Gunn in this position.

It seems to be an old Hollywood story, be that as it may Babylon or Once upon a time in hollywood, which is something a lot of great filmmakers eventually deal with. Ryan, your wife, Karina Longworth, is a notoriously old Hollywood researcher. Did you talk about cooperation?

Johnson Look, I’d love to – someday. And we’ve talked about it, but we have a great marriage, I don’t know if we want to bring work into it. The thing is with Karina’s podcast [You Must Remember This] Does she make every creative decision, and when she goes to TV, which is something she wants to do, it has to be in such a way that she has that same control. we will see.

What keeps you up at night?

Bergman At some point, studios and broadcast screens won’t be able to fund and fund the same amount. Except for DC, Marvel, whatever, budgets have to fall for them to survive. They’re not going to make 20 or 30 movies and spend $200 million or $300 million per movie.

Johnson Any time I get worried about this stuff, I remember we made half a million dollar movies. We will always be able to make something happen.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity. An earlier version of this story misstated the length Theatrical performance of the glass onion. It will be in theaters for a week, not a month.

This story first appeared in the November 21 issue of Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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