Family gatherings can be murder. That’s the literal plot of Rian Johnson’s ensemble mystery Knives Out, due in theaters Nov. 27, and EW has the first trailer and official images. “The idea was to take everything I love about a great Agatha Christie story and put it into a new original story set in modern-day America,” says Johnson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi). “That’s kind of the essence of it.”
No murder mystery is complete without a dead body and Out has a doozy: Academy Award winner Christopher Plummer. The actor plays Harlan Thrombey, a Stephen King-esque author of a series of mystery novels who suspiciously perishes during a reunion with his not-so-nice extended family, including daughter Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis), son Walt (Michael Shannon), and grandson Ransom (Chris Evans). Explains Johnson, “Harlan has built this massive empire up and he has a group of kids and their families who are all adults and who all to one degree or another live based on his success. When the family fortune is kind of in question or up for grabs, that’s when the proverbial knives come out.”
That’s also when Southern detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) enters the picture (Lakeith Stanfield and Noah Segan play local police officers also investigating Harlan’s murder). Craig rarely gets to flex his comedy muscles and Johnson says the actor really excelled, particularly with the accent. “He has a blast with it,” says the director of Craig’s twang. “It’s not cartoony. It’s not too crazy but it’s very fun.”
Out also gives Evans the chance to play against type after years as America’s Ass, a.k.a. Captain America. “Chris is a terrific actor with great range, and in a change of gear from what we’ve seen him do lately he plays Harlan’s ne’er-do-well spoiled grandson,” says Johnson. “He turns on the swagger and devilish charm. It’s really fun to watch.”
Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049) is Marta, Harlan’s nurse and one of the few non-Thrombey family members in the film. “She was very close to him when he died,” explains Johnson. “So she has a very central role in it. With a movie loaded up with this many high-profile movie star names, the fact that Ana really is at the center of the film in a way and holds her own against all of them, I just love her to death. So to speak.”
While Johnson’s last movie was the CGI heavy Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the starry cast of Out, which also includes Toni Collette, Don Johnson, and Katherine Langford, is the major special effect. “I guess coming into it I was a bit nervous because there’s so many obviously big names and big personalities, getting everyone together on one set,” he admits. “I’ve always been very lucky and had great experiences with all my actors. I didn’t know what to expect. The truth is, everybody just clicked and had a great time and there was a real incredibly wonderful experience to shoot, especially in the group scenes when they were all together. They were all playing off of each other and they were all just having so much fun that it was infectious. I think it comes through. We have a couple really gang buster scenes where the whole family gets to go at each other’s throats. It’s really something to see.”
With its Turkey Day-adjacent release date, Johnson thinks Out is a perfect choice for your post-meal activity. Jokes the director, “It’s nice going in and experiencing a family that’s more messed up than your own.”
See the exclusive Knives Out trailer and photos, above.