Belfast-born actor and director Kenneth Branagh is set to star as Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot in a major new Hollywood film.
The five-time Oscar nominee had already signed on to direct the Agatha Christie classic, Murder on the Orient Express, but will now have to handle both a director’s clapboard and a waxed moustache.
He will also be the first actor to take on the role since the longest-serving Poirot, David Suchet, solved his last case nearly two years ago. Branagh will join scriptwriter Michael Green and Alien director Ridley Scott as producer for the 20th Century Fox feature film.
Best known for Shakespearean roles, Branagh has previous form as a detective, having starred in the BBC adaptation of Swedish crime drama Wallander for four seasons.
His directing credits include the Oscar-nominated Henry V, Marvel’s Thor and Disney’s recent live-action Cinderella, starring Lily James.
Agatha Christie’s great-grandson and chairman of Agatha Christie Ltd, James Prichard, said: “The extraordinary thing about my great-grandmother’s stories is just how timeless they are.
“Eighty years after the publication of the novel, Fox will bring Murder on the Orient Express to new audiences across the world.” He continued: “With 33 Poirot stories to be told, we look forward to this being the first of many collaborations.”
Branagh first caught the attention of Northern Ireland audiences in the 1980s, appearing on stage at Belfast’s Lyric Theatre and later making his TV debut in the Billy plays broadcast on BBC Northern Ireland.
Currently directing and appearing in a stage adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, Branagh is used to taking on multiple roles.
He also directed and starred in Henry V (1989), Frankenstein (1994) and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014).
His latest film project is based on the 1934 Agatha Christie novel, which sees the Belgian detective attempt to find out who murdered fellow train passenger Mr Ratchett.