It’s amazing that Knives Out has been in theaters since Thanksgiving and this past weekend was still the 7th biggest movie at the box office, beating newer titles like Uncut Gems, Bombshell and Cats. Clearly, there’s still a lot of interest in Rian Johnson’s movie, which stars Daniel Craig as Detective Benoit Blanc. Now, the director has shared a fun Easter egg related to his fictional detective.
If you saw Knives Out, you should know there’s a scene in the film when Benoit Blanc is being introduced to the Thrombey family where it is referenced that he famously solved a case prior involving a tennis champ. In Knives Out we never get more detail than that, but Rian Johnson has revealed that backstory pays homage to the 1972 movie Sleuth. He said:
Yeah, a bit. So he’s [Benoit Blanc] a famous private detective. They make reference to, ‘You solved that case with the tennis champ.’ At the beginning of Sleuth, the novel that he’s dictating is Death by Double Faults. And he’s describing how the killer like paced along the line of the tennis court and threw the body like into the clay.
If you are unfamiliar with Sleuth, the Easter egg in question is about the 1972 movie starring Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine. In it, Olivier plays a mystery fiction writer, similar to Harlen Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) in Knives Out. Benoit Blanc’s character was supposed to nod to the movie to some degree as well, according to what he said during this EW rountable.
This isn’t the only time Rian Johnson tried to nod at Sleuth, as he noted that Benoit Blanc is a big lover of Stephen Sondheim, who is also a big lover of mysteries and who Laurence Olivier was supposed to be emulating in Sleuth. That’s some serious 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon stuff right there, but it’s how Rian Johnson’s works. He also told the LA Times.
I was listening to “Follies” while I was writing. I loved the idea that Blanc is working on the case and he’s got this big showstopper of a song in his head. Generally, I just wanted to get a Sondheim reference in there. Sondheim is an avowed mystery nut and puzzle nut. Actually Sleuth, I don’t know if it’s apocryphal, but supposedly the character that Laurence Olivier plays in Sleuth is based on Sondheim to some degree.
Knives Out is full of other references to the mystery genre, and he’s talked a bit about how the movie has been influenced by Agatha Christie and more to some degree, although he apparently didn't watch whodunits while putting together his film. The Sleuth Easter egg isn’t one that’s necessarily easily spotted, although it does help to flesh out Benoit Blanc's backstory a bit more.
Ultimately, people are interested in Daniel Craig’s version of Benoit Blanc and in a few years the likes of Rian Johnson and Kenneth Branagh (who brought Hercule Poirot back to the big screen recently) may be credited with a resurgence of mysteries back on the big screen. At least I, as a noted mystery lover, can hope for this.