And Now, An Intimate Conversation With Rian Johnson

In which the director of KNIVES OUT and STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI answers the Hard Questions.

I interviewed Rob Zombie a few weeks ago, and there was a question I wanted to get to but simply didn't have the time for. So, I'm gonna go ahead and switch that question over to you. 

Rian Johnson: Sure.

In your 1998 single, "Dragula", is the Dragula a car that is a vampire, or is the Dragula a car that's intended to be driven by vampires?

Well, that's an interesting question.

From your album Hellbilly Deluxe, this was.

I would have to look it up on my phone, I think...

Look, is the Dragula a vampire or not?

I was told there'd be no Star Wars questions.

Not gonna answer, huh? Typical.

No, I put these songs out there, and it's up to the fans to do the work. I make the stew and I serve it, but I'm not gonna sit here explaining the ingredients to you.


Now, you may be surprised to learn this, but you directed a movie called Looper starring Bruce Willis.

Yeah, I read that, in the trades.

On a scale of 1-10, how ticklish is Bruce Willis?

Bruce? I'm trying to think if I ever got to tickle him. He strikes me as someone who would be very ticklish. I don't know why, but when you said those words I had a perfect image in my head of how Bruce Willis would react to being tickled. I can just see the joy in his eyes - 

Can you impersonate Bruce Willis being tickled?

(does an impression of Bruce Willis being tickled) Tee-hee-hee-hee! And like his arm's curling up a little bit, like this (curls arm).

So he's a fun-loving sort, then?

He's lovely! He's a very intelligent guy, tends to be kinda reserved, but once you get to know him he's actually a lot of fun. Y'know what's really fun?


Someone had a baby on-set once, I forget who it was, and if you hand Bruce a baby he'll just - I mean, he loves babies.

Really? What does he do?

Well, he -

Does he coo? Does Bruce Willis coo at babies?

Look, there are two things you can do with a baby: you can talk to them, you can coo-coo them. 

You can put them in a catapult.

You can put a baby in a catapult, if you're Rob Zombie.

Dragula: Origins.

But Originz with a Z.

Are you familiar with the game Fuck, Marry, Kill?


OK, well, we're going to play FMK: Noah Segan Edition.

Oh god.

So here we go - Fuck, Marry, Kill: Kid Blue, Stomeroni Starck or, uh...the other one.

"The other one?"

You know, the other one.

So, I fuck Kid Blue. I fuck Stomeroni Starck. And I would absolutely fuck [Knives Out's] Trooper Wagner. Did I do this right?

Not at all, but let's move on.

Social media! Net good, or net bad?

For me, net good, otherwise I wouldn't still be on it. That's just personally. In terms of whether the world's gonna end because of social media, though...

What is your favorite thing about social media?

I mean, the most obvious answer in the world: how it connects people. That's also the worst thing about it. The degree to which I've been connected to other filmmakers or people I've become friends with, movie fans or people I never would've had any contact with, and suddenly I'm having a lovely little interaction with them? That brightens my day. That's pretty incredible, pretty wonderful.

Well, I'm working to illegalize it, so that's bad news for you.

Well, you're not helping. You're on there quite a bit.

I have to keep a tab open, Rian, it's part of my job. But speaking of illegalizing things, let's say you're made King of Hollywood - 

Uh, aren't I?

But let's say you're given the power to eliminate one standard practice in Hollywood. What is it?

Hoo, boy, lemme think. Y'know what I'd do away with? That little five-second pre-trailer thing that happens before a trailer. I hate that.

You know what that's for, though, right?

Yeah, I know exactly what it's for, because I've had it explained to me by everyone. And everyone hates it. I love watching trailers and there's nothing I hate more than watching a pre-trailer for a trailer. But, fine, I get it!

You a big Death Trap fan? Seems to be lots of Death Trap DNA in Knives Out.

Huge fan of Death Trap, absolutely. Death Trap and Sleuth.

I haven't seen Sleuth.

You wanna watch the original 1970's version, with Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier. It's fantastic. One of my favorites of all time. Actually, the production design on Knives Out owes so much to Sleuth

Y'all gonna get nominated for Knives Out.

David Crank was our designer, that guy's a genius.

How do you spell that?

