Following the world premiere of Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant in London on Thursday night, 20th Century Fox today took advantage of execs, talent and press in town to unveil exclusive footage of three of its upcoming titles with international flavor: Murder On The Orient Express, Red Sparrow and Kingsman: The Golden Circle.
The studio kicked off the day at the capital city’s Ham Yard Hotel by screening unseen (and unfinished) footage from the Kenneth Branagh-directed adaptation of Agatha Christie classic Murder On The Orient Express. Along with Branagh — who stars as iconic Belgian detective Hercule Poirot — were 11 members of the starry ensemble cast including Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Olivia Colman, Willem Dafoe, Daisy Ridley, Lucy Boynton, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Sergei Polunin and Marwan Kenzari.
Attendees were introduced to the whole range of characters they play in the film, with footage mostly comprised of the ensemble on the train as they set off on their journey.
Before they settled in for a Q&A, James Prichard, Christie’s great grandson and chairman of Agatha Christie Ltd, said the estate “probably conjures up images of dusty, old libraries and ailing manor houses, but I hope as a business today we are here to show we are very much alive and kicking.”
Indeed, tapping into the legendary author’s classic mysteries has been amped up recently. The BBC announced last year it was set to film seven more of Christie’s novels for television while Downton Abbey scribe Julian Fellowes recently adapted Crooked House for the big screen with Glenn Close, Gillian Anderson and Christina Hendricks starring.
Pritchard said Branagh’s vision for Murder On The Orient Express “made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up” before unveiling about 10-15 minutes of footage, followed by the film’s trailer.
Speaking afterwards, Branagh revealed that there would be “some surprises” in his feature film version, and Ridley indicated that her character, Mary Debenham, would be “quite different” to the character in the book.
“I’m addicted to the work of great storytellers, so when you come back to a tale like Agatha Christie you’ve got a tremendous piece of entertainment, but you’ve also got something that touches quite deeply on loss and grief and revenge,” said Branagh. “Many of these characters have emotional secrets so a chance to combine a vicarious ride in the golden age of travel on the great Orient Express and then people it with the characters embodied by these actors who can bring this kind of detail and emotional depth to it, that was what was exciting to me.”
When probed about playing Poirot, Branagh said the legendary moustache (which is quite something on the big screen) is “at one and the same time a protection and a provocation. He can hide behind it, but also when people ridicule or dismiss him, they underestimate him and therefore his job as a detective becomes much simpler.”
Branagh explained that most of the filming was done in the UK’s Longcross Studios, where real trains were constructed and, to keep the experience real for the cast, LED screens of moving images surrounded the wagons.
“Quite a lot of us got motion sickness on it,” he said. Dench joked that her eyesight played tricks on her and she actually thought they were traveling the whole time.
When asked by a member of the audience which person they would choose to bunk with on the Orient Express, Gad came up as the most popular choice. “For sheer comedy value,” said Boynton, while Jacobi — referencing Gad’s headline-making turn in Beauty And The Beast — quipped it would have to be Gad because, “he’s a new gay icon.”
Fox releases Murder On The Orient Express domestically on November 10, with the UK to follow on November 24.