A self-professed whodunit junkie, “Knives Out” writer-director Rian Johnson never wanted his first stab at the genre to play as a parody.

“I was very much thinking of tone from the start,” Johnson said during the Variety Screening Series presented by Vudu. “I wanted it to be funny. First and foremost though, I wanted it to be a straightforward whodunit that was about something, as opposed to a movie that was poking fun at whodunits.”

Johnson went on to describe how much of the film’s humor was discovered through its actors. “In the script, I erred on the side of it being more serious,” he said. “It takes a really good actor to give the massive performance that they’re giving on screen and not have it tip over into feeling like a joke.”

Daniel Craig plays Benoit Blanc, the private detective that’s been anonymously hired to solve the murder of 85-year-old crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer). Johnson pointed to Blanc’s thick Southern accent as one of the film’s primary comedic elements, serving as a cultural counter to the New England WASP background of his suspects.

“I wanted (the accent) to be gentle and pleasant to the ear. I kept telling our producers it was going to be subtle,” Johnson said before throwing up his arms. “Sorry, producers!”

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