Rian Craig Johnson (born December 17, 1973) is an American film director, producer, and screenwriter. He made his directorial debut with the neo-noir mystery film Brick (2005), which received positive reviews and grossed nearly $4 million on a $450,000 budget. Transitioning to higher-profile films, Johnson achieved mainstream recognition for writing and directing the science-fiction thriller Looper (2012) to critical and commercial success. Johnson landed his largest project when he wrote and directed the space opera Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017), which grossed over $1 billion. He returned to the mystery genre with Knives Out (2019), earning him an Academy Award nomination for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
Rian Craig Johnson
December 17, 1973
Silver Spring, Maryland, U.S.
|Alma mater||University of Southern California|
|Relatives||Aaron Johnson (brother)|
Nathan Johnson (cousin)
Outside of film, Johnson directed three episodes of the television drama series Breaking Bad (2008–2013). He received the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – Drama Series in 2013 for his work on the season 5 episode "Fifty-One".
Johnson was born on December 17, 1973, in Silver Spring, Maryland. He grew up in Denver, Colorado until sixth grade, when he moved to San Clemente, California. He attended San Clemente High School (graduating in 1992), where Brick was predominantly filmed. He attended the University of Southern California and graduated from the USC School of Cinematic Arts in 1996. Johnson's second short film, Evil Demon Golfball from Hell!!!, loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart", was included as an easter egg on the Looper Blu-ray.
Johnson has said he was inspired to become a film director after seeing Woody Allen's 1977 film, Annie Hall. "It moved me in a way that very few other films have moved me. That's something that, I pray to God, if I am able to keep making movies, I can only hope, twenty years down the line maybe, I'll be able to approach."
Johnson's debut film, Brick, is a crime drama released in 2005 and made for just under $500,000. Johnson has often said that he looked to the novels of Dashiell Hammett as inspiration for the film's unique use of language. While the film is classified as a film noir, Johnson claims that no references were made to film noir during production, so as to focus the production away from reproducing a genre piece. Brick was released on DVD by Focus Features.
Johnson directed the video for the Mountain Goats' song "Woke Up New" in 2006. He is a professed fan of the band and was asked to direct the video when bandleader John Darnielle noticed a reference to them in the credits for Brick. A song is credited to "The Hospital Bombers Experience", which is a reference to the Mountain Goats song titled "The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton". Johnson also directed a live performance film of the Mountain Goats' 2009 album The Life of the World to Come. The film consists of a single shot, depicting Darnielle performing the entire album on guitar and piano with minimal accompaniment. This film was screened in New York City, Chicago, Seattle, and Portland, Oregon upon its completion, and was released as a limited edition DVD on Record Store Day (April 17, 2010).
Johnson's second film, The Brothers Bloom, is a con-man story released in theaters in May 2009 to moderately positive critical reviews. On Metacritic, the film was assigned a weighted average score of 55 out of 100 based on 26 reviews from mainstream critics.
In March 2010, Johnson announced that he was directing an episode of the TV series Breaking Bad for its third season. The episode, "Fly", aired on May 23, 2010. Johnson directed a second episode of the show, "Fifty-One", which aired on August 5, 2012, and earned him a Directors Guild of America Award. He directed a third episode, "Ozymandias", which received high praise from critics, frequently cited as being 'one of the best television episodes' to air.
Johnson has made a number of short films, some of which are available on his website. His short film from high school titled Ninja Ko is available as an easter egg on the Brick DVD. The Brothers Bloom DVD features a short, Buster Keaton-esque silent film he made in college. After working with Joseph Gordon-Levitt on Brick, the two shot a short film in Paris, France titled Escargots. In 2002, he directed a short film titled The Psychology of Dream Analysis, which is available to view on his Vimeo account. Johnson directed the episode "Manifest Destiny" of the TV series Terriers.
Johnson's third film, Looper, began shooting in Louisiana on January 24, 2011 and was released on September 28, 2012, by TriStar Pictures and FilmDistrict. Set in the near future, it has been described as dark science fiction, and involves hitmen whose victims are sent from the future. The film opened the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival and the 2012 Palo Alto International Film Festival. Looper was a surprise success at the box office.
On June 20, 2014, news broke that Johnson would write and direct the eighth installment in the Star Wars film series. Johnson confirmed the report that following month and the film, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, was released on December 15, 2017, to positive reviews from critics and audiences. After Colin Trevorrow departed Episode IX, Johnson turned down an offer from Lucasfilm to write and direct the follow-up to The Last Jedi. On November 9, 2017, it was announced that Johnson would write a new trilogy of Star Wars films, separate from the main story arc of previous films in the franchise, and would direct the first installment of his trilogy.
