The 2017 adaptation of the beloved Agatha Christie novel stars a powerhouse cast of Tom Bateman, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judie Dench, Michelle Pfieffer, and Kenneth Branagh, who also directed the film. Branagh stars as the film’s main protagonist, famed detective Hercule Poirot who finds himself stranded on the Simplon-route Orient Express service a night after a vicious murder was committed on the train.
Praised for the cast’s strong performance and incredible production value, the film exceeded plenty of expectations from mystery film fans, critics, and casual viewers alike. Just like detective Poirot shed light on the story’s riddle, here are five facts about this well-loved tale that may make it a little less mysterious.
1. The 2017 version is fourth screen adaption of Murder on the Orient Express, while fifteen actors have portrayed Hercule Poirot
The 1934 novel by Agatha Christie has proven that its impact can be felt well beyond its era. The 1974 adaptation is the first and only other big screen version, starring Albery Finney, Ingrid Bergma, and Sean Connery. It was revived in 2001 for a made-for-TV-film, and then again in 2010 as an episode of the Agatha Christie’s Poirot series.
Meanwhile, beloved Belgian detective Hercule Poirot has been played by fourteen actors prior to Branagh. These include Francis L. Sullivan, Tony Randall and Alfred Molina.
2. The novel was inspired by a real-life murder mystery
While not actually based on a confirmed murder, Murder on the Orient Express was inspired by the kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh’s 20-month-old son. The boy was held for a $50,000 ransom, and while the full amount was paid, he was unfortunately never returned to his family.
3. The actual Orient Express has gotten marooned a few times much like in the novel, and Agatha Christie experienced it first-hand
Speculated as an inspiration for the novel as well, the Orient Express was actually trapped in a blizzard in 1929 and was stranded for six whole days. Agatha Christie would experience a similar occurrence two years later on the same train after heavy rainfall and flooding washed away part of the tracks.
4. The cast bonded in several interesting ways behind the scenes
Fitting with the theme of the film, the cast of the film would reportedly often play the popular party mystery game “werewolf” where the group had to work together to solve who the randomly assigned “killers” are in the game. Penélope Cruz won the most, apparently due to her innocent demeanor.
When it came to in between takes, Josh Gad would incessantly and jokingly interrogate co-star Daisy Ridley about her role on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Her reactions were videoed by Gad and are now uploaded on his social media pages.
5. The crew went into great lengths to create the level of detail and intricate work that went into the film’s production value
A moving train is not exactly the most friendly and accessible of shooting locations, so the production had moving animations of the landscapes played on large screens to create the illusion of movement. This actually caused Josh Gad some motion sickness, but created incredible results.
Some interesting details also include the ode to “The Last Supper”, where the 12 passengers sitting on long table at the tunnel mirror the composition of the famous painting. Michelle Pfieiffer was also reported to be involved months in advance in the construction of her character’s hair and wardrobe. Finally, Murder on the Orient Express is Branagh’s second movie to be shot in 65mm film and is the fourth film of the decade so far to do so.
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