How Star Wars: The Last Jedi Backlash Helped Rian Johnson Make Knives Out

Daniel Craig in Knives Out

Rian Johnson weathered his fair share of backlash after Star Wars: The Last Jedi release in 2017. From angry fan tweets to an attempt to have the film erased from the Star Wars canon, he faced intense scrutiny for months. And he often wasn’t shy about engaging fans who came at him. Now, the director has made it clear that this experience has informed the way he approaches social media -- and how he made his new movie Knives Out.

In an interview with Deadline, Rian Johnson acknowledged the anger that came his way after his controversial chapter of the Skywalker saga. If he’s bitter about it, it didn’t show -- in fact, he took a measured approach to how he views the experience and social media in general, saying:

Anyone who’s on Twitter these days, God bless you because it’s rough waters out there, but there’s also wonderful stuff about it. That’s why we’re all still on it I guess. That’s one of the things [Knives Out] engages with, the current state of online culture. Whether you made a Star Wars movie or you have a cooking show, whatever you’re doing on there, someone’s going to be screaming at you about it probably. Let’s put it on a screen in a way we can all maybe have a laugh about it.

Knives Out is a dark comedy about a family embroiled in a murder mystery. So, the laughing part checks out. In the film, Jaeden Martell's character, Jacob Thrombey, is an active member of alt-right Twitter, where he posts hate speech. Okay, maybe a little less funny -- but there is something to be said for removing the power from some of the more insidious social media habits.

The director’s experience on Twitter has been a roller coaster in more ways than one. After James Gunn lost his Guardians of the Galaxy gig over resurfaced offensive tweets, Rian Johnson deleted around 20,000 of his old tweets. Fans noticed, and got suspicious, and he had to explain that he was just trying to avoid giving ammunition to his biggest detractors. But he’s still active on Twitter -- and he recently joined fans in their excitement over a Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker trailer.

He isn’t the only director that’s used his frustrations with social media to fuel his work. Joker director Todd Phillips admitted that he left the entire genre of comedy behind because he was wary of “woke” fans on Twitter coming after him (which, ironically, earned him some pretty significant backlash as a result). If the same happens to Rian Johnson, maybe we’ll see it reflected in some way a storyline if his new Star Wars series gets off the ground.

Katherine Webb