Rian Johnson purposely left Knives Out’s Benoit Blanc a little blank

Daniel Craig
Daniel Craig

Much to the occasional dismay of his audience, Rian Johnson loves to toy with viewers. But at least he plays fair: He likes toying with his actors a little too. For Glass Onion, the sequel to Johnson’s surprise hit Knives Out, the director wanted to leave things a little open-ended for the return of his lead detective, Benoit Blanc. There would be no origin story for a mustache here. Rather, he wanted to give Daniel Craig a little breathing room to make the character his own, per EW. So he “underwrote the character”

“I tried to keep any big, obvious quirks out [so] that the character would fill out with the actor,” said Johnson.

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Too much focus on Blanc would no doubt back them into a corner, especially considering, as Johnson points out, the detective is rarely the main character in a mystery. “It’s a mistake of the genre to think that your detective is your main character,” said Johnson. “Benoit Blanc is the constant North Star of all of these movies. But you have to think of him as the detective, not as the central character. The story has to function in terms of the suspects, the murder, and the victim. Benoit is weaving his way through that, but the dramatic stakes are never his.”

This is certainly true in Knives Out. Blanc is an observer who escorts Ana de Armas’ Marta to the conclusion and fills everyone in on one at happened. Blanc is an outsider, catching up with the movie’s characters and plot in time with the audience. He’s a very well-informed audience surrogate, giving the whodunits a participatory atmosphere.

Of course, this looseness of character gave them the leeway to declare the Blanc as “obviously” queer, which feels a bit like J.K. Rowling declaring Dumbledore gay but not including it in the books. However, we are sorry for even bringing her up at all. Neither Johnson nor Craig deserve those comparisons, and we regretted making them.

All this is done to keep the audience on their heels, signaling to them that each Knives Out Mystery would “be a very different animal.”

Each one of them must have its own reason for being and its own theme. It’s not just repeating a formula, but using this genre to create a whole new formula every time. Sometimes with series or sequels, it can become weird, stratified, fossilized from the previous movies. The fun thing to me is genuinely creating something fresh and new.

A detective movie where the detective’s mustache isn’t 90% of the character is already starting at an advantage. Glass Onion opens in select theaters on November 23 and gets dumped into Netflix’s algorithm on December 23.

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