Getting a movie made is such a laborious process that any film that actually makes it to the screen is a minor miracle. So for Rian Johnson to boast one of the Toronto International Film Festival’s most anticipated premieres with the murder mystery Knives Out, while also working on a discreet new series of Star Wars movies for Lucasfilm, you know he must possess that “it” factor Hollywood craves. While speaking to Observer ahead of Knives Out‘s debut next month (when we’ll have additional coverage of the film and more from Johnson), he discussed the freedom both projects afford him as a storyteller.
Following his work on Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Johnson will now create an entirely new story that is disconnected from the main Skywalker saga.
“I think that the fun and challenging part of it is to dive in, figure out what’s exciting and then figure out what it’s going to be,” he said. “We’re doing something that steps beyond the legacy characters. What does that look like? To me, the blue sky element of it is what was most striking about it. I know the way that I’m coming at it and what’s fun about it for everyone in Lucasfilm is figuring out, ‘what’s the next step?’ It really makes you think and figure out what the essence of Star Wars is for me and what that will look like moving forward.”
Star Wars is arguably the most revered American film franchise in cinematic history, and The Last Jedi reportedly carried a budget between $200 million and $317 million. Knives Out is an entirely different animal—an original concept (sadly, a dying breed in Hollywood these days) that is estimated to have cost “just” $40 million to make. While the disparity in resources certainly carries its own set of challenges, it also represents an opportunity for Johnson to flex his writing muscle.
“Well, you have to shoot a lot faster,” the director said with a laugh when asked about making Knives Out compared to The Last Jedi. “It’s less about the scale of it and more the type of movie it is. Obviously, there’s a different approach in the Star Wars universe and some of that is just logistics and the type of film it is.”
“For me, one of the fun things about [Knives Out] was how dialogue-based it was,” he continued. “It was really fun to get a group of great actors together and give them a ton of words. In a Star Wars movie, you’re usually trying to be as efficient with dialogue as possible, which is a good thing. Of course, I worked with some of the best actors on the planet in Star Wars. You’re just chasing a very different rabbit. With Knives Out, you could write more words and just sit back with a huge smile on my face as they shoot them.”
Knives Out, distributed by Lionsgate, will arrive in theaters on November 27.