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The lengths Apple is prepared to go to maintain its good-guy image have been laid bare by director Rian Johnson with the revelation that cinematic villains are banned from appearing on-screen clutching an iPhone.

Referring to Knives Out, an all-star murder mystery, Johnson let slip one particular detail that viewers would have failed to notice in an interview with Vanity Fair, noting: “I don’t know if I should say this or not, because it’s going to screw me on the next mystery movie I write, but Apple let you use iPhones in movies but — and this is very pivotal if you are ever watching a mystery movie — bad guys cannot have iPhones on camera.”

Eagle-eyed viewers can thus strike-off Jamie Lee Curtis from their suspect's list after the actress was shown in one scene holding an iPhone aloft.

Johnson continued: “Every single film-maker who has a bad guy in a movie that’s supposed to be a secret wants to murder me right now.”

Apple hasn’t responded to the claims but such a policy would be indicative of its vice-like grip on the way its products are represented in TV and film, with the tech giants own guidelines stating that its devices must only be shown ‘in the best light, in a manner or context that reflects favourably on the Apple products and on Apple Inc’.

Apple’s goody-two-shoes on-screen image is reflected in its commitment to weed out third-party tracking software for its Safari web browser.