Warning: Don't read further if you don't want spoilers for the film Glass Onion.
When audiences first met Benoit Blanc in the 2019 film Knives Out, there was a hint that he might be a little more into musical theatre than your average bear. In one scene, as ambulance sirens blared in the background, the master detective was spied singing a few lines of "Losing My Mind" from Stephen Sondheim's 1971 tuner Follies. There's a murder case to solve, but Blanc still makes times for showtunes.
Now with Glass Onion, the second installment of the whodunit anthology series from writer-director Rian Johnson, we learn even more about the Southern sleuth, played by Daniel Craig (a Broadway and West End vet and five-time James Bond on film). He's a full-fledged Theatre Queen.
For one, Johnson publicly confirmed at the London Film Festival in October that Blanc is "obviously" gay. In Glass Onion, we briefly see him cohabiting with the always swoon-worthy, rom-com vet Hugh Grant. (More of that in the sequels, please.)
The other reason, besides the Follies singalong, requires spoilers.
In an early scene in Glass Onion, before he is called to solve his latest murder case, Blanc is seen in the bathtub, where he has spent much of his sullen pandemic existence. Blanc is playing "Among Us," a multiplayer online game, with a group of friends. "Among" those friends, all appearing as themselves, are the now-late musical theatre legends Stephen Sondheim and Angela Lansbury, along with actor Natasha Lyonne and basketball superstar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. We took particular joy in an eye roll from puzzle enthusiast Sondheim when crosswords were suggested as a way to get Blanc out of his lockdown funk.
It's not just random cameos, there's a reason Sondheim and Lansbury would be friends with Blanc.
Johnson stated in a Netflix interview that he was inspired by the 1973 whodunit film The Last of Sheila, co-written by Sondheim and Anthony Perkins. Perkins also starred in Evening Primrose, a 1966 television musical with songs by Sondheim. The Last of Sheila, like Glass Onion, boasted an all-star cast as a group of friends gathered for a week of game-play that turns into a murder mystery. The two writers were inspired to write the film based on their own scavenger hunts and murder-mystery parties devised for friends. (This story is full of layers, like an onion.)
And of course, Lansbury herself is no stranger to murder mysteries, either, having spent 12 seasons on Murder, She Wrote. She played mystery writer Jessica Fletcher who, week after week, found herself in the middle of a crime wherever she went.
It should be noted, too, that six-time Tony honoree Lansbury won one of her Best Actress awards as Mrs. Lovett in Sondheim's Sweeney Todd. (Another layer to the onion.)
Johnson recently told the New York Times how he secured the Sondheim and Lansbury cameos. Of course, Sondheim was game, and once he was in, he introduced Johnson to Lansbury. The scenes were filmed separately, Sondheim's on a Zoom call and Lansbury's at her home in L.A. Sondheim died in November 2021, and Lansbury in October 2022.
Johnson also noted that Lansbury, while game to be in the film, was "not a gamer ... she was very patient in letting me describe the rules of Among Us, up to a point. At which point she just said, ‘You know what? Just tell me what the lines are. I’ll trust you.’”
In the final credits of the Glass Onion, Johnson acknowledges the duo with the film's dedication, "with gratitude for a lifetime of inspiration."
After the success of Knives Out, Netflix bought two follow-up films from Johnson, who intends the series to follow the vein of Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle works. Each story will feature the same detective (with Benoit Blanc following a Miss Marple and Sherlock Holmes prototype), but the cases will not be related.
Glass Onion, like its 2019 Knives Out predecessor, features an ensemble cast of suspects, including Tony winner Leslie Odom, Jr. (Hamilton), Kathryn Hahn (Boeing-Boeing), Grammy winner Janelle Monáe, Oscar winner Kate Hudson, Oscar nominee Edward Norton, and former pro-wrestler Dave Bautista. A host of other celebs make cameo appearances including Yo-Yo Ma, Serena Williams, Ethan Hawke, and more. Also, theatre vet Jackie Hoffman can be seen in the mix with her trademark gruff line delivery.
Glass Onion is now streaming on Netflix.