Following The Last Jedi, Johnson directed the murder mystery film Knives Out, starring Daniel Craig, Ana de Armas and Christopher Plummer. He penned the script and co-produced with longtime producing partner Ram Bergman. Knives Out was released on November 27, 2019, and was a major success with critics, as well as audiences, grossing over $300 million at the box office worldwide. It earned Johnson his first Academy Award nomination, for Best Original Screenplay.
In September 2019, Johnson and producer Ram Bergman launched T-Street, a company that will generate original content for film and TV shows. The venture is fully capitalized by global media company Valence Media. T-Street launched with a first look deal with Valence Media's Media Rights Capital for film and television projects. Valence Media holds a substantial minority equity stake in the company. Johnson and Bergman intend to make their own original creations through the company, and produce others.
Due to the success of Knives Out, Lionsgate announced that a sequel was officially approved, with Johnson set to return to write/direct the film. In 2020, Johnson directed a commercial for the augmented mobile video game Pokémon Go. In March 2021, it was announced that Johnson was writing/directing a 10 episode mystery drama TV series for Peacock titled Poker Face starring Russian Doll‘s Natasha Lyonne. That same month, it was reported that Netflix had obtained the rights to two sequels to Knives Out for around $450 million.
Johnson is a folk singer and banjo player. His brother is music producer Aaron Johnson. His cousin Nathan Johnson composed the scores for Brick, The Brothers Bloom, Looper, and Knives Out. Rian and Nathan make up a folk duo called the Preserves.
|2008||The Brothers Bloom||Yes||Yes||No|
|2010||The Mountain Goats: The Life of the World to Come||Yes||No||No||Direct-to-video documentary|
|2017||Star Wars: The Last Jedi||Yes||Yes||No|
|TBA||Untitled Knives Out sequel||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|TBA||Untitled second Knives Out sequel||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|TBA||Untitled Star Wars film||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|1990||Ninja Ko, the Origami Master||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|1997||Evil Demon Golfball from Hell!!!||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|2001||Ben Boyer and the Phenomenology of Automobile Marketing||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|2002||The Psychology of Dream Analysis||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|2014||HitRecord on TV||No||Yes||"RE: Trash"|
|2008||"Woke Up New"||The Mountain Goats|
|2018||"Oh Baby"||LCD Soundsystem|
|1997||Greater Than a Tiger||Editor|
|2015||BoJack Horseman||Bryan (voice)||Episodes: "Yes, And" and "Out to Sea"|
|2016||Rogue One: A Star Wars Story||Imperial Technician||Cameo role|
|2017||Star Wars: The Last Jedi||Luke Skywalker's Hand||Cameo; as Hand double|
|2020||Look Closer||Pokémon Go Fest|||
Awards and nominations
- Dwyer, Shawn (2010). "BIOGRAPHY". Turner Classical Movies. Archived from the original on November 8, 2017. Retrieved November 7, 2017.
- Dawson, Nick (May 15, 2009). "Rian Johnson, The Brothers Bloom". Filmmaker Magazine. Archived from the original on November 7, 2017. Retrieved November 7, 2017.
- "Rian Johnson Biography". iMDb.
- "Blu-ray.com". Bluray.highdefdigest.com. Archived from the original on February 2, 2014. Retrieved March 5, 2014.
- Johnson, Rian. Interview by Robert K. Elder. The Film That Changed My Life. By Robert K. Elder. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2011. N. p17. Print.
- Stephen Holden (March 31, 2006). "Joseph Gordon-Levitt Is a Teenage Bogart at Noir High in 'Brick'". The New York Times. Archived from the original on June 22, 2013. Retrieved October 10, 2012.
- "The Brothers Bloom reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on May 23, 2019. Retrieved April 22, 2010.
- "Brothers Bloom, The reviews". Metacritic. Archived from the original on March 16, 2021. Retrieved April 22, 2010.
- Puig Claudia (May 17, 2009). "'Brothers Bloom' is a con story that doesn't cheat". USA Today. Archived from the original on November 5, 2009. Retrieved April 22, 2010.
- Couch, Aaron; Kilday, Gregg (February 2, 2013). "DGA Awards: Ben Affleck Named Best Director for 'Argo'". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on August 29, 2014. Retrieved February 7, 2013.
- Ryan, Maureen (September 15, 2013). "'Breaking Bad' 'Ozymandias' Recap: Devastation". The Huffington Post. Archived from the original on September 17, 2013. Retrieved September 16, 2013.
