I traveled to the London Film Festival to interview the cast and crew of Glass Onion, the new mystery from Rian Johnson. In this first interview, I speak with Kate Hudson, Jessica Henwick, and Madelyn Cline about their work on the film, social media, and why playing it straight in comedy is often the hardest job.
In the movie, the painting of the Mona Lisa is a driving inspiration for one of the characters. In your career, is there anything or anyone that is that kind of an inspiration to you?
Kate Hudson: Oh wow, that’s big.
Jessica Henwick: I mean, I think the answer is often your mom, right?
Madelyn Cline: Of course, yeah, my parents.
Henwick: I mean (points at Hudson) your mom is an inspiration to everyone.
Hudson: I have a few. Growing up, what inspired me to become an actor, was musical theater. Or musicals specifically; Judy Garland, Bob Fosse, anything with Fosse to me was like “oh my God, please, I have to be in this world.”
But yeah, my mom, that’s who you want in your corner. That’s the great hope. Mine just happens to be Goldie Hawn. But I also feel that way about my dad (Kurt Russell). I’ve got a really good set of parents for inspiration.
But art-wise, I’d say Bob Dylan. I could disappear into his work—also Joni Mitchell. Growing up, they inspired me. I’d sit in my room and I’d dream, write, and sing. I’d see cinematic scenes in my head and it all came from the music. So, I’d say Bob. He’s my guy.
Last night on Graham Norton-
Henwick: YOU WERE ON GRAHAM NORTON?!
Henwick: I am so jealous.
On Graham Norton, you mentioned hosting murder mysteries even before appearing in this film.
Hudson: Yes! We play Mafia. I’ve hosted these evenings for a long time. Years, probably a decade at this point. It started with Werewolves and Villagers around 2009, where it was two friends of friends who brought this game to our group.
Then we moved on to Mafia, and we just love it. It’s great. The whole thing is about deception. Everyone is pretending to be townspeople, but then some people in the group are actually members of the Mafia, and you have to figure out who is who around the table. It’s hysterical.
The movie deals a lot with visibility. Hudson’s character, in particular, is a social media influencer. How is your relationship with social media and do you protect yourself from it?
Cline: I would say it’s wonderful to have, but I tolerate it. It does sometimes drive me to step outside of myself, to see myself as a third party, which is a little unhealthy.
Hudson: A little!
Cline: A lot unhealthy.
But, yeah, I tolerate it. I think it can be wonderful, to keep up with people close to me. But it is interesting, the whole keeping up a public image.
Hudson: Well, it’s a business. You’re curating your own magazine. When you have millions of people following you, you have a responsibility to that business.
But the one thing I like is that it’s your own narrative. You no longer have to rely on others to put stuff out there. Now you decide what gets out. I like to be authentic about what I’m doing. I’m not too precious about my life. I was at the start of my career, and it brought so much anxiety. I felt so much freer when I found I needed to let go of that and not imprison myself. When I started sharing things, I just felt better.
I will say that the problem is that you get addicted to it. There’s seeing your friends that’s one thing, but then seeing everything all at once and you’re like “I gotta get off this thing.”
And we know these things, we know social media causes anxiety and depression. We know it’s bad for teenagers. We have all this information and it’s still so hard to put down. It becomes the next thing you have to detox. When you’re doing it for business, it becomes a necessity, and when you want to put it down, which we should do with a lot of things, you can’t.
Cline: It is a brand, at the end of the day, but I feel like looking at it like that makes it feel sterile.
Hudson: I think the three of us are similar with our social medias. For others, it’s just business, but we’re just taking pictures of anything like “oh, that’s weird, here’s bread.” I think that there are different approaches, and that approach says a lot about somebody.
Jessica, you play the straight man against Hudson’s big, loud, colorful, and wonderfully wild performance. How hard was it to keep a straight face in the middle of everything?
Henwick: There were times when we’d corpse. In one scene, I have to scream and Daniel (Craig) just had to turn away because he couldn’t be on camera looking like he did. Just hysterical.
