Michael Green on Murder on the Orient Express

We caught up with Murder on the Orient Express screenwriter Michael Green on why the Christie classic is his favourite of Agatha Christie's novels. Here's what he had to say:

"Every Agatha Christie fan has their reasons why one of her novels is a favorite over another, and there are certainly reasons, good reasons, fun and fair reasons, why Murder on the Orient Express tops a lot of fans’ -- most fans -- top list, this fan among them.  Let’s count them:

THE SETTING:

Christie tales set in England rely on cleverness and characterization for their escape velocity.  A mystery placed in an exotic, or at least aspirational, setting is given wings.  In this case rails.  The Simplon Orient Express was of an elegance caliber you and I can only find in photos.  That it was once affordable to all as mode of transportation and leisure is reasonable cause for nostalgia.  Who wouldn’t ride that train, even if inconvenienced by murder?

THE SOLUTION:

As consumers of mysteries we are taught to seek the crime’s culprit hand in hand with the investigator.  That’s the game we agree to play:  Facts are set on the table and, if we are very, very clever, and not too sleepy, we shall spot the incongruity that names the perpetrator.  Here Christie shatters the mold and let us say no more about it.

THE CHARACTER(S):

As a mode of conveyance across a continent in a time before reasonably priced air travel, the train is a magnet for oddballs from around the globe, varied and exciting -- and each with secrets in their steamer trunks.  And of course we have Hercule Poirot:  the rare character who is as enjoyable standing still being his fastidious self as he is on his feet, employing his grey cells and his methods to restore a chaotic world to order.  He is a world class invention.

IT WAS HOMEWORK YOU ENJOYED:

This may be more an American thing than English, but grumbling students are often forced at chalk-point to read wonderful books.  Those that actually do the work when pressed to read Murder on the Orient Express reach the middle -- the point at which they can reasonably bluff their way through any in-class or take home work -- and find themselves continuing to turn the pages on purpose, for joy.

THERE WAS A FILM:

Nothing adds glamor like glamor.  It’s not fair or right, but a film adaptation adds legitimacy to literature.  A great film does true service.  And Lumet’s film is far better than great.

THERE IS ANOTHER FILM:

Less a self serving reference to the upcoming film adaptation in which I have great stake, more recognition that the book is so iconic each generation will fight over who gets to interpret it anew under the lens of the day.

THERE WILL BE ANOTHER FILM SOME DAY:

So long as we live in a world without hats we will crave films where people wear them.  We shall all live to hear news of another version of Murder on the Orient Express being filmed.  And we shall receive the news not with cynicism or a sigh, but with a casual thought as to whether it is too soon to purchase a ticket."

Michael Green
Screenwriter
MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS