“Knives Out” director Rian Johnson takes stab at Texan’s questions

Noah Levine

At the Fantastic Fest premiere of “Knives Out” on Sept. 25, The Daily Texan spoke to director Rian Johnson from “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and “Looper” about his newest film.

The Daily Texan: How does working on a such a large franchise like “Star Wars” differ from making a film like “Knives Out”?

Rian Johnson: You know, it’s a lot more similar than you might expect. Because at the end of the day … in some ways, (Star Wars is) a bigger movie, but what actually makes a movie tick — the scenes working, the actors doing their thing — is pretty much the same deal, but with a different set of challenges. This was a more dialogue-based movie and the “whodunnit” (genre) which is really specific. So different challenges, but not as a fundamentally different thing.

DT: What films inspired the classic style of “Knives Out”?

RJ: I grew up loving Agatha Christie, and the movies in the ‘70s and ‘80s that were made from her books, the original “Death on the Nile,” and “Evil Under the Sun,” and those are kind of the two real touchstones for this. Also, because those movies had big all-star casts, you sat down and had a blast watching everybody. They were a little self aware, but still gave you a good mystery. That was kind of the sweet spot we’re aiming for with (“Knives Out”).

DT: Was it intimidating to work with such A-list talent?

RJ: It’s terrifying. It’s f—ing terrifying. But then you show up on set and you start working with them, and they’re all super sweet. Then you realize you’re all just trying to make a good movie together. And suddenly, you’re no longer just sitting there talking with Jamie Lee Curtis, you’re just collaborating with someone and it feels like when you were making student films with your buddies and just trying to make something cool. So it’s scary, but that goes away really quick.

DT: What advice do you have for student filmmakers?

RJ: My advice is just make your stuff and keep making it. Make as many films as you can with whatever you have access to. Develop your voice, work on yourself, read good books, travel, meet people, have experiences. Don’t start thinking, ‘How do I get an agent? How do I break into the industry?’ Focus on your voice and focus on developing who you are as a person, what you want to say, and doing it over and over so you get better at that. And if you do that, you’ll develop your voice, and all that (other) stuff will find its way to you one way or another.