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"Christie had a tendency to fill her books with 60-year-old English white people, which only takes you so far in terms of interest and casting," the writer says.Cruz's missionary has been changed from Swedish to Spanish, for instance, and an Italian character has become Cuban.But as the cast reveal, it was murder just trying to compete ALL ABOARD! A GOODLY portion of planet Earth's most famous residents have gathered today at Longcross Studios outside London to shoot a scene set at Stamboul (now Istanbul) train station for director Sir Kenneth Branagh's adaptation of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express (out Nov. Branagh, who also plays Christie's famous Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, is present and properly dressed in 1930s-era attire.So too are Star Wars heroine Daisy Ridley, Michelle Pfeiffer, Willem Dafoe, Hamilton star Leslie Odom Jr., and British acting royalty Dame Judi Dench and Sir Derek Jacobi. In one corner of the soundstage, Josh Gad and Olivia Colman (Broadchurch) are discussing the Police Academy franchise; Penélope Cruz is gliding past the re-creation of a vintage train talking on her phone in Spanish; and Johnny Depp is ruminating to a reporter about the likelihood of his character's long brown coat being made out of leather.Further proof that this is not your granny's Christie: The train in the film is stalled by an avalanche rather than a snowdrift, with the passengers stranded on a perilously high bridge—and Branagh's detective is far more physically fit than his predecessors."One of the earliest thoughts was to imagine Poirot not at the tail end of his career but still honing his craft," Green says.Most notably, the character of Colonel Arbuthnot was updated from a white English soldier to an American doctor of color (Odom)."He's a black doctor in the early 20th century," Odom says. What would that man have had to be made of to get to where he was?
"I think we're making a scarier film than people might imagine."Green also dragged Christie into the modern era.First published in 1934, and inspired by Christie's journeys on the real-life luxury locomotive, which then ran between Istanbul and Paris, the book finds Poirot investigating a fatal stabbing.With the Orient Express marooned in a snowdrift and the murderer trapped on the train, Poirot interrogates a dozen or so suspects before gathering them together to hear him solve the case."I spent last summer directing Romeo and Juliet [on stage]," he says, "and everyone knows how that ends."The Bard's star-crossed lovers never got a sequel, but Branagh is hopeful that his Poirot will have further adventures. He's not the only one looking forward to that possibility."As Judi Dench was leaving, she said, 'I've had such a good time on this, you have to cast all of us in the next one and we'll all play different parts,'" Branagh says.