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Edward Norton And Janelle Monae Talk Their Characters' Complicated Backstories In Glass Onion - Exclusive Interview

There are a few ingredients you need for a successful whodunit. For starters, you need a solid, eccentric detective who's able to see all of the clues anyone else would gloss over. You also need an eclectic cast of characters for the detective to investigate, each one with a solid case for why they may be the murderer. 

"Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery" has both of these qualities in spades. At the center of the mystery is tech billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton). He's amassed quite a group of friends he invites for a little pandemic getaway on his private Greek island, including Cassandra "Andi" Brand (Janelle Monáe), a fellow tech enthusiast. Without giving anything away, let's just say the two have quite the contentious history with each other.

Looper's sister site, /Film, was able to conduct an exclusive interview with both Norton and Monáe in anticipation of "Glass Onion" being released in theaters. Take a look at what they have to say about their characters and the story at large.

On developing their characters' backgrounds

Your characters have a lot of history together, and we see some of that on-screen during the film. Did you two ever get together and talk about your two characters' backstory and [flesh] it out?

Edward Norton: Yeah.

Janelle Monáe: Yeah, we did.

Norton: With Rian [Johnson].

Monáe: We did a couple rehearsals with Rian, and he was super ... We all wanted to—

Norton: For us in particular, we needed to have a shared sense of what was that past.

Monáe: Backstory.

Norton: Not just the little glimpses you see, but in a way ... Even to the degree that we knew we didn't have to figure out exactly what was on that napkin, but we had to have an idea about what it was that propelled us into our partners.

Monáe: And we got it. We went so deep into backstory that we convinced Rian to allow us to shoot a scene where we had a shared love of David Bowie's "Moonage Daydream." And we used to perform it together — him on guitar, me on vocals — at a bar. It didn't make the movie, but maybe Rian might—

Norton: But we shot it. We shot their open mic night.

Monáe: We did, because we wanted to show the history. They have a complicated relationship.

Getting into the mindsets of the characters

Edward, I know you've talked before about there being real-life inspirations for your character. When you're preparing to play Miles, how did you get in that tech billionaire, douchebag, for lack of a better term, mindset for the character?

Norton: Narcissism and self-regard are ... Honestly, you don't run into narcissism so often in Hollywood, but when you do, you remember it. No. I'm just ... Look, it's—

Monáe: You got a lot of material, source material.

Norton: There are a lot of people who feed into the blender in which we created Miles. From the get-go, we had little characteristics or anecdotes we'd heard about this or that person, and we were weaving them in. Rian said, and I agree, if you base it on one person, it would be boring. It's better to take the best of the worst qualities from about a dozen people and put them all into one, and that's how you end up with someone really memorable. He's the embodiment of a species of people. He's definitely not inspired by one person in particular.

Janelle, we see different sides of you during this film, and I imagine that was a challenge to do. How did you approach showing those different sides of Andi?

Monáe: It was so much fun. As big a task as it was, it was super fun. I had a wonderful time collaborating with Rian on the energies. What is the energy here? What's the energy here? I got an opportunity to play and show more sides of myself as an actor, [from] the comedic stuff to the deep emotional lifting and everything in between. As an actor, it's a dream to be able to show so many different sides of you. I'm always thankful to Rian for trusting me with a character like Andi, who's so mysterious [and] super layered, and [there's] so much to discover about her.

I know there's one scene where there's a portrait, Edward, of your character. Did you pose for that?

Norton: No. They surprised me with that one.

Do you now own it?

Norton: No.

Monáe: It's in his house now. Yes, it is.

Norton: What?

Monáe: It's in your house over your bed now.

Norton: I don't want to ... I was going to save this for Christmas, but it's in your production office.

Monáe: Stop.

Norton: It's in Wonderland right now.

Monáe: I would love ... Oh my god.

"Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery" is now playing in theaters. It will be available on Netflix starting on December 23, 2022.

This interview has been edited for clarity.