But a big part of why I said yes to the part was that I could shadow Rian (Johnson) as a director. Just to be a fly on the wall to this stellar cast, who’ll probably never be together once the press tour ends.
Hudson: (mock indignation) THAT’S… that’s not true!
Henwick: We live all across the globe!
Henwick: But seeing these heavyweights playing off each other and being a fly on the wall—
Hudson: You hardly were a fly on the wall.
Henwick: That’s what I came for, to watch and learn. I wanted to peel back the onion. I wanted to see Daniel’s process. How many takes he needs, what he does. Just as a fan.
Hudson: We were also such an odd couple, and this dynamic was so fun to play. It’s something that people don’t often understand about comedy: You’re only as funny as the straight guy. The straight person is so totally and completely important. It’s the whole butterfly to the moth to the flame thing; one can’t exist without the other. Straight man is the hardest. We were a good team.
Henwick: On the page, I think it was even a little bit straighter, and I think we brought it to life together really well.
Hudson: There is an adlib between us that we jumped right into. So many funny interactions that, while not in the film, built our dynamic. It was the foundation for that. Those adlibs. We started to feel the characters immediately once we met.
Henwick: It’s a fascinating relationship between two women that we don’t get to see on film often. They love each other, but on Peggy’s (Henwick’s character) side it’s also “I hate her, but I can’t get away from her because I love her.”
Hudson: I need your validation, too! Like a kid, I need that validation all the time in the film.
I don’t think I’ve laughed harder in a long while than with the reveal of her social media phone.
Hudson: That was the ultimate parental moment. The “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.”
Jessica, especially, has so many emotions running through her face that it’s delightful. Everything from disbelief to anger, to profound confusion.
Cline: And the way Kate is sitting on the bed, it reminds me of a toddler.
Henwick: I loved filming that scene. I was just looking at Kate like “God, you’re so good.”
There’s already a lot of humor in the scene, but you have to ground it, and your reactions are so human and honest, that was one of the moments where I went, “this is why I signed up for this film.”
Everyone talks about how the filming was a joy with this group, and how close everyone got throughout the months. After wrapping the film, how odd is it that you see each other on the press tour and then, as Jessica said, probably never again?
Henwick: Well, my plan is to hijack the set of the next Knives Out film, do you guys wanna come?
Hudson/Cline: Oh, hell yeah.
Hudson: I’m already jealous of whoever gets to go on the next one. But, that’s our life. I’ve had that since a kid. Falling in love with folks working on the film, and then not seeing them again. I cried so much when I was younger. You kind of get used to it. But it’s a part of the fun, if you love this work, creating these families.
Cline: But then you run into them at events. It’s like a fun, sweet surprise that you get to hang out with these people years later.
Hudson: It’s what I love about film festivals. You get to see those people you’ve worked with over the years.
Henwick: Have you guys read Alan Rickman’s memoir?
Hudson/Cline: Not yet.
Henwick: It’s so great. He talks about a moment at some afterparty, where he’s standing there, and he realizes that every single romantic lead he’s ever had is in the same room. So, he’s thinking “what an honor and a pleasure to have worked with all of the greatest talents, ever.”
I keep thinking if I’ll ever have that moment, to look around a room and realize that I’ve had the honor to have worked with everyone there.
Kate, you mentioned elsewhere that you have a little bit of jealousy for your son, Ryder, in this regard. Why is that?
Hudson: It’s because I didn’t go to college. I was offered a place, but at the same time, I got offered Almost Famous. And that’s a tough choice, but I think I made the right one. But now, Ryder, he’s now doing all of that, he’s going to the college I was accepted in.
He loves to make films, he loves to write, and he’s now in a place where he can hone in on his craft or crafts. He has all this information, and people of his own age, and he gets to go play with them for four years.
Henwick: I’m sometimes jealous I didn’t get to have that. To have a space where it’s safe to fail.
Hudson: He’s discovering who he is in the world, and that’s so cool. Single, in the city, in the art program, in New York, the center of the world.
But I bet you’d still pick what you picked back then.
Hudson: Oh, making a film with Cameron Crowe? Pfft, yeah, no question.