Edward Norton Really Did Dress as Tom Cruise in ‘Magnolia’ for His ‘Glass Onion’ Tech Billionaire’s Flashback

The “Knives Out” sequel director Rian Johnson had no idea Norton would show up dressed as Frank T.J. Mackey

Ed Norton Glass Onion and Tom Cruise Magnolia
Netflix/New Line Cinema

While playing tech billionaire (and arguable Elon Musk stand-in) Miles Bron in Rian Johnson’s “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” Edward Norton took an opportunity to make a good-natured joke at the expense of Tom Cruise and one of his more famous onscreen characters.

In a flashback that occurs around 80 minutes into the 140-minute feature, several major characters meet up and discuss their shared destinies. It’s a key contextual moment during which Bron first meets characters (and eventual suspects) played by Janelle Monáe, Kate Hudson, Leslie Odom Jr., Kathryn Hahn and Dave Bautista. After a few moments, in walks Bron, who’s sporting long hair and a black leather vest over a velvet shirt with the top buttons undone.

If you found yourself thinking, “Hey, that looks like Tom Cruise as Frank T.J. Mackey in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Oscar-nominated 1999 epic ‘Magnolia,’” well, you would be correct.

Writer and director Johnson had no idea Norton was going to gently rib the iconic movie star’s Oscar-nominated turn via his wardrobe choices.

Johnson recently told Business Insider that Norton “and Jenny Eagan, our costume designer, came up with the look. I started cracking up. But then I thought, ‘Is this too much?’ I also thought, ‘What is Paul going to think of this?’ Hopefully he takes it in the right spirit.”

Norton’s costuming was obviously not intended as a dig at Cruise or Anderson’s acclaimed ensemble melodrama, but it made sense in terms of a character who tends to steal the work and credit of those around him. Such offhand theft even applies to his wardrobe.

Now that “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” has debuted on Netflix following a one-week semi-wide theatrical engagement over Thanksgiving, audiences will get the chance to watch Johnson’s second Benoit Blanc whodunit this Christmas.

The “Miles Bron cosplays as T.J. Mackey” bit is obviously more of a contextual in-joke as opposed to a major plot spoiler or character reveal. It’s also the best kind of reference. If audiences recognize the bit, it’s an earned chuckle. However, those unaware aren’t taken out of the ongoing narrative and the costuming choice still makes sense in terms of the characters and the story being told.