Considering that the film is among the first few releases amidst the Hollywood strikes, Prichard expresses his hopes for the film to ‘get its just rewards’ and also the possibility of more crime-solving adventures with Poirot. Excerpts:
James Prichard, what was your reaction when you first saw A Haunting in Venice?
Well, I have a very complex set of emotions whenever I watch one of our projects for the first time in its final form. I am by nature a pessimist, so I basically fear the worst. I also have no imagination, so not having read the script or seen aspects being filmed or seen rushes or anything will give me the confidence that this isn’t a complete disaster. So my first watching, if it goes well, I end up with a sense of relief. I did get the privilege of watching it again recently and that was enjoyable because by then I knew it was a good film. I knew I was going to enjoy it and I could sit back and relax and let it do its work.
You had mentioned that Murder on the Orient Express was among your favourite Agatha Christie film adaptations. Do you think this one merits a spot on your list?
Yeah, I do actually. I think this film is very different and I love it for that. Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile, for that matter, were very faithful classic adaptations of very big classic Agatha Christie titles. This is very different. A Haunting of Venice is changed quite dramatically from its source material. A Halloween party, and the other main change is the tone which I think works really well with the murder mystery. It’s not a horror film, it is scary in parts, but it is still a murder mystery, still an Agatha Christie experience and I love that combination.
I also think this film is probably Ken Branagh’s best performance as Poirot yet. I think the whole journey that he takes on this film works. I think the psychological element that he and Michael Green have brought to Poirot, the kind of investigation of who Poirot is and what makes him tick, I think works really well in this film. I think the balance is right. So yeah, I think this film is certainly up there with my favourite productions.
Speaking of Kenneth, to play a character like Hercule and stand apart in an ensemble cast with the likes of Tina Fey, Michelle Yeoh and Jamie Doran is no easy task. What are your thoughts on that?
Well, you know Ken Branagh is one of the great actors of his generation. I don’t think he has a problem standing his ground with any acting company. And he’s the director, so if any of them get out of place, he can obviously put them in their place. So that’s easy for him. Ken as an actor is probably second to none.
I think the talent he has as a director is bringing the other actors in and he has sympathy and empathy which actors respond well to. I think one of the key aspects of all these films has been the way he has moulded and melded that all-star cast and made them all work together. I think most of the actors, if you ask them, would say they had immense fun on the set as well as off the set, that they became a team, they became a family. He’s gone and treated it much more like a kind of theatre troupe than a film cast and I think everyone enjoys that. It’s very different, perhaps, from what most of them experience on modern films.
This is one of the few films that is releasing amidst the Hollywood strike. How do you think this will affect box office numbers?
Well, I hope this movie gets its just rewards. I’m a great believer that at the end of the day, good movies do well and I think this is a good movie. So I hope it does well.
All your movies end with hints about the next chapter in this Agatha Christie mystery. What can you tease about the next venture?
In terms of the future, I don’t like to look too far ahead. I don’t like to tempt the fates. You know, things have a habit of coming back to haunt you. But I hope we will have more films. I feel quite strongly that Ken Branagh and the 20th Century will want to make more. My great-grandmother wrote 33 full-length Agatha Christie novels. We’ve made three so far. So we’ve got plenty of material to choose from, shall we say, ‘fingers crossed, there will be more to come’.
Set in the post-World War 2 era, A Haunting In Venice sees an old and retired Hercule Poirot who is living a quiet life but returns to being a detective after a special case presents itself in an aristocratic séance. The movie is based on the 1969 novel ‘Hallowe’en’ Party’ and will adapt a supernatural horror-based tune, in comparison to the earlier suspense-based work. This one will see Poirot out of his element as he tries hard to decipher the supernatural powers at play thus putting his own reasoning into doubt.