Rian Johnson Reveals His Writing Process Behind 'Knives Out'
Knives Out is an original film that overperformed at the box office Thanksgiving weekend, thanks to its inspired and clever script. Here's how writer-director Rian Johnson came up with the idea for the screenplay.
If you're like me, you spent your Thanksgiving holiday stuffing your belly with pie and your eyeballs with Knives Out.
The film was exciting and electric. Every character popped off the screen and there were so many tropes and twists that it felt like we were in the hands of a master. Without going into spoilers, I'm mildly obsessed with the ideas inside this screenplay.
That's why I was so excited to see that Rian Johnson sat down with Entertainment Weekly to answer some of the burning questions fans have about the story.
How Rian Johnson Wrote 'Knives Out'
Writing a murder mystery can be fun, but there are so many things to juggle that they can really screw with your head. Still, nothing is more fun than having the beginning seeds of a mystery story. It's exciting to spread out the zigs and zags, to brainstorm throwing people off.
So how did Johnson get started?
Something we discuss often on the site is how writers and filmmakers must embrace the tropes of the genre they are working in and know them before subverting them.
After seeing the film, you can tell Johnson is a student of the "whodunit" genre. He is a self-professed rabid fan of it. He knew what people expected, what people wanted, and how to bridge the gap between both.
I can imagine breaking down a mystery and pulling out the parts you want can be daunting. Especially with an audience trying to crack the case the whole time!
At the end of the day, remembering that it's all about entertainment and not reveals harkens back to what was said about Hitchcock in the first quote.
There will always be an eagle-eyed viewer who pokes holes or predicts turns. The point is to make the movie so fun and thrilling that they want to continue the ride.
When I sit down to write, I know someone may be able to see the end, but I want them to strap in and have fun throughout the way we get there. This movie perfectly embodies that mantra.
So what's it like to know you'll be responsible for directing the script you deliver?
Whether you're directing your work or just editing, you need to find a healthy separation.
Sometimes things work on the page, but when you go to shoot them you need to be malleable. That means killing your darlings in one way or another. As Johnson says, this is a messy relationship. Be willing to take big swings and you'll get big rewards.
Like becoming a huge surprise hit at the box office.
What's next? Learn more about genre!
Film and TV genres affect who watches your work, how it's classified, and even how it's reviewed. So how do you decide what you're writing? And which genres to mash-up? The secret is in the tropes.
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