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After delivering Star Wars: The Last Jedi to the masses, Rian Johnson pivoted to Knives Out, a whodunnit that had been lingering his the recesses of his mind for over a decade. Unlike with The Last Jedi, Johnson was able to screen Knives Out in front of test audiences, a step in the filmmaking process that he enjoyed and wasn’t able to do with Episode VIII. As Johnson recalled:
It was like a party in the theater, it was really fun. It was like the first time I was like ‘Oh wow, this actually plays. This is good.’ Which is really nice and that’s something on Star Wars, you can’t test Star Wars movies for a lot of different reasons. I’ve always hated test screening, and when we were making Star Wars, at a certain point in the process you’re like ‘God, I would give my left arm to put this in front of 300 people in Burbank and just see how it plays.’
Anyone who follows the Star Wars news cycle will understand why movies set in a galaxy far, far away can’t be test screened. Lucasfilm does its best to keep spoilers under lock and key as a Star Wars movie is being put together, but if you show a test audience an early cut of the said movie, that could lead to plot details being shared online afterwards by someone who attended the screening, even if they signed an NDA.
So while that wasn’t an option for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, as Rian Johnson explained on one of the special features on the Knives Out Blu-ray, he was able to screen his mystery movie ahead of its wide release, and it sounds like it was a fun experience. It provided him an opportunity to get a sense of how someone not involved in the filmmaking process felt about Knives Out, and fortunately, those in attendance liked it.
That was the precursor to how Knives Out would be received during its time in theaters. Met with critical acclaim, Rian Johnson’s movie ranks at 97% among critics and 92% among audiences on Rotten Tomatoes, and it scored an A- on Cinemascore. Additionally, Knives Out has been quite commercially successful, making approximately $313 million off a $40 million budget.
Following the investigation into the murder of a wealthy novelist, Knives Out’s ensemble cast includes Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Colette, Christopher Plummer, Katherine Langford, Lakeith Stanfield and Jaeden Martell, among others. Among Knives Out’s many accolades was Rian Johnson scoring an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
Before Knives Out was widely released, Rian Johnson expressed interest in penning a sequel, and by this past January, he’d already begun writing one up. A month later, Lionsgate announced that Knives Out 2 got the green light, though rather than bring back most or all of the Knives Out cast members, Daniel Crag’s Benoit Blanc will be the only one reprising his role, as Blanc will be investigating a brand-new mystery.