A mystery is only as good as its prime suspects...and luckily, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery has a gallery of rogues fit for a murderous evening.
Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) returns to the screen this holiday season (a special one-week theatrical engagement begins Nov. 23 before streaming on Netflix Dec. 23), and he has a whole new crop of mischief and untrustworthy sources to size up.
When he's mysteriously invited to the Greek island of tech billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton), for a weekend of fun and games, Blanc stumbles into a web of deception that only he can untangle — and writer-director Rian Johnson has once again assembled a starry ensemble cast to play off Craig's discerning detective.
For Johnson, it's not about gathering the biggest and most star-powered ensemble that he can, so much as finding actors who are right for the roles and happen to be available, one person at a time. "Inevitably it does end up getting tailored to the person in the part, but not in a completely revisionist way," Johnson explains of the Knives Out casting process. "Usually we try and cast people who are going to be able to come in and bring what's on the page to life. But like with any role in any movie, they end up making it their own."
But who exactly are these shadowy figures? We talked to the cast of Glass Onion to get the details behind their potentially murderous alter egos.
The Billionaire — Miles Bron (Edward Norton)
As self-inflated billionaire Miles Bron, Edward Norton gets to poke holes in a very specific archetype. "Miles is the furthest thing from an actual scientist," he says. "Miles will be highly recognizable to anybody who's watched the WeWork documentary or the Theranos documentary. He's high on self-regard and emblematic of the self-appointed tech Illuminati. Miles Bron has never had an original idea at any phase of his life — that's a good summation of him."
The Brains — Cassandra Brand (Janelle Monáe)
Miles Brown is the ego of the operation, but his ex-business partner, Cassandra Brand (Janelle Monáe), was the brains. And the bad blood between them makes her a curious presence on this island holiday. But for Monáe's part, she wanted to draw on real women who have inspired her. "Andi is a tech entrepreneur and a natural-born leader — she's this magnet for people," Monáe says. "Andi is a genius. I wanted to make sure that was very clear, that this character wasn't hiding her genius, wasn't shrinking herself. I looked at a lot of women — Black women, women of color — in the tech industry, and how she dressed. Mellody Hobson, who runs an investment firm — Andi has a lot of her leadership qualities."
The Supermodel — Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson)
Kate Hudson brings her sense of style and utmost glam to former model Birdie Jay. Birdie, who is perhaps the most vapid among a crowd of self-obsessed folks, has transitioned from her career in front of the camera to being a sweatpants entrepreneur. But Hudson warns not to be deceived by appearances. "As tone deaf as she is, don't sleep on Birdie," she quips. "She's not all dumb."
The Assistant — Peg (Jessica Henwick)
With a former model comes a long-suffering assistant, and in Glass Onion, that is Jessica Henwick's Peg. Henwick calls her character "an amalgamation of all the various assistants that I have met in my time." She explains her complicated dynamic with Birdie, saying, "In the original script, she's not written as someone who doesn't like her job. Of all the characters, she was the blank slate. And I went in, and I was like, 'This is not going to be interesting if this is a woman who enjoys this job. This is probably someone who's tried to quit three or four times, and she can't bring herself to do it.' I thought, 'Let's make this more than just an assistant and employee relationship. It's like a toxic love/hate dynamic between the two of them.' Peg despises working for Birdie, but Birdie can't live without her. And Peg knows that. And Peg loves her. We'll go from arguing in one scene, and then the next scene we're drunk and my head is in her lap. That sums it up for me."
The Scientist — Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr.)
Miles Bron may consider himself a tech genius, but it's Lionel Toussaint who is the true science wiz. Basing his character off NASA's Dr. Lonnie Johnson, Leslie Odom Jr. wasn't interested in playing a scientist who inhabited the stereotyped role of a pocket-protecting nerd. "Lionel's a scientist, but he's also worldly," he tells EW. "He's well-traveled, he's single. The scientists of my youth were lab-coated and bespectacled. There was a mold. But in all professions, you see people really bringing the specificity of who they are — the cultural specificity, the regional specificity and the things that make them unique. The call of our day is that you don't leave yourself at the door, you come in. I really wanted Lionel to bring all of who he was into the lab."
The Politician — Claire Debella (Kathryn Hahn)
Kathryn Hahn won't name names, but she did base her Connecticut governor and Senate candidate on several high-profile female politicians. What she really wants to talk about, however, is what Claire likes to drink. "There was a run of [jokes about] what kind of beverage that she would drink that made us laugh," Hahn giggles. "How Claire would take her wine: lukewarm white wine on ice. Room temp."
The Influencer — Duke Cody (Dave Bautista)
Mansplaining Twitch influencers are a familiar archetype and Dave Bautista was determined to make Duke as cringey as possible. "I asked Rian if there was anybody in mind that he thought I should take a look at," the former wrestler relates. "There wasn't anybody in particular. He said, 'I don't want him to be based on anybody, especially somebody who's despicable and everyone in this world hates.' So, I put my own little twist on it, and I thought about the kind of guy, not necessarily an influencer, but a kind of guy in general that strikes me as douche-y. Guys that I really don't like. And I tried to be that guy."
The Vixen — Whiskey (Madelyn Cline)
Introduced as the arm candy in Duke Cody's videos, Whiskey is far more duplicitous than she seems at first glance. Madelyn Cline executes a delicate dance as Whiskey, elevating her beyond a mere gold-digger. For Cline that meant knowing the script inside and out, and staying ten steps ahead to keep pace with the screenplay. "It's playing it as if it's the second time around somebody has watched it," she says. "The way you play it could have multiple meanings — it was finding those choices I could make with my character that could potentially be taken multiple ways. It's the ability to play innocent and guilty at the same time."
Make sure to check out EW's Holiday Movie Preview cover story on Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.