Haunting In Venice Producer Explains the Movie's Big Changes from Agatha Christie Book (Exclusive)

By Russ Milheim Updated:
A Haunting in Venice logo, Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot

An executive producer behind A Haunting in Venice spoke about why the upcoming Agatha Christie adaptation has so many changes from its source material.

Following Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile, the next Hercule Poirot storyline with Kenneth Branagh turns Christie’s 1969 Hallowe’en Party novel into a film.

The story behind Venice follows Poirot coming out of his self-imposed exile to help an old friend potentially expose a fraud hosting a séance. One thing leads to another, and the detective finds himself tangled in a murder mystery with possible supernatural implications.

One of the biggest changes from the book to the movie is how, instead of the mystery unfolding in a small English village, it all takes place in Venice now. Turns out, the changes don’t stop there—a lot of adjustments were made to create Poirot’s next theatrical mystery.

A Haunting in Venice Producer Speaks on the Film's Many Changes

Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot in A Haunting in Venice
20th Century Studios

In an exclusive interview with The Direct's Russ Milheim, James Pritchard, the CEO of the Agatha Christie Estate and executive producer for A Haunting in Venice, spoke about the big changes made by adapting Hallowe'en Party.

Pritchard admitted that "there are a significant number of changes," something the creative team was comfortable doing after releasing "two very, pretty faithful adaptations:"

“There are a significant number of changes in the story. And yes, one of the clues is in the title. With 'Murder on the Orient Express' and 'Death on the Nile,' we had done two very, pretty faithful adaptations of two pretty famous, pretty big books. And Michael Green, the writer, and Kenneth Branagh, obviously, the director and [Hercule Poirot] felt that we should maybe surprise our audience with this and try something a little bit different."

Another element the team was hoping to incorporate in this third entry was "[playing] a little bit with the horror genre:"

"And the main difference they were looking for was tonal. They wanted to play a little bit with the horror genre, and they felt a 'Hallowe'en Party' was a great launchpad into that. They wanted to set it in Venice. That was quite an early change that they came up with. There were two potential reasons for that. One of which is, you know, if you're going to make a Hollywood movie, you want a great backdrop, and Venice is well, not many backdrops come better than Venice. So there was the kind of cinematic elements of it."

A Haunting in Venice, Venice city scenery
20th Century Studios

Pritchard pointed to the "atmospheric element [of] Venice" and its "air of mystery... [and] mystique," which worked well for what the movie was trying to achieve:

"But there's also an atmospheric element to Venice. This film plays with the supernatural--has the potential for the supernatural at its heart, and Venice has an air of mystery and air of mystique that plays into it. But, you know, the whole point of this movie is to play with genre and all of those kinds of things. And [Kenneth Branagh] and Michael [Green] wanted to play with the plot. And what we have ended up with is a great murder mystery and a great experience. So, hopefully, people will enjoy it for what it is.”

But with so many changes, were there any that didn't make the cut? According to the producer, "It's pretty much all there:"

“I can't think of anything that didn't work or couldn't work. One of the extraordinary things about Michael Green as a writer is that he almost seems to, with his first draft, get everything correct. And very little changes from there, he seems to know what works from the go-get. So actually, I suspect if you went back to that first draft and matched it with what's on screen, there wouldn't be too much difference. So yeah, it's pretty much all there.”

Making Changes for Hercule Poirot's Horror Adventure

Adjusting the setting of a story is one thing, but it seems that the upcoming A Haunting in Venice movie has made changes to nearly all of its story—including the central mystery of it all.

Another big change for the upcoming movie includes a big séance, as seen in the project’s promotional footage. The sequence is a notable part of how the film is being marketed to audiences as it tries to sell itself as a possible supernatural story—though no such scene is found in the original Hallowe’en Party.

While changes are always necessary when adapting from one medium to another, there does come a point where if so much is different, it might have made more sense to simply do something completely original. Fans will need to wait and see Venice when it hits theaters to find out if that’s the case here.

Either way, it's clear that James Pritchard and everyone behind Kenneth Branagh’s Hercule Poirot aren't afraid to try new things. The real question is: what might the famous detective’s next step be?

A Haunting in Venice hits theaters on Friday, September 15.

- About The Author: Russ Milheim
Russ Milheim is the Industry Relations Coordinator at The Direct. On top of utilizing his expertise on the many corners of today’s entertainment to cover the latest news and theories, he establishes and maintains communication and relations between the outlet and the many studio and talent representatives.