Rian Johnson, 'Knives Out' cast talks film's fiery political debates and internet trolls

Kevin PolowySenior Correspondent, Yahoo Entertainment

Knives Out is a far cry from 2017's Murder on the Orient Express, the period piece and nth retelling of Agatha Christie's classic murder mystery. The acclaimed new comedic thriller, written and directed by Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper, Star Wars: The Last Jedi), feels very much of the now — a whodunit centered around the mysterious death of an excessively rich New England author and patriarch of an eccentric family of leeches — that is dripping with sly social commentary.

"Sly? I don't think it's sly," costar Jamie Lee Curtis interrupted us at the film's recent Los Angeles press day, where she was joined by Daniel Craig (watch above). "I think it's fairly overt."

Maybe we were being diplomatic. Knives Out does tackle issues like wealth disparity and immigration head-on, oftentimes through the blue state/red state bickering of its family members, who argue about President Donald Trump's border wall and "kids in cages," while we as an audience bristle at their collective snobbery. The film also gets in a ding or three on the current administration. When Curtis's real estate mogul mentions she's self-made, having "only" taken a $1 million loan from her father (Christopher Plummer) to start her business, you can bet that's a Trump joke.

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"These [issues] are all explored with plenty of delicious activity on both sides of the argument," Curtis said. "So it's not like you're walking into a liberal movie. You're walking into a movie where there are liberal points of view and there are very conservative points of view, and they all collide in this sort of hilarious mashup."

"Just like Thanksgiving," Craig added.

Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049) plays Plummer's longtime nurse and confidante, and a running gag in the film revolves around different family members confusing which South American country she emigrated from.

"It is important in every movie that we actually talk about what's currently happening, if it takes place in the year you're living in, that we mention — even with humor — what's going on," said the Cuban-born actress, who was joined by Chris Evans.

Johnson says he set out to consciously update the genre.

"So often when you see murder mysteries or whodunits, they're done as period pieces, and they're kind of timeless," he explained. "It seemed really exciting to me to say what happens to this genre if you plug it into 2019 in America? And that meant genuinely engaging with what's happening now. And that meant they're going to argue about what we're all arguing about with families, and politics is going to come up."

However, the director denies recent reports that he was fueled by the right-leaning internet trolls who have attacked him over his work on The Last Jedi (in which proudly helped diversify the saga's ensemble) in creating the character of Jacob Thrombey (Jaeden Martell), an alt-right activist in the making.

"That's a poorly quoted headline," Johnson said. "It's anyone who's on the internet right now. It doesn't matter if you made a Star Wars movie or if you have a cooking YouTube channel, or you collect books on the internet, someone's gonna be yelling at you on the internet.

"All of us have experienced this kind of gameified trolling. It's almost like a little byproduct of the social media system. It's the poop that comes out of the social media system. … Again, it's plugging into 2019 with this movie. It's the reality of our online lives. Let's put it up there on the screen for everyone to see."

Knives Out opens Nov. 27.

Watch Chris Evans talk about getting political while playing Captain America:

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