‘Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery’ explained

Written and directed by Rian Johnson, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is as jam-packed with clues and red herrings as its hit predecessor. But even as its complicated case comes to a close, you might be wondering about Miles Bron’s party-crasher Derol. Ready to solve that puzzle?

What was Derol doing in Glass Onion? 

On one level, Derol is a running joke. While Miles waxes poetic about the glorious exclusivity that his wealth has afforded, in wanders some presumably couch-surfing dude who is only referred to as Derol. Over the course of the movie, Derol pops up to puncture the affluent self-importance of a scene or to hang out with the world premiere detective, Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig).

And sure, it’s funny. Johnson, who uses Knives Out and its sequel to satirize the absurdities of America’s one percent, might even intend Derol as another lampoon of this lavish lifestyle: the happy-go-lucky hanger-on. BoJack Horseman had Todd. O.J. Simpson had Kato Kaelin. Miles Bron has Derol. In every affluent ascent, a little schleppy sidekick must fall. But beyond these bemusements, Derol is an Easter egg for long-time Johnson fans.

Derol is the Noah Segan cameo. 

Having appeared in over 70 films and television shows, Segan is a prolific performer. He’s also in every one of Rian Johnson’s feature films. Though sometimes, if you blink, you’ll miss him, as with his uncredited cameo in the Breaking Bad episode “Ozymandias” — which Johnson directed, natch.

It all began with Johnson’s feature film debut, 2005’s Brick, an indie neo-noir in which Segan played a bad boy rival to Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s teen detective. For Johnson’s sophomore effort, The Brothers Bloom, Segan snagged a small role as The Duke. In the sci-fi Western Looper, which pitted Gordon-Levitt against Bruce Willis, Segan played a snarling foe called Kid Blue.

In Johnson’s Star Wars: Episode VIII — The Last Jedi, you might spot Segan as X-Wing pilot Stomeroni Starck. Then, in Knives Out, he played Trooper Wagner, the overeager cop partnered with LaKeith Stanfield’s stern Lieutenant Elliott. And now, Segan returns to the Benoit Blanc Cinematic Universe as a new character, tucked away behind a bushy beard and slacker chic.

Over the years, Segan’s cameos have become part of the director’s signature, even as Johnson rises through the ranks of Hollywood — similar to how Sam Raimi works in appearances from his old pal Bruce Campbell (who starred in Raimi’s cult classic The Evil Dead). Such loyalty is winsome outside of the films, and it also makes for a fun nod to fans.

So, longtime Johnson admirers might keep their eyes peeled for the character actor with the charmingly crooked grin. And as Segan’s officially kicked off his own directing career with a vignette in the horror anthology Scare Package and the vampire-comedy Blood Relatives (which hits Shudder Nov. 22), Johnson has proved some help, scoring a “thanks” in the credits of each.

Now, if you really want a challenge, can you pick out the Joseph Gordon-Levitt cameo in Glass Onion?

‘Knives Out’: Making of the Glass Onion

When Oscar-winning production designer Rick Heinrichs (“Sleepy Hollow”) was first tasked with designing the titular structure for Rian Johnson’s “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” he treated it like a literal onion, taking the model apart and cutting into it to study the layers. “There was something so cool and architectural about it, that it became part of the design,” he told press. “You really see the layers of depth in the dome. The metaphor of the Glass Onion works so well and I tried not to invent stuff that wasn’t there.”

For Johnson — whose latest whodunit takes inspiration from such iconic films as “Sleuth,” “The Last of Sheila,” and “Evil Under the Sun” — the metaphor of The Glass Onion was wrapped around the narcissistic, bad-boy mind of tech billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton). Bron hosts a murder mystery weekend getaway on his private Greek island with his fellow disruptor friends and — the biggest disruptor of all — Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig).