- Mendelsohn, Tom (September 17, 2013). "Is Breaking Bad's Ozymandias the greatest episode of TV ever written?". The Independent. Archived from the original on January 11, 2017. Retrieved September 18, 2013.
- Branham, Matt (October 7, 2016). "The 10 Best Episodes Of TV History". CraveOnline. Archived from the original on March 2, 2018. Retrieved February 28, 2017.
- Bishop, Hunter (February 15, 2016). "The Five Best TV Episodes Of All Time". FanSided. Archived from the original on March 1, 2017. Retrieved February 28, 2017.
- rcjohnso Plus (August 19, 2008). "Vimeo.com". Vimeo.com. Archived from the original on May 29, 2014. Retrieved March 5, 2014.
- "TV Squad". TV Squad. Archived from the original on January 1, 2011. Retrieved March 5, 2014.
- "Official Looper production blog". Loopermovie.tumblr.com. Archived from the original on August 15, 2013. Retrieved March 28, 2011.
- Fischer, Russ (May 13, 2009). "Rian Johnson lets slip a few more details about Looper". CHUD.com. Archived from the original on May 17, 2009. Retrieved May 18, 2009.
- "Looper to launch Toronto film festival". BBC News. Archived from the original on July 24, 2012. Retrieved July 25, 2012.
- "PALO ALTO INT'L FILM FESTIVAL RETURNS SEPT. 27–30 2012" (PDF). Palo Alto International Film Festival. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 4, 2013. Retrieved September 4, 2012.
- Fleming, Mike Jr. (June 20, 2014). "UPDATE: 'Star Wars' Bombshell! Rian Johnson To Write, Direct Next Two Films". Archived from the original on June 28, 2018. Retrieved July 25, 2018.
- D'Alessandro, Anthony (December 17, 2017). "Did Audiences Enjoy 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi'? Deciphering Online User Reviews From Exit Polls". Deadline. Archived from the original on December 23, 2018. Retrieved December 17, 2018.
- Fleming, Mike Jr. (September 12, 2017). "JJ Abrams Returning To Director's Chair On 'Star Wars: Episode IX'". Archived from the original on August 28, 2019. Retrieved September 9, 2019.
- Fleming, Mike Jr. (November 9, 2017). "Rian Johnson To Create New 'Star Wars' Universe Film Trilogy". Archived from the original on July 25, 2018. Retrieved July 25, 2018.
- "Toronto: Daniel Craig Joins Rian Johnson Murder Mystery 'Knives Out'". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on September 7, 2018. Retrieved September 10, 2018.
- McClintock, Pamela (December 2, 2019). "How Original Films Saved the Thanksgiving Box Office". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on December 2, 2019. Retrieved December 2, 2019.
- "Knives Out (2019)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
- Hipes, Patrick (February 6, 2020). "'Knives Out' Sequel Officially A Go As Lionsgate Hints At Franchise". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on February 7, 2020. Retrieved February 14, 2020.
- Fleming, Mike Jr. (September 5, 2019). "'Knives Out' Duo Rian Johnson & Ram Bergman Form T-Street With Funding From Valence Media/MRC: Toronto". Archived from the original on November 29, 2019. Retrieved November 24, 2019.
- Beresford, Trilby (July 7, 2020). "Rian Johnson Directs Commercial for Virtual 'Pokemon Go' Fest". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on July 6, 2020. Retrieved July 7, 2020.
- Nellie Andreeva (March 16, 2021). "Natasha Lyonne To Star In Rian Johnson Mystery Series 'Poker Face' Picked Up By Peacock From MRC Television". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 16, 2021.
- Donnelly, Brent Lang,Matt; Lang, Brent; Donnelly, Matt (March 31, 2021). "Netflix Buys 'Knives Out' Sequels for $450 Million". Variety. Retrieved June 14, 2021.
- "For 'Last Jedi' Director, The Journey To 'Star Wars' Began With Action Figures". NPR. December 15, 2017. Archived from the original on September 11, 2020. Retrieved November 18, 2019.
- "Karina Longworth on Instagram: "We got married."". Instagram. Retrieved September 23, 2019.
- Schulman, Michael (September 30, 2016). "Ghosts of Old Hollywood, as a Podcast". New York Times. Archived from the original on December 1, 2017. Retrieved November 25, 2017.
Ms. Longworth said, at the house in the Los Feliz neighborhood that she rents here with her boyfriend of five years, the director Rian Johnson ("Looper").
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