It’s been three years since Rian Johnson delighted cinema lovers everywhere with Knives Out. The charming murder mystery sparked a flood of cozy, subversive, and thoughtful takes on the classic genre. And as 2022 comes to a close, Johnson is back with the highly-anticipated sequel, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.
While, of course, the plot and twists are being kept under wraps, we do know a little about Glass Onion. It centers on a collection of wealthy friends who are invited to play a murder mystery game on an island by an eccentric member of the group. The trailer promises another wonderfully star-studded affair anchored by Daniel Craig as the detective Benoit Blanc. So as we prepare to dive into Johnson’s mystery-soaked world again, we’re here to talk about the major influences behind Glass Onion. So get ready to meet some classic crime solvers!
It’s impossible to talk about Agatha Christie’s influence without talking about Miss Marple. Though Benoit Blanc is most inspired by another Christie creation—who we will get to shortly—arguably her most beloved is the elderly sleuth Jane Marple. Her first full length appearance was in 1930’s The Murder at the Vicarage. Marple began life as a local busybody with a nose for solving crimes. She evolved and grew over many stories and 40 plus years, giving Christie a place to explore different kinds of genre storytelling. That’s something that has long drawn Johnson to Christie’s work as he explained in a series of tweets.
But another detective beat Marple to the page. And he’s one of Johnson’s biggest influences!
Hercule Poirot swaggered onto the murder mystery scene in 1920’s The Mysterious Affair at Styles. The elderly private detective is an enigmatic man with connections to the British government and police. Always the smartest man in the room, Poirot became Christie’s most popular creation in her lifetime. But she wasn’t always a fan of him, describing him as a “detestable, bombastic, tiresome, ego-centric little creep” in 1960. Despite that and out of a loyalty to her audience, she wrote Poirot stories until 1975. And some of them became her most famous tales, including Death on the Nile and Murder on the Orient Express.
In an interview with Empire Magazine in 2019, Johnson shared that Poirot was a big inspiration for Craig’s detective. “Benoit Blanc has some of the elements of Poirot, in that he’s a bit self-inflated, but there’s a warmth to him which shines through with Daniel.”
Evil Under the Sun (1982)
One of the biggest and most obvious influences is the Guy Hamilton-directed Evil Under the Sun. The 1982 Peter Ustinov starrer centers on Christie’s famed Belgian detective as he solves a mystery at an exclusive resort for the ultra rich. Sun-drenched and star-studded, Evil Under the Sun is a total delight. Johnson has spoken about how this era of Poirot films was a massive influence on the Knives Out series. “I was thinking about the Agatha Christie movies that had Peter Ustinov as Poirot when I was writing this,” the director shared with Empire. “They were my tonal touchstones, with that sense of an all-star cast, a bunch of actors you love to see, having a blast.” And that’s something Johnson is channeling again in Glass Onion. He’s also taking notes from the sunny setting and apparently innocent guests.
The Last of Sheila (1973)
Johnson has talked about Glass Onion being a throwback to the “tropical getaway murder mystery.” The most iconic of these is arguably The Last of Sheila. It’s a film that Johnson has proudly shouted his love for and happily parades its influence on Glass Onion. The movie is directed by Herbert Ross and written by none other than Stephen Sondheim and Anthony Perkins. The story begins when a wealthy eccentric invites a group of friends to sail with him to an island so they can take part in a scavenger hunt.
It’s clear that Johnson is paying homage to that setup with Glass Onion, which takes heavily from that opening gambit. As a murder mystery lover, it’s wonderful to see The Last of Sheila getting its due. It’s an under seen entry into the canon and wonderfully twisty. It’s a fantastic reimagining of And Then There Were None that predated Evil Under the Sun and other sunny Christie adaptations.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is out in theaters Nov. 23 and Netflix on Dec. 23.