Apple rules over its brand image with an iron fist—and that extends to the silver screen. In a Vanity Fair interview, Knives Out and The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson revealed that Apple won’t let villains and bad guys use iPhones onscreen. An interesting tidbit, but one that has the potential to spoil mystery movies and twists going forward.
The revelation came as part of Vanity Fair’s Notes on a Scene series, in which filmmakers break down scenes and share anecdotes from their latest projects. In the video, Johnson is just starting to explain a fraught family bickering session in Knives Out when he notes the iPhone in actress Jamie Lee Curtis’s hand.
“I don’t know if I should say this or not…not ‘cause it’s like, lascivious or something, but because it’s going to screw me on the next mystery movie that I write,” Johnson starts out. “Apple, they let you use iPhones in movies but—and this is very pivotal if you’re ever watching a mystery movie—bad guys cannot have iPhones on camera. So, oh no! Every single filmmaker that has a bad guy in their movie that’s supposed to be a secret wants to murder me right now.”
Whoops! Then again, Johnson’s reveal isn’t that surprising.
Apple is notorious for how its devices are portrayed in media. You might remember years of TV shows in which characters are clearly using MacBooks, only to have the iconic Apple logo on the lids covered by some sort of sticker. It’s also a common trope that bad guys use Android while good guys use iPhones. According to MacRumors and Wired, the spy show 24 also visibly reinforced bad guys using Windows, versus good guys using Apple devices. Part of that might stem from Apple’s guidelines for trademarks and copyrights. Under the section on compatibility, the guidelines state that “The Apple product is shown only in the best light, in a manner or context that reflects favourably on the Apple products and on Apple Inc.”
This all plays into the narrative that Apple likes to keep a squeaky clean image. Its new Apple TV+ streaming service was reported to have a $US1 ($1.6) billion budget but rumours have it that Apple has nixed or interfered with shows on its platform that stray from the family-friendly line. The result is a, for the most part, bland lineup that some have dubbed ‘expensive NBC.’
In any case, Johnson’s reveal might be useful for those of us who like to figure out plot twists ahead of time. Perhaps, there truly is a hidden meaning if a character texts and the recipient responds with green bubbles. But if you love being surprised by twists, maybe try not to pay attention to the type of phone characters are using.