We were a little surprised to hear that Neil LaBute would be directing Agatha Christie adaptation Crooked House, so we decided to quiz him about it.
When we caught up with the writer-director in Cannes, we sat down with him for an intriguing Q and A:
How did you get involved in this?
“Every decade I like to take a hallowed English writer and adapt their work and prepare myself to be stoned. First it was A.S. Byatt and now Agatha Christie. I’ll get to Coward and Wilde eventually.
“But seriously, I saw Julian Fellowes’ script and I like a mystery and I thought everything from the title on down was intriguing.”
What did you like?
“This one has never been touched on television or film; it was sort of outside the safe zone for her in terms of having a romance as well as the requisite murders.
“And when I realised it was quite morally questionable by the end, I was like, “Wait, they’re singing my siren song.” It’s her 49th book, I think, but she still had a difficult time with her publishers with Crooked House, who did not want it to end the way it did.
“It’s that nice grey zone of morality that I like to operate in.”
Matthew Goode and Gemma Arterton are your lovers, then…
“She’s an heiress whose grandfather passes away. She believes he was murdered and brings a beau from her past who’s now working at Scotland Yard into the mix, so that bristling tension that they never quite made it as a couple comes to the surface.”
Aren’t whodunnits the realm of quaint telly these days?
“I don’t want to make it quaint but I have to be true to the spirit of it. I’m not planning to reboot the genre. It’ll be a good solid piece of entertainment.
“The last film that had this sense was probably Gosford Park but the murder mystery was minimal there. But in the same way that Altman brought an interesting outsider’s view to it, and Sidney Lumet brought that to Murder On The Orient Express, I hope to do the same thing.
My job now is how well can I construct what Agatha Christie has already constructed so well, and do that in a visual way.
“I hope I don’t fuck it up.”