Knives Out’s Rian Johnson Says One A-List Cast Member Is Way Funnier Than The Rest

Knives Out cast

Casual moviegoers might not think of Michael Shannon as being funny, and that’s a damn shame. Yes, he has done serious dramas over the years, but when used properly in the right comedies, Michael Shannon can be a scream. Rian Johnson’s Knives Out is the latest example of a movie that understands how to use every tool in Shannon’s creative box. So it should come as no surprise that Johnson considers Shannon to be the comedic MVP of his troupe.

During a Q-and-A following a Los Angeles screening of the whodunit comedy Knives Out, Rian Johnson was asked by moderator Scott Mantz who stole the show behind the scenes while they were making the movie. And Johnson happily explained:

The stealth VIP of comic improv lines is Michael Shannon, which I don’t think anyone would have expected. That’s why it’s so funny. Basically all the funniest lines in the movie I think [were] Michael Shannon, like ‘I’m not eating one iota of shit.’ That was a Michael Shannon special. There’s a line when he starts shoving the cookies into Chris’ mouth and is like, ‘maybe Harlan left you a cold glass of milk in his will asshole.’ He just can bust these things out.

Some of these classic lines almost can get overlooked on an initial viewing of Knives Out. There’s a lot of bustling energy in the movie, with several characters talking over each other as they deal with the madness that flows in the wake of the murder of Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer). Members of the family are often accused, confused, and blustery. This leads to the ability for a talented comedian to venture off script with a well-timed line. And it sounds like Michael Shannon became the best one at doing this while filming Knives Out.

I’m not surprised that Michael Shannon had the ability to riff, comedically. The man stole scenes in seriously funny movies like The Night Before and They Came Together. What surprises me more is that Rian Johnson would allow detours away from his scripted dialogue. Not that the Brick and Looper director is precious about his words. But more that there’s a rhythm and cadence to the way that lines are delivered in his screenplays, so ad libs could threaten to rock that boat.

Apparently Michael Shannon’s additions were just that good. Rian Johnson also appeared as a guest on CinemaBlend’s own ReelBlend podcast, so to give that full conversation a listen, press play on our most recent episode.

Knives Out continues to perform well in theaters, so if you haven’t yet checked it out, do so now!

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Sean created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.