The most timeless of whodunits, Murder on the Orient Express follows renowned detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) as he attempts to solve what would become one of the most infamous crimes in history.
After a shocking murder of a wealthy businessman on the lavish European train barreling its way west in the dead of winter, private detective Poirot must use every tool of his trade to uncover which of the train’s eclectic passengers is the killer, before he or she strikes again.
Published in 1934, Agatha Christie’s novel, Murder on the Orient Express, is considered one of the most ingenious stories ever devised. More than 80 years after its publishing, Christie’s novel remains beloved by new generations of readers. Kenneth Branagh’s stunning retelling of the classic mystery, with its acclaimed ensemble and breathtaking visuals, invites audiences to take the most suspenseful train ride of their lives.
Among the incredible cast that includes Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer and Johnny Depp, are Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Tom Bateman, who play – in whodunit terminology – The Red Herring and The Manager, respectively.
What did you enjoy most about this experience as a whole?
Tom Bateman: It’s obvious, but it has to be said, I enjoyed the people. Josh Gad and I were having a drink last night back at the hotel and he said, ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe that this might be the last time we all hang out’. It really has been such a special job in terms of the number of special human beings that I got to meet and work with and learn from. Personally I think that’s been one of the tiptops, and the suits were pretty damn nice as well.
Manuel, is your character a new addition to the piece?
The story is the same, but they changed the background of the character. In the novel, he’s Italian and his name is Foscarelli and in the film, he’s Cuban and his name is Marquez, but the story is the same. I really enjoyed this character. It’s something I’ve never really done as an actor, being a little more over the top, but I had a lot of fun with it.
L-R: Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Daisy-Ridley and Leslie Odom Jr. in Murder on the Orient Express
Tom, your character is a little younger than in the novel. What were the key differences for you?
My character is completely different from the book. When Ken (Branagh) asked me to come and read for it, I did say, ‘Wait. He’s 45 and French’. Ken said, ‘Under no circumstances do I want to hear your French accent!’. That saved us all. They wanted that dynamic which I’m obviously very happy about or I wouldn’t be here. I think it was wonderful and I got to embrace that because I knew that that was the kind of energy they wanted as a counter to Poirot’s energy. They wanted this louche, nonchalant character which was really fun for me to embrace, especially in the first few scenes before the murder happens. I got to just have fun with that and then get into the heavy murder stuff later.
Tom Bateman as The Manager in Murder on the Orient Express
What do you think sets this story apart from other murder mysteries?
Bateman: I think that the reason this is set apart from other murder mysteries is that it’s about a huge group of people and why they might commit this murder.
Rulfo: And it’s in such a close space.
Bateman: Yes, the proximity. It’s a hot pot of characters and backgrounds and you’ve got different nationalities all cramped inside this tiny little carriage.
It’s explosive and it almost becomes about the crux of all society and the difference between right and wrong. Why is it wrong to kill someone who is evil? I think that is what brings people back again and again.
Rulfo: Also, it’s a new vision of the story told with the vision of Kenneth Branagh and with all this new technology and this amazing cast, so I think people are really going to enjoy it.
How did you find working with Kenneth Branagh as a director?
Bateman: I’ve been lucky enough to work with Ken on stage. We did two shows together and I was involved in his season. We did ‘A Winter’s Tale’ and ‘Harlequinade’ and what’s amazing about him is that he’s the same, even if it’s a huge Hollywood movie. He has the same energy and he’s a leader and is right there with you on stage and he there’s giving you everything and helping. He’s a teammate and he’s giving you everything and he was exactly the same on the movie set. He’s there with you. He’s a team player and he’ll give you a hug every morning and a hug goodbye every evening.
Rulfo: I loved to work with him. He gave me and the other actors a lot of liberty to create and to have this actor and director discussion. I really enjoyed it.
• Murder on the Orient Express is out on March 21.