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With a cast that includes Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Michelle Pfeiffer, Josh Gad, Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe, and Penélope Cruz, it was easy to become starstruck on the set of the 1930s-era thriller, Murder on the Orient Express (out Nov. 10) — even if you happened to be one of the stars.”The first day, everywhere I looked, I was like, ‘Wow!'” Cruz says. “It was very interesting, every day, to be in that company. Maybe, the first day, I see Michelle, I’m looking at her and thinking, ‘It’s beyond my control! It’s beyond my control!’ — you know the line from one of her scenes with John Malkovich in Dangerous Liaisons. Or, maybe in the afternoon, I’m looking at her, and thinking about Frankie and Johnny, or all these different movies and how I admire her. [But], it’s true that, working together, after a while, you relax.”
This adaptation of Agatha Christie’s 1934 novel hinges on a series of interrogations as brilliant Belgian detective Hercule Poirot — played by director Kenneth Branagh — tries to find out who aboard the titular Europe-crossing train is a killer. Whenever possible, Branagh shot these intense scenes on the relevant actor’s first day at work, much to the dismay of Cruz, who plays a missionary named Pilar Estravados. “I said, ‘No, this is a mistake,'” the actress recalls. “I asked if we could do it at least a week into the shooting and Kenneth said no.”
Why such a meanie, Sir Ken? “It brought a nervousness of the right kind,” the filmmaker says. “I wouldn’t ever put somebody in a truly uncomfortable position. But actors have an adrenaline on a first day that can never quite be repeated.” To borrow a phrase from Poirot himself, sounds like someone has been using his “little gray cells.”
See an exclusive image from Murder on the Orient Express below and watch the film’s trailer, above.