Glass Onion’s Detective Benoit Blanc Is a Theater Queen

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Glass Onion’s Detective Benoit Blanc Is a Theater Queen

We un-peel the layers of Stephen Sondheim and Angela Lansbury’s final screen appearances in the hit Netflix film starring Daniel Craig.

Daniel Craig in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

Courtesy of Netflix

When audiences first met Benoit Blanc in the 2019 film Knives Out, there was hint that he might be a little more into musical theater than your average bear. In one scene, as police sirens blared in the background, the master detective was spied singing a few lines of “Losing My Mind” from Stephen Sondheim’s 1971 tune. Follies. A murder may be happening, but Blanc still makes time for showtunes.

Now with Glass Onion, the second installment of the mystery 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 theater 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.

Warning: Don’t read further if you don’t want spoilers for the film.

In an early scene Glass Onion, Blanc is seen in the bathtub, where he has spent much of his sullen pandemic existence, playing “Among Us,” a multiplayer online game, with a group of friends. “Among” those friends, all appearing as themselves, are the now-late musical theater 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 are suggested as a way to get Blanc out of his lockdown funk.

It’s not just a random cameo, 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 Primrosea 1966 television musical with songs by Sondheim. The Last of Sheilalike 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 LA 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 OnionJohnson 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 Dave Bautista. A host of other celebrities make cameo appearances including Yo-Yo Ma, Serena Williams, Ethan Hawke, and more. Also, theater vet Jackie Hoffman can be seen in the mix with her trademark gruff line delivery.

Glass Onion is now streaming on Netflix.

Stephen Sondheim with Angela Lansbury and Len Cariou at the meet and greet the night before the first rehearsal of Sweeney Todd

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