How do you feel about intricate murder mysteries? Are you into Chris Evans playing a smarmy, trust fund brat in an impeccable sweater? What about Katherine Langford as a biting parody of a one-percenter who wears social justice like the latest line from Rag & Bone? If even one of these things floats your boat, you've probably been champing at the bit since the first trailer for Rian Johnson's new Agatha Christie homage, Knives Out, dropped. Langford, on the other hand, has been in on this immaculate mystery since its infancy and she just knew she had to be a part of it. Her reasons were pure — unlike some of us, who were sold the second we saw Evans and the aforementioned perfect sweater.
In Knives Out, Langford plays Meg Thrombey, a college student who is forever trying to convince her the members of her elitist family to care about things like climate change — though it should be noted that she doesn't always live by her own words. She's just one highly specific character in an parade of ultra-rich weirdos, played by the likes of Toni Collette (Meg's mother, and a wellness influencer); Jamie Lee Curtis (her aunt, and a "self-made" business woman); Michael Shannon (her uncle, and professional rider of his father's coattails); and of course, Evans (her cousin, a trust fund playboy with no job). Immediately, every member of the Thrombey family become suspects in the untimely death of the family patriarch and prolific mystery writer, Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), all while trying to hang onto their stake in his estate. The result is an immaculate whodunnit guided by Daniel Craig's southern-fried detective — or as Evans calls him in the trailer, "CSI: KFC."
It's a film that any actor would have a ball working on, and Langford is no exception.
And because I know you're already worried: Don't fret. Langford was very careful not to spoil the film's heavily guarded, and truly twisty twist.
Refinery29: This story is so tightly crafted — were you able to see the script before you took the role? What did you think of it?
Katherine Langford: There was something that just drew me in from start to finish. It felt really fresh, but familiar because of the genre and being an homage to Agatha Christie. Then [I] went on to audition for it and it was really competitive; the cast was super high caliber and the creators behind it are super, super high caliber.
There's only one character in the script that is your age, and appropriate for you to play — are there other roles in the film that made you a little jealous?
One of the greatest things about this film is the ensemble element and how you have all these really strong characters and strong personalities within the family that you can relate to or identify with. And that kind of adds to the satire and the humour within this film — every single one of them you kind of love and hate at the same time.
Rian Johnson is one of these really special special filmmakers and writers, to be able to translate what people found so special about the script and put that into the film. And as a whole it's entertaining and it's accessible, but it's also really clever.
Okay, and I promise this is related to the movie: Do you watch Succession?
Oh my gosh, yes. I've watched the first two episodes and there is a brilliant Australian actress in it, Sarah Snook.
I ask because, to me, this movie is Agatha Christie meets Succession. It's this lens of parody of the ultra-wealthy, which is this very en vogue thing in media right now. As a participant in this burgeoning trend, what do you think of this desire to put a magnifying glass on the upper, upper, upper crust of society?
Prior to social media, you had an idea, or a gloss or whatever, but the thing about having social media now and having phones with cameras in them is that you're able to see behind-the-scenes pictures of these lifestyles that beforehand we had only fantasised about. But in a strange way, I think now more than ever, they're almost more fantasised about because it's not just showing the reality behind it; on social media, you're trying to portray the best situation that you can. And I think at the end of the day, what you learned through films like these is that people are human and it doesn't matter how wealthy or how little do you have. You still have to deal with human emotions and human situations. No one is immune to death and, as byproduct of that, things like inheritance and family disputes are going to occur.
Obviously we can't talk about how it all turns out because it's brilliant and I don't want anyone to know before they get into the cinema, but how did you feel when you first saw the ending?
