Friday 19 October 2018

Art of being a proper Poirot

As 'Murder on the Orient Express' brings vintage Agatha Christie back to our cinemas, novelist Sophie Hannah tells how she resurrected the brilliant Belgian detective on the page

Kenneth Branagh as Poirot.
Kenneth Branagh as Poirot.

Sophie Hannah

When I heard that Kenneth Branagh was to star as Hercule Poirot in a new Hollywood film of Murder on the Orient Express, I was quietly pleased. Branagh is a brilliant actor, and I had a sense that he would be a great Poirot. There have already been several - David Suchet, Peter Ustinov and Albert Finney were excellent in their different ways - and I looked forward to seeing Branagh join their ranks.

Well, last Thursday night I did, at the Royal Albert Hall, for the movie's world premiere. It was an impressive and lavish event attended by thousands. The smartest character, of course, was the immaculately dressed Belgian genius, Hercule Poirot. I soon saw that I'd been right to trust Branagh. His portrayal of Agatha Christie's most loved character is superb. It isn't so much that his moustache is luxurious and resplendent (though it is both); it is simply that he feels like a real, proper Poirot. That, for me, was the most important thing.

What counts as a real, proper Poirot and what doesn't is a question I've spent a lot of time thinking about since I was commissioned in 2013 to write a continuation novel starring the greatest fictional detective. I was honoured to be asked by Christie's grandson and great-grandson, Mathew and James Prichard, to continue the character in new mystery novels.

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