5 things we learned from Rian Johnson’s director’s commentary for Glass Onion

Those of us that still collect physical media will be all too aware of the oft-golden special feature that is the director’s commentary.  But, in perhaps a sign of the streaming model cottoning on that it needs to up its game when it comes to packaging a film, Netflix have sanctioned writer/director Rian Johnson to assist in a rather glorious feature for his latest film, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.

Though we still have to wait and see if the physical disc Johnson has stated he wants will come to fruition, for now Netflix have met him – and fans of the art – halfway with him joining the streaming giant on their “Watching With…” podcast, which acts as the gateway for fans to sync up the episode with the film (the podcast counts you down for when you need to hit the play button on the film) and learn all there is to know about the intricate sequel.

As we enjoyed another flavourful layer of Glass Onion, here’s 5 of the juiciest tidbits we learned from the maestro of mystery himself.

1. Rian Johnson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt have cameos in the film

But you’ll be forgiven for not picking up on either, even if you’ve seen the film a dozen times.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who headlined Johnson’s very first film, 2005’s teen noir Brick, has a voice cameo as the very loud DONG! you hear chiming every hour on the hour on Edward Norton‘s Miles’ island; “I just asked him to sat the ‘dong’ into a microphone,” Johnson laughs, further explaining it’s a nod to a plot element of one of his favourite whodunit adaptations, Evil Under the Sun.

As for Johnson’s appearance in the film, well it’s quite literally hands on as he subbed in for Daniel Craig‘s digits during a pivotal scene involving the faux shooting of Janelle Monáe‘s Helen.  “We did a little reshoot because I wanted a very specific reveal of ‘Renning Hot,” – referring to the gag of actor Jeremy Renner’s hot sauce being used as blood.  “So apologies, Daniel, that’s me.”

2. Edward Norton’s character had a “murder tracksuit”

A small, but no less hilarious detail that only further adds to his character’s ego-driven lunacy, Norton’s Miles Bron originally wears a blue tracksuit when he learns of the evidence Andi (Monáe’s other character) has that could destroy him.  When he drives to her house to kill her, he has changed into a black tracksuit, or a “murder tracksuit”, as Johnson calls it.  Yes, Johnson made it so that Miles would be the type of person that would change outfits solely to commit a murder.  The dedication is real.

3. Deleted scenes and Helen’s family subplot

Kate Hudson‘s problematic Birdie and Monáe’s Helen had a series of additional scenes and storylines that Johnson ultimately cut for timing issues, though he certainly indulges his listeners with detail regardless.  The already “culturally cancelled” Birdie had an even bigger issue to contend with in a sequence Johnson describes where she reads to children in a library in such an inappropriate manner that she runs the risk of further cancellation.  There was also a scene involving Birdie and her assistant Peg (Jessica Henwick) almost running into Helen and Blanc before their trip to the island, which would have potentially foiled the plan to catch Andi’s killer.

As for Helen, realising the audience were already on her side, Johnson exorcised a family subplot which would have seen her trying to juggle solving a murder with constant phone calls from her kids – one of which would have centred on her daughter freaking out over having blue waste from eating too many blueberry Pop Tarts.  “We had that in there because we were trying to add another element in there of the audience liking Helen,” explained Johnson. “We realized they were on Helen’s side, we didn’t need it, so we took it out for pacing purposes. And I think it worked better without it.”

4. Ethan Hawke shot for only one day

Thanks to a small break in between his shooting days on Marvel’s Moon Knight, filming nearby in Budapest during Glass Onion‘s production, Ethan Hawke and his family were “lured over” – as Johnson puts it – for a weekend for the actor to cameo as Miles’s assistant, credited as “Efficient Man”.

5. Clues are hidden in plain sight

Johnson described Glass Onion as a movie that was designed to be rewatched due to the amount of clues he places in the narrative throughout.  Having the creator point them out is certainly of additional benefit too, with Johnson stating the film “plays fair” when it comes to the mystery unfolding before our very eyes.  We see Miles holding Duke (Dave Bautista)’s gun and switching his glass, with Johnson mentioning throughout the amount of red herrings present, and that the film purposely distracts its audience so these scene details go by unnoticed on a first viewing.  The genius of it all.

Whilst the audio commentary could have been embedded into the film in a better manner than having to sync up a podcast with it – this only adds to the physical-media-is-superior-argument – having this as a possibility is a great additive nonetheless.  It’s evident how much Johnson loves both this film and easter egging it for us, and if Netflix refuse to give any of their films physical releases, then such a practice as letting its films’ creators or cast members sound off on the making of is one of the next best things in getting film fans closer to the heart of the production.

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is now streaming on Netflix.  You can read our review here.

Peter Gray

Film critic with a penchant for Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa, Michelle Pfeiffer and horror movies, harbouring the desire to be a face of entertainment news.