How do you convince your cast, crew and even yourself that you're on a train ride through the European countryside with only a soundstage's worth of space to do it? Well, if you're Kenneth Branagh, you have a couple train cars constructed, and you mount LED screens outside of the windows to play a huge loop of footage showing just that. It may sound simple, but for the production of Murder on the Orient Express, it worked like a charm.
To be exact, the requirements that Branagh's full-scale set operated with are as follows: four completed carriages, one locomotive and over 2000 LED screens used to portray the perilous conditions the Orient Express makes as the story of a murder unfolds within the train's very confines. Admittedly, it's a very impressive set-up, which is only matched by an equally impressive cast. With his portrayal of the legendary sleuth Hercule Poirot at the center, Kenneth Branagh was able to both direct Murder on the Orient Express as well as star alongside an all-star cast that includes, but is not limited to, Josh Gad, Judi Dench, Leslie Odom Jr. and Daisy Ridley.
With Kenneth Branagh not only helming the film, but also serving as one of its stars, you'd think that he'd be less than impressed with an optical illusion that he had a hand in approving and designing. Yet as he recently told IGN, his tactics were so convincing that he and his Murder on the Orient Express cast totally bought into the illusion. Specifically, he had the following to say:
I found myself going to the end of the train to watch the scenery go by as if I was on a real train, and I wasn't the only one.
If you can convince your actors that the scenery is breathtaking, then you've done your job well. But if you can convince yourself to actually partake in said manufactured scenery, then you've pretty much nailed it. Let's hope that the realism that Murder on the Orient Express created on board its locomotive set is enough to convince audiences to leap at the chance to take in said scenery on the big screen. Then again, with a cast like the one that's been amassed for this updated retelling of the Agatha Christie classic, there's always added incentive to buy a ticket for opening night.
Though if worse comes to worse, Fox could always keep the train set in tact and offer lucky fans a murder mystery dinner that's all too convincing. We'll see the results for ourselves, as Murder on the Orient Express will try to make audiences worldwide believers on November 10.