'The Glass Onion's' Surprising Celebrity Cameos Unpacked — Spoilers!
"The Glass Onion," the second in the "Knives Out" movie series from writer-director Rian Johnson, dropped December 23 on Netflix — and it's no mystery why it is one of the streamer's biggest hits to date.
The brain-teasing whodunit has a contemporary feel, incorporating the pandemic and the world's infatuation with unhinged billionaires and gadgetry into a story filled with colorful characters played by a virtual IMDb of stars.
Anchored by Daniel Craig as gentleman sleuth Benoit Blanc, "The Glass Onion" also features an Oscar-worthy supporting turn by Janelle Monáe, plus a wealth of other A-listers: Edward Norton as an Elon Musk-y "disruptor," Kate Hudson as a self-canceling model, Jessica Henwick as her hapless assistant, Kathryn Hahn as an overly ambitious governor, Leslie Odom Jr. as a scientist, and Dave Bautista and Madelyn Cline as an influencer and his trophy GF.
But aside from the starry main cast, the film has lots of dazzling celebrity cameos to help distract us from unraveling the mystery before Benoit does.
The biggest surprise comes in a scene with Blanc, early in lockdown, in a tub indulging in a game of "Among Us" — and his on-screen fellow players are revealed to include the late Angela Lansbury, who died this year at 96, and the late playwright Stephen Sondheim, who died in 2021 at 91.
According to The New York Times, Lansbury, who had not worked since 2018, only came on board once her great friend Sondheim urged her to accept. Johnson told The Times that explaining the multi-player aspect of the scene to Lansbury proved challenging. "She was very patient in letting me describe the rules of 'Among Us,' up to a point," he said. "At which point she just said, ‘You know what? Just tell me what the lines are. I’ll trust you.’”
Both Lansbury and Sondheim's presence hold special meaning, with Sondheim having been known for his murder-mystery parties and for co-writing the classic movie mystery "The Last of Sheila" in 1973 with his friend, Anthony Perkins of "Psycho" fame, and Lansbury's iconic "Murder, She Wrote" history.
The scene also includes Natasha Lyonne and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Lyonne told the outlet, “It goes without saying that [Sondheim and Lansbury] were giant losses of two incredible lives well-lived. I guess we’ll only know if I make it to 90 if I was actually worthy of being up there with them.”
Then there is the moment when Blanc's door is answered by a man we can only assume is his romantic partner, played by romantic-comedy staple Hugh Grant. It's a small moment, but surely Johnson is letting us know that in spite of his stressful hobby, Blanc has true romance at home.
Other famous faces who drift through "The Glass Onion" include Ethan Hawke as the ponytailed assistant to Miles Bron, Norton's character, and virtuoso cellist Yo-Yo Ma as an anonymous party musician.
More subtle winks include both Jeremy Renner's face on a monumentally useful bottle of hot sauce and some hard kombucha branded to none other than Jared Leto.
The film even teases audiences sonically — with the voice of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Bron's sardonic alarm clock!
Johnson recently told The Los Angeles Times he is "in the very top soil" of working on a third "Knives Out." Until then, "The Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery" is streaming on Netflix now.