Knives Out director Rian Johnson just gave a huge leg up to those of us who are terrible at solving mysteries in real time. (Or we guess you could say, Rian Johnson just revealed a perpetual spoiler for all modern-day mystery films. It’s your call, honestly.) While breaking down one of the film’s key ensemble scenes for Vanity Fair, he hesitantly revealed a very simple way to distinguish villains from everyone else. Here’s a hint: They won’t be camping out at The Genius Bar anytime soon.
The scene Johnson dissected involves the questioning of Ransom Drysdale’s (Chris Evans) potential role in the death of family patriarch Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer). In the shot Jamie Lee Curtis’ character, Linda Drysdale, is seen holding her iPhone. After praising the props department for their overall attentiveness, Johnson throws in an interesting aside, albeit very cautiously. “I don’t know if I should tell you this,” he laughed. “Not because it’s, like, lascivious or anything, but because it’s gonna screw me on the next mystery movie that I write.” He then throws caution to the wind and reveals, “Apple, they let you use iPhones in movies but—and this is very pivotal if you’re ever watching a mystery movie—bad guys cannot have iPhones on camera.”
So while we could debate the subjective nature of the “bad guy” label in films like Knives Out—where not everyone is a murderer, but there are still multiple shitty people at play—it’s unlikely that the story’s central villain will be seen chatting up his prey on the iPhone 11 anytime soon. As you can see, Linda is not the designated villain here; she’s just a greedy mess, that’s all. Phew!
There’s no telling if this tidbit will complicate certain visuals for the forthcoming sequel, but Johnson and other filmmakers could always just revert back to the super scary time of landlines and preserve some semblance of mystery. (It worked for Scream back in the day.) Otherwise, you should really check out the rest of the video below for Johnson’s insights on shot composition, blocking, and his giddy appreciation of Evans eating Belgium cookies.