The latest incarnation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express casts Oscar-winner Johnny Depp as a doomed gangster. Depp takes us behind the scenes…
INDULGE: What attracted you to a story written almost 80 years ago?
DEPP: It’s got everything you might expect from Agatha Christie — death, murder, interesting characters, an unusual, often glamorous situation — all of those elements, inside a wonderful location and journey. But I was really impressed to return to it and see how it hadn’t dated, and, in fact, it had reinvented itself, I think, which is a sign of very good storytelling.
INDULGE: Tell us about your character, “The Gangster” Edward Ratchett. We know he’s trouble from the moment we see him.
DEPP: He’s not a guy you want to spend very much time with. He’ll find a way to ruin you. He’s probably the ultimate borderline personality disorder — a gangster, opportunist, a menace, psychopath — a fascinating character. From the second Ratchett enters the story, you can sense his paranoia and his urgency to befriend Poirot and protect himself. The elegance of the train, the gangster swagger of Ratchett combined with his greasy confidence culminate into an extremely compelling character to play. In many way, he’s the antidote to Poirot, which makes their exchanges so tense. Ratchett wants the respect of Poirot; he’s never going to get it.
INDULGE: Tell us how the book translated to film.
DEPP: This kind of stuff translates to cinema so beautifully because ultimately the job is done for you by Agatha Christie. The character work is pretty much done. Everything translates so well because of the detail with which she approached her books and these characters are her observations. It’s astonishing. If you really think about it, it would be quite interesting to know the process she went through as she was writing the book. Now I need to read a book about her!
INDULGE: Tell us what it was like working on such a set.
DEPP: That is one of the most calm, organized and ready-for-anything sets that I’ve ever been of. It all comes down from him (Director, Kenneth Branagh who also plays Hercule Poirot) and he’s a gentleman to everyone, and I believe that’s why. It’s like — I’m not the artist, he’s not the artist, everyone there is the artist, everyone from the key grip to the dolly grip to the craft services. He’s that type of man, so that the set itself is so open yet intimate. He allows people to do their job to the best of their ability and that does everything in terms of having a set that’s conducive to creative sparring, searching, wrenching out something absurd to get a certain reaction. You have the opportunity to try anything.
INDULGE: And finally, on working with Dame Judi Dench?
DEPP: I’d die in the eyes of Judi Dench. I worship her and have for a long time. I had the opportunity to work with her on Chocolat years ago. I think her work is impeccable. She’s purity. She’s the real thing. It’s an honor being in the same proximity with someone like her. She’s stardust.
— Kelly Fine.
Murder on the Orient Express in playing in theatres now. Check your local listings for more details.