Glass Onion Director Rian Johnson Talks Working With Angela Lansbury On The Second Knives Out Movie

glass onion Angela Lansbury Rian Johnson
(Image credit: ABC/PBS)

Angela Lansbury was an acting legend, known for her work on Murder She Wrote and as Mrs. Potts in Beauty and the Beast. She won multiple Tony’s for her numerous contributions to the stage, and an honorary Oscar for the vast body of acting performances that left a stamp on the history of cinema. She sadly passed away last week at 96, but her memory lives on. Before her passing, she made a cameo appearance in Rian Johnson’s Glass Onion, which is a sequel to the wildly successful whodunit, Knives Out. Johnson recently opened up about what it was like working with the late-actress, and the sentimental impact she had on the film.

The Knives Out director screened Glass Onion at the London Film Festival this week, which included not only a posthumous performance by Lansbury, but by Stephen Sondheim as well. Sondheim was a lyricist and composer that is known for Broadway masterpieces like West Side Story, Into the Woods, and Sweeney Todd. Lansbury worked with Sondheim on Sweeney Todd, when she originated the role of Mrs. Lovett. Johnson addressed the memorable appearances by the two theater giants in a panel after the screening (via Deadline), by saying:

For both of them, besides just the honor of having them in the movie, personally just being able to have 10 minutes with each of them to tell them what their work has meant to me was really special. The fact that she’s in our movie, we were so blessed, and what an incredible life she had.

Rian Johnson was clearly very moved by his ability to spend time with Lansbury, and her previous work must’ve had an impact on him. Like him, many actors and directors have been sharing their love for Lansbury this week and the vast reach her work has had on audiences. Knives Out owes a lot to Murder She Wrote, which perfected the whodunit style of storytelling that the film drew upon. It feels very fitting for Lansbury to return to the genre that made her a household name for her last performance. 

It is unclear what part Lansbury plays in Glass Onion, but we do know that she is a part of an all-star cast that includes Edward Norton, Kate Hudson, and Kathryn Hahn. The film will follow a group of friends who try to solve a murder while on vacation on an island in Greece. If there is anyone that knew how to solve a murder mystery, it was Angela Lansbury. I’m sure she had a lot of fun returning to her old stomping ground, and the cast was lucky to have such an icon in the ensemble cast.

Johnson is no stranger to working with acting legends. The Last Jedi filmmaker also directed Christopher Plummer in one of his last major acting performances as Harlen Thrombey in Knives Out. I’m not surprised so many esteemed performers want to work on Johnson’s mystery films. They are somewhat a callback to classic mystery films of the past, and actors are probably clambering to work in such a traditional and fun format. The Knives Out franchise is better for it, with performances elevating the films and making them modern classics.

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery will be hitting theaters on November 23rd, and will be available for Netflix subscribers in December. To revisit Angela Lansbury solving mysteries herself as the famed writer Jessica Fletcher, Murder She Wrote is currently available for Peacock subscribers. The show is a lot of fun, and perfectly captures what made Lansbury so beloved. She will be missed. 

Caroline Young

Writer, podcaster, CinemaBlend contributor, film and television nerd, enthusiastic person. Hoping to bring undying passion for storytelling to CinemaBlend.