De­tec­tive Her­cule Poirot has long been a fix­ture on our tele­vi­sion screens, thanks in large part to the ef­forts of David Suchet in ITV’s long-run­ning se­ries Agatha Christie’s Poirot. One of Christie’s most long-lived char­ac­ters, he has ap­peared in the pages of more than 30 nov­els, 50 short sto­ries and one play. But now, in his lat­est in­car­na­tion, the fa­mous Bel­gian crime solver re­turns to the sil­ver screen in ac­tor/director Ken­neth Branagh’s re­make of Mur­der on the Ori­ent Ex­press. The film is the fourth adap­ta­tion of Christie’s novel, fol­low­ing the 1974 film, a 2001 TV movie and a 2010 episode of Agatha Christie’s Poirot. Branagh plays Poirot him­self and is no stranger to the director’s chair. The Ir­ish­man has helmed sev­eral big-screen adap­ta­tions of Shake­speare plays, di­rected the first Thor film for Marvel and, more re­cently, di­rected Dis­ney’s live-ac­tion re­make of Cin­derella. He rel­ished the op­por­tu­nity to retell Christie’s 84-year-old story, telling ABC News: “I’m in­volved in a lot of Shake­speare and why do that again? Well, be­cause the world has changed and great writ­ing or great sto­ries res­onate with what the at­mos­phere is right now”. Branagh is sup­ported by an all-star cast in­clud­ing Johnny Depp, Daisy Ri­d­ley, Michelle Pfeif­fer, Pene­lope Cruz, Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe and Josh Gad. Dench and Branagh have worked to­gether many times be­fore and were star­ring to­gether in a West End pro­duc­tion of Shake­speare’s when he pitched the film to her. As the Os­car win­ner told The Daily Tele­graph, play­ing Princess Dragomirof­f was “hugely good fun”. “And whereas I was in al­most ev­ery shot in Vic­to­ria and Ab­dul, I was in very few shots (in Mur­der on the Ori­ent Ex­press),” Dench said. “I just had a nice cou­ple of dogs to deal with and a lot of jew­els to wear.” It was Dench who helped Branagh at­tract such a star-stud­ded en­sem­ble to the project, which is co-pro­duced by Ri­d­ley Scott and has a screen­play writ­ten by Michael Green (Blade Run­ner 2049). “Ken Branagh (is) some­one I have al­ways been in­ter­ested in and it had an in­cred­i­ble cast al­ready. The idea of work­ing with all th­ese peo­ple in an en­sem­ble movie re­ally ap­pealed to me,” Willem Dafoe told The Daily Tele­graph. As the clas­sic story goes, what starts out as a lav­ish train ride through Europe quickly un­folds into a stylish and sus­pense­ful mys­tery when busi­ness­man Ratch­ett (Depp) is mur­dered in the com­part­ment next to Poirot. When the train is stranded in an avalanche, it is the per­fect op­por­tu­nity for the mous­ta­chioed de­tec­tive to in­ter­ro­gate the re­main­ing strangers to de­duce who the mur­derer is be­fore he or she strikes again. Dafoe also re­vealed that the cast would play their own mur­der mys­tery game on their week­ends off to­gether. “We would play a game called Were­wolf, which is kind of a role-play thing: who in the room killed who? And it was just great fun,” he said. “Some peo­ple were very se­ri­ous about it, some were goofy and would kind of con­tra­dict their pro­fes­sional per­sonas. But there weren’t any jerks. Can I say that? Even Derek Ja­cobi (who plays Ed­ward Master­man) came to play.” Mur­der on the Ori­ent Ex­press opens in cin­e­mas on Thurs­day.

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