Filed in Article Death on the Nile Interviews Movies

Interview for “Digital Spy Magazine” (Issue 5, December 2020)

Even though the movie has been indefinitely delayed, interviews related to « Death on the Nile » are still being released. This time, Rose talked at length to Digital Spy Magazine (available only on Apple News +) about her character Louise Bourget, how she stayed with her sister in Nice to work on her French accent and filming on a real boat.

Accents aren’t always an actor’s best friend, but for Rose Leslie, the French accent she had to adopt for Death on the Nile was a « real draw » for her taking the part. So does this mean that she has a foolproof plan for tackling any accent going? « Well, there’s a bit of a cheat on my behalf, » Leslie tells Digital Spy with a laugh, explaining that she spent three years in France when she was younger.

« I felt that something was already established there – not that I speak fluent French, but it’s definitely something that I would be able to tap into, » she continues. « Before we started shooting, I went and stayed with my older sister and her family, who live in Nice, which was obviously a wonderful excuse, and I pretended that it was for work.

« I stayed with her for several days and did the best that I could in terms of immersing myself within their world there, and listening to the accent, and trying my very best to make it as authentic and real as possible. »

While she previously starred opposite Vin Diesel in « The Last Witch Hunter », « Death on the Nile » marks Leslie’s biggest movie role to date and sees her play Louise Bourget, the devoted lady’s maid to Gal Gadot’s wealthy heiress Linnet Ridgeway.

Kenneth Branagh has assembled another incredible cast for his second big-screen adaptation of one of Agatha Christie’s classics. Starring alongside Leslie and Gadot are the likes of Armie Hammer, Annette Benning, Emma Mackey and Letitia Wright, not to mention an on-screen reunion for Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders.

It’s not the first movie adaptation of « Death on the Nile », as in 1978, a similarly all-star cast was assembled that featured Maggie Smith, Angela Lansbury, Bette Davis, Mia Farrow, David Niven and more.

The role of Louise Bourget in the 1978 adaptation was played by Jane Birkin and having never seen that version, Leslie admits that it was a « deliberate move » not to watch it once she landed the role in Branagh’s take.

« I mean, how sensational is Jane Birkin? So as a result, I was like, ‘Do you know what? I might just be replicating her from movement to movement, because one can’t go wrong’, » she explains.

« So I felt that the best thing for me to do was to focus on the screenplay after recapping my mind with the novel – focus on the screenplay, and bring Michael Green’s words to life as best I could. The way that he wrote Louise Bourget was just brilliant.« 

Working with Branagh and Green, Leslie created a backstory for her character and, specifically, her close relationship with Linnet Ridgeway. When Death on the Nile starts, Louise has been working for Linnet for two years, but there is tension in their relationship.

« The three of us did sit down and have a talk about the character, dissecting the character, and highlighting the snippets throughout the script, where there are flashed of resentment coming from Louise towards her employer for – I don’t want to give anything away – blocking her life in the way that she did« , Leslie teases.

« That obviously has to build up over time before you spot it. So it was very important to both those wonderful men to make sure that was brought into the facial expression – just a tiny little silver of it – so that hopefully, for the audience, one keeps on guessing.« 

And the tension in the relationship between Louise and Linnet was also fleshed out between Leslie and Gadot. They were keen to showcase that while they do have a « mutual respect » for each other, there’s no doubting who’s the boss.

« There are moments where [Louise] receives scathing looks from Linnet, essentially informing her that she’s overstepped her mark and essentially [needs to] get back into her box. It’s all kind of dictated by Linnet’s feelings, I suppose, on that particular day, » Leslie notes.

« We thought it was important to have that dynamic whereby Louise was left having to walk a little bit on ice, to be like, ‘OK, is it a good day for Linnet, or is it a day where I very much do my job, and I don’t ask anything sensitive?« 

« Death on the Nile » isn’t some high society drama though about the lives of wealthy heiresses and their lady’s maids. As the title suggests, there will be murder as Hercule Poirot’s Egyptian holiday is rudely interrupted when a picture-perfect couple’s idyllic honeymoon is cut tragically short.

Anybody who has read Agatha Christie’s book or seen the previous screen adaptations will know how it all affects Louise and her relationship with her employer, but we’re not going to spoil things for you here if you don’t know.

Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait a little longer for the mystery to unravel as Death on the Nile has been delayed to 2021 from its planned December 2020 release, following an earlier delay from October due to the ongoing global situation.

The movie filmed in late 2019 and the production saw a recreation built of the central boat, the SS Karnak, which ended up being 236-feet long, 48-feet wide and 42-feet high and took 30 weeks to build.

It proved such an enormous feat that Branagh wanted to get the cast’s reaction to seeing it for the first time on film, which ended up being part of the movie as their characters arrive on the SS Karnak.

The impressive set certainly helped Leslie get into character and immerse herself into the 1930s setting of « Death on the Nile ».

« Even the detail within the interior design, even in the cabins that we wouldn’t walk into, it was astounding just how detailed it was, and the amount of love that the Karnak received from the art department, bringing in to life, » she recalls.

« It certainly helped me in just immersing myself into the world, and knowing that once you stepped on board, here you were – you’re here. You’re transported back to Agatha Christie’s time.

« And, you know, the costumes obviously helped with that as well, but it was a sensational feat seeing the Karnak in all its glory. It moved as well, which was so cool. So as you’re on it, it did move, which was something I thought we’d have to act out.

« It was lovely to be presented with it, and to be genuinely very excited at the prospect of this massive boat chugging down the Nile.« 

Intially, it was planned that the SS Karnak could float on a lake big enough to resemble the Nile, but when it came to filming, the production team decided on a special structure where the boat could travel in and out of shots.

It was built at the end of the same railway track that was used for « Murder on the Orient Express ». The movement certainly surprised Leslie (and luckily, she doesn’t get seasick so it didn’t cause an issue in filming).

« I could have run into one of those cabins that no-one ever uses, and thrown up, and then come back, » she jokes. « But no, I’m not seasick, which was very, very fortunate for me – and for everyone else.« 

Even though the Karnak itself didn’t float on water, there was still a potentially choppy moment for Leslie during filming. At one point while shooting a scene with Russel Brand (who plays aristocratic doctor Linus Windlesham) on a wooden boat, she feared she might fall into the lake that they were shooting on.

« Russel Brand and myself were hanging on at the back, and there was a moment of the boat speeding away. Nothing too fast, nothing dangerous or anything like that. But there we were nipping across the water and I was like, ‘Hang on a second. If I’m not truly holding on to this…« , she recalls.

« We were on this beautiful tarnished wood whereby if we weren’t properly hanging on, we might then just slip into the water and ruin the show for everyone… So I got to look like I’m hanging on, but I genuinely am hanging on.« 

When Death on the Nile does sail into cinemas in 2021, the challenge for Branagh – as it was with Murder on the Orient Express – will be to ensure it still feels fresh when so many people know the tale and its dark twist.

For Leslie though, she believes the movie does have the ability to surprise even those who know Christie’s tale well.

« I feel that there are surprises still in store, and I think that that is down to the fantastic direction of Ken and also of Michael Green’s script. But also just surprises in terms of the characters that weren’t necessarily in the book that are now here on screen with us, » she outlines.

« That ups the ante, and that very much makes all of us suspects. And just the way that it is directed and written, provides a new spin for people who have read it.« 

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