C-R-A-N-K, just like our personalities.

I understand that you have publicly called for the imprisonment of Tom Hanks and I'm wondering if you can elaborate on that a bit?

I think we've seen, with this recent whistleblower situation, that I've been right all along. I'm finally being proved right, and the LameStream media is finally coming around to seeing the truth about the most evil man in the universe. 

For sure. Now, this is another sensitive topic, but there's been a lot of chatter lately about preferential treatment and entitlement in Hollywood, and despite all that, you cast your dad, Don Johnson, in Knives Out. Can you justify that or is this just pure nepotism?

Absolutely, 100% pure nepotism. But he also bribed me. He paid me in cigarette boats. I have three cigarette boats and I live nowhere near the water. It's a mess. There's no more room left in my front yard, just overturned cigarette boats everywhere.

Did you talk to your dad at all about his time on Miami Vice on the Knives Out set?

Oh, my god, of course. I mean, what the fuck - am I not gonna ask Don Johnson about Miami Vice?

Well, fair.

Y'know what's funny? Jodie Tillen, who was our production designer on Brick, was the costume designer on Miami Vice. She's responsible for the, y'know, the looks on that show.

Six degrees of Crockett and Tubbs!


What's your favorite twist ending?

Hm. That's a good question. Actually, y'know, I'll go with Death Trap. Although, the twist at the end of Death Trap isn't as good as the other twist in Death Trap.

Right right right.

If anyone out there reading this has not seen Death Trap, get some friends together and just watch it. That is a ride. Same with Sleuth. There's a twist in that one that happens not at the end, but partway through, and that's sorta the big deal twist in that movie. But overall, I tend to agree with Hitchcock: better to do the twist early and get the audience in on it, then have the engine of it be suspense rather than surprise.

Knives Out certainly accomplishes that. That is not the movie you think it is.

Put it on the poster.

How long do ya think until we get the Fan Remake of Knives Out?

What time is it? By noon, I'm hoping.

I was gonna say by Christmas, since it comes out at Thanksgiving. 

Yeah, maybe.

Do you recommend that people see this film with their families on Thanksgiving?

Oh, hell yeah. I mean -

Well, yeah, you recommend that everyone see it, period, but still.

See it with as big a family as you can find.

Maybe even a dysfunctional family.

Well, that's a big part of it, man. In 2019, we're all getting together with our families and after a couple glasses of wine you're all arguing about the same shit. So, yeah, take your family and see a family that's even more horrible than your own family. And have a laugh at seeing them argue about the same shit.

Yesterday I forwarded to you an important infographic about dogs. Did you have time to look that over?

I did. I mean, it's obvious the pants need to start at the waist and go down to the hind legs, because that's what pants do. The notion that...I mean, unless you had like a full body suit...

Excuse me - that wasn't an option.

That's what B is.

No, you said - 

(indicating where the dog's pants would go around its waist) It's starting here, right?


Yeah, no, that's the silliest thing I've ever heard of.

I will agree on B but I think it needs to cover the butt and then you need to have, like, a hole where the tail comes through.

I suppose that's possible.

Very well.

I wanted to see that movie Dogs Don't Wear Pants [at Fantastic Fest], but I was disappointed to learn that no dogs wear pants in that movie.

What was your favorite thing you saw at Fantastic Fest?

I didn't get to see a lot while I was here, but I made note of a lot of things I'd like to see later. Although, two friends of mine made a documentary about Phil Tippett that I did get to see, and that was fantastic.

Love the Tippett.

Oh, he's great. It's incredible how personally involved he was in all these turning points in special effects history. It tells the story of special effects over the past 30 years through his eyes, and I thought it was just beautiful. 

OK, final question: please tell me - actually, no, I'm gonna strike that "please" from the record.

Damn you.

Tell me something I'm not supposed to know about Star Wars.

(deep breath) Whew.

Something really inflammatory.

Did you know that when we shot all of Stomeroni Starck's closeups, he wasn't wearing any pants?

That's just standard operating procedure with Noah Segan, as I understand it.

Yes. He was the dog who did not wear pants.

Holy shit, dude.


(Note: Header photo by Dick Thomas Johnson, used w/ permission via Wikimedia Commons)