I think the first time I saw the film I was, I was in London, shooting a series called Cursed. I know that Rian was doing ADR and putting the soundtrack together at Abbey Road Studios while I was there, so one of the first opportunities I had to see the work we did on the film was when they were live recording the soundtrack. It was really special ... And even though it's a huge whodunnit-genre homage to that Agatha Christie-style murder mystery, it's not just about the mystery. It's about the whole journey and having such a dynamic and fabulous ensemble cast, and then also having the wonderful banter that Rian's written and the things that we've improvved in that it makes for a really wonderful journey. I think for me, that's what makes a great film; something that's interesting and that's entertaining and engaging, but you don't really have to work too hard to enjoy it.
Rian's scripts are so full of intricacy, so how did that improv work?
One of the many great things about Rian Johnson is that he's such an empowering director. He's so humble and very cool as a person and makes you feel very at ease. He really gave a lot of free reign to improv within the characters that he'd written.
We were shooting this 400-year-old house, and quite often I would just go behind the monitors, or I would go to set early if it wasn't my scene, and I would sit behind the monitors and just see what he was doing. And this is just an offside note to credit Rian as a person, but he saw that I was interested in what they were doing, so he would always make sure that I could see, or he would say, "Oh no, come over here. This is better to look at." He's a fabulous photographer and took these analog photos while we were filming at the end of production and he gave me an analog camera that I have with me at home, to use with film.
So if he finds a role for you in Star Wars, you're very in.
I'm obsessed. I'm a huge sci-fi nerd and I don't know if people know this, but when I was growing up, I was into Star Wars and Star Trek: Voyager and all these. When my dad grew up, he was sci-fi nerd. He grew up in the '70s so I'm obviously a byproduct since I was like 5 years old. I love Disney and I love Star Wars and Star Trek. So, that would be the coolest thing.
I wrapped this series that I've been working on for 10 months and I was at the airport, and suddenly on my phone I had all these things about the scene coming out. I got to shoot the scenes with Robert Downey, Jr. last year and it was just truly and honestly one of the most incredible experiences I've ever had in my life. It's something that I was content with just having in my memories and savouring in my mind. But to see that it came out was kind of a surprise. Ultimately what happened is that it was Marvel fans wanting to see that scene, which is why it ended up coming out. And it's kind of crazy because Avengers is literally the biggest franchise in the world so you can't please everyone and the fans had expectations of what they want, but the responses have been really positive. To have that experience with Robert Downey, Jr. who breathed life into this superhero narrative for people across the world, it's a really surreal and wonderful.
Are you allowed to talk at all about the series you were shooting — Cursed for Netflix? Why did you take on that gruelling schedule?
At some point last year, I was starting to work on something else and write a bit of music and I wasn't looking for anything necessarily. I was being very, very selective about potential projects and my agent sent through this incredible manuscript for this Arthurian legend about the Lady of the Lake. One of the things about the Arthurian legend is that there are very, very few female characters, and if there are female characters, there's no narrative about them. It's really the first retelling of Arthurian legend through the eyes of a woman and it was something that I finished reading and I just literally flipped out and went, Fuck, this is really good.
I think it was initially going to be like a six month shoot, but it ended up being close to a year. And you can understand why; we had fight scenes and I trained like all of last year to do horse riding, sword fighting, and then going to train just to not get hurt. It's telling a story of a true heroin that is capable and strong and not just altering a story because she's a woman. [It's] something I wish I'd had growing up.
You've mentioned working on a music a few times.
My whole life, music and acting have been two parts of me that I've always really loved. I felt like maybe music is something that I keep to myself because for me it's very personal. But then as I kept acting and doing jobs and doing press, it just felt like I really had to ask myself, Katherine, can you not do this? And the answer to that question was, No, I have to do it. The next thing that followed was me saying to myself, Well, look, if you're going to do it, you have to do it well. So it's been, from that decision and then telling my agents that that's something that I wanted to pursue, about finding the sound and writing with producers. And then, obviously, I have these incredible projects that come up like a film with Rian Johnson, and a 10-month series that is the first female retelling of an Arthurian legend. But I am working on it for the next few months. So, maybe it's something that people can look forward to.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.