“Glass Onion”: How they filmed the sculpture smashing scene

Warning: This story contains spoilers for Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.

Peel off the layers of the glass onion from Knives Out 2 and what do you get?

More glass.

At the heart of billionaire tech mogul Miles Bron’s (Edward Norton) garish Greek island mansion lies a trophy room containing dozens of glass statues as fragile as the ego and as transparent as the motives of their nefarious owner. In Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, Miles is eager to show off his glittering art collection to his morally corrupt friends after inviting them to a crime party at his private Mediterranean estate.

While filming the sequel to Rian Johnson’s 2019 crime thriller on location in Greece, the star-studded cast had to navigate a minefield of fragile, abstract characters meticulously crafted by the film’s production team. Until, of course, it was time to shoot the pivotal scene in which Miles’ cherished guests turn against him and tear his statue garden to pieces.

“By this point we had been shooting on this set for several months where everyone was afraid they were going to tiptoe around these delicate glass structures on pedestals and not want to knock them over,” Johnson said at the Los premiere of The Times last month Angeles “glass onion.”

“So everyone was so primed to want to smash the s— I didn’t have to tell them anything. In fact, they all yelled, ‘I want this,’ ‘I want to smash this’.”

Jessica Henwick as Peg, left, Daniel Craig as Detective Benoit Blanc and Janelle Monáe as Andi in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.

(John Wilson / Netflix)

The shocking moment comes shortly after the mystery film’s resolution. To avenge the murder of her identical twin, Helen (Janelle Monáe) presents the authentic bar napkin on which her sister Andi (also Monáe) wrote the original plan for Alpha Industries. In a desperate move, Miles – who co-founded Andi with Alpha before phasing them out of the company and persuading their mutual friends to testify in court he wrote the idea for Alpha on a napkin – setting fire to Helen’s only piece of physical evidence.

Distraught and seemingly defeated, Helen retaliates by destroying some of Miles’ personal belongings. She starts by smashing one of the glass statues in his lair – then another, and another. Soon the other vacationers join in – including those who previously defended Miles and betrayed Andi under oath.

According to Leslie Odom Jr., who plays scientist Lionel Toussaint, the statue-breaking sequence was one of the last scenes they shot, “obviously because we… couldn’t put the stuff back together.”

“It’s a common primal scream,” he said at the “Glass Onion” premiere. The performers “fed on each other. … And we were already such a family back then. We really danced together. We really felt each other. … I was just trying to take, receive and give that energy.”

Madelyn Cline, who plays conservative YouTube personality Whiskey, said she “channeled everything that pissed me off or ever has pissed me off” while destroying the glass sculptures.

“It felt like a rage dream,” she said. “It was kind of fun to smash and screw things up. And I felt like that really, really resonated with what our characters are going through and feeling, so I really went with that.”

If anything, the cast enjoyed destroying the statue set a little too much.

“Once I actually yanked her loose, it was actually a problem slowing her down so it wasn’t over too quickly,” Johnson said. “I’m like, ‘I know this is fun, but we need to balance this a bit.'”

Producer Ram Bergman said only three copies of each character existed, greatly upping the ante of each shot.

“You were always nervous,” Bergman added. “‘Let’s make sure we get it right, because after the third day we’re out.’ So for me that was the stress… because if we run out of breath, we’re screwed.”

Mistakes were inevitably made.

While rehearsing the chaotic sequence, Jessica Henwick — who plays Peg, the exhausted assistant/publicist to a troubled former cover girl (Kate Hudson) — dropped her statue before Johnson could say “Action!”

When Johnson blocked the scene, he instructed the actors to smash their statues at three — “and I just heard ‘1, 2, 3,'” Henwick said, “and I threw it.”

Luckily, one of the cameras caught their mistake, and that’s the shot they ended up using in the film: “When I look up – horrified – I’m looking straight at Rian,” Henwick said. “They cut just before I leave, ‘I’m so sorry.'”

Aside from the limited inventory of statues and Henwick’s blunder, the shoot that involved smashing the statue went relatively smoothly and served as a compelling prelude to the Netflix film’s explosive finale.

“Thankfully, Janelle and everyone else got it right,” Bergman said. “And I think we have a few [statues] went too, so we did well. …I had no idea how it would be in the movie. But when it happened and everyone was really good… it’s a good feeling.”

David Viramontes, the Times’s audience engagement editor, contributed to this report.

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