“A Haunting in Venice” screenwriter Michael Green has adapted three of Agatha Christie’s works at this point. But for his latest venture, the folks at the Christie estate took pause when they discovered which story he wanted to adapt.
“He [Green] first talked to me about doing something with ‘Hallowe’en Party’ quite a long time ago,” said James Prichard, chairman and CEO of the Christie estate, referring to the 1969 novel that was the basis of “Haunting in Venice.” Unlike the film, which follows detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) as he investigates the death of a young girl at a Venice palazzo, “Hallowe’en Party” was very different, in both plot and characters.
For Green, he knew it was a tough sell. “I remember the conversation because I could see the look in his [Prichard’s] eye where he’s desperate to be polite, but also doesn’t understand what I’m saying,” Green told TheWrap. “I wouldn’t say he thought it was a bad idea but he has since confessed to me that, at the time, he didn’t get it.” The screenwriter said what immediately attracted him to the story was the fact that Christie used the apostrophe to spell Halloween, but beyond that he didn’t think of it as a novel he would adapt.
That all changed while working on the 2021 adaptation of “Death on the Nile.” “I remember being on the set of ‘Nile’ and just thinking … if we’re lucky enough to make another one, what would be good to do?” he said. “I just kept thinking voices that don’t get heard, and then I started thinking of ghosts.”
When Green approached Prichard with the idea he presented it as an opportunity to do something different after adapting two previous Christie novels (the aforementioned “Death on the Nile” and 2017’s “Murder on the Orient Express”) rather faithfully. “He put the case for thinking that having made two big films of big famous books we should try something a bit different and we should surprise our audience,” Prichard said.
That transition away from the source material gave Green some freedom, as he explained that adaptations often see a screenwriter trying to please an audience deeply in love with the novel, and those who might not know it’s a book to begin with. “The mistake that a lot of passionate readers make is that a film version is there to represent what they saw in their head personally when they were reading it, and what they forget is that that’s idiosyncratic. You don’t see the mustache the way I see the mustache,” Green said.
“Haunting in Venice” is in theaters now.