Rian Johnson is, if you’ll pardon the pun, killing it. His razor-sharp, star-studded murder mystery Knives Out has earned more than $265 million worldwide, and now, it’s made him an Oscar nominee: The writer-director scored a Best Original Screenplay nod on Monday morning, and he woke up to a cascade of congratulations. (Cast members Jamie Lee Curtis and Ana de Armas were the first to reach out.) “It was the best wake-up I’ve ever gotten,” he says with a laugh.
In an Oscar field filled with biopics and historical epics, Knives Out stands alone, a twisty throwback with a devastatingly modern relevance. Daniel Craig stars as Benoit Blanc, a quick-thinking detective with one hell of a Southern accent, and Johnson tells EW that the response to the film has been “the most gratifying thing I can imagine,” especially since he set out to pay tribute to all the murder mysteries he grew up loving.
“Any time when you’re trying to do a mystery, it’s a little bit like a [tightrope] wire act,” Johnson says. “But honestly the main thing I was shooting for was to make something that audiences would have a great time watching. I wanted to make something that I would have a blast watching in the theater, and [I] hoped that would translate to audiences.”
“It was meant to be a crowd-pleaser, so to see it please some crowds makes us really happy,” he adds.
As for his post-Oscars plans, Johnson says he has a few “ideas I’m kicking around,” adding that he’s still talking to Lucasfilm about a potential new film series set in the Star Wars universe. But for now, the Star Wars: The Last Jedi director still has Benoit Blanc on the brain: A Knives Out sequel hasn’t officially gotten the green light, but Johnson tells EW he would be “thrilled” to make another mystery set in the same universe, with Craig reprising his role as Blanc.
“There’s a lot that has to happen: First and foremost, I have to write a script that’s worth a damn, so we’ll see,” Johnson says with a laugh. “I don’t want to jump the gun, but it’s something I would love to do. First of all, because I had so much fun working with Daniel, and second, just because of the idea of doing the same thing that Agatha Christie did with Poirot and Miss Marple — just doing a whole different deal with Benoit Blanc as the detective. The possibilities of that seem endless in a way that’s really exciting.”
So if Detective Blanc does get another case assignment, might we expect a sequel to include some more excellent sweaters?
“I don’t know!” Johnson says, laughing. “I think maybe the answer is to go someplace warm. We’ll see. I don’t think we can top Chris Evans in the cable-knit. You don’t try and top that.”
See the full list of this year’s Oscar nominations here.