For Heinrichs, who previously worked with Johnson on “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”, this was a production designer’s dream: wrapping his head around Bron’s conspicuous consumption and need to be the center of attention. His taste in art is both classical and modern, and he has a special fondness for works of glass, with the Glass Onion dome (which was constructed in London) as his ultimate expression. In fact, the intricate puzzle box invitation sent to all the guests was reverse engineered as a microcosm of the dome. It kicks off with an ornate wooden spinning wheel, and then reveals a series of brain-twisters, including a projection, a Fibonacci number sequence, an abacus, and a combination lock.

“It opens and reveals itself, ” Heinrichs said, “but it only gives up its mysteries as you figure it out. Like the mystery that’s going on in the film, it’s ever-opening and ever-changing. There’s that point in the middle of the film 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 villa. He discovered the Aman Resorts’ Villa 20 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 top of the resort through VFX.

In terms of the 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 prized possession — the Mona Lisa, protected in a glass case. Plus, it’s filled with an array of kitschy glass sculptures. “It was the opportunity to reinforce his character with some of my favorite art,” added Heinrichs. “But also they are amazingly beautiful and colorful, and to see them behind the actors added to the ambiance. The fact that Miles has shoved everything in there so tightly is more of his inquisitiveness and desire to seem powerful and overwhelm people.”

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

Knives Out 3 Will Be Completely Different From Glass Onion, Says Johnson
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery director Rian Johnson teases that the next Knives Out installment will be different “tonally and thematically.”

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery director Rian Johnson teases that Knives Out 3 installment will go in a completely new direction. 2019 saw Johnson introduce audiences to Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc, a world-renowned detective called to unravel the mysterious circumstances of the death of Harlan Thrombey. Knives Out enjoyed enormous success at the box office, prompting immediate calls for a sequel with Benoit Blanc at the center. It came as little surprise in December when audiences watch the release of Johnson’s sequel Glass Onion in droves.

Despite it having been less than a month since Glass Onion was released on Netflix, all eyes are now on Johnson and the much-anticipated release of Knives Out 3. During a recent interview with Variety, Johnson offered an interesting tease for this upcoming third installment, discussing his current plans for how Knives Out 3 will play out. Revealing that he has just begun working on the project, Johnson teased that Benoit Blanc’s next outing will go in a “completely new direction tonally and thematically” a comment that is sure to excite fans of the budding franchise. Check out Johnson’s full quote below.

I’m starting to work on the third movie now, and that’s also what’s got me creatively jazzed: I don’t have to replicate the last movie at all. The goal is to strike out in a completely new direction tonally and thematically.

Everything We Know About Knives Out 3

As for what is officially known about Knives Out 3, very little has been confirmed. Benoit Blanc is expected to lead the story once again, with the film likely to mirror both Knives Out and Glass Onion by featuring an all-new star-studded ensemble cast. Just who will star and exactly where this next great mystery will take place has yet to be announced. After Johnson revealed that he is eager to make Knives Out 3 his next film, many are hoping that the project will enter production rather quickly, though with Johnson still in the early stages of piecing together the film’s story, it’s likely there will be some time before the cameras begin rolling on Knives Out 3

Following the success of Knives Out, Johnson signed a two-picture deal with Netflix to bring two sequels to the streaming service, Glass Onion having served as the first. Knives Out 3 will release on Netflix, though it’s likely that it may also enjoy a brief theatrical release, just as Glass Onion did, prior to its debut on the platform. The release of Knives Out 3 will see Johnson fulfill this deal, though the future of the Knives Out franchise and Benoit Blanc’s adventures beyond this upcoming project, remain to be seen.

Johnson’s comments are likely to spark much curiosity among those who were already excited about Knives Out 3, as there are seemingly endless possibilities as to what sort of environment the director’s winning formula could be implemented into next. While much of what can be expected from Knives Out 3 is likely to remain under wraps for some time, the expectation will certainly be high given that Johnson has undoubtedly hit it out of the park with his previous two releases. With audiences still fired up from the release of Glass Onion, it’s unlikely that the hype surrounding Johnson’s next big whodunnit will dwindle any time soon.

The Glass Onion is in theaters Nov. 23 to Nov. 29, then comes to Netflix on Dec. 23.

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Stevie Flavio
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