'Death on the Nile': The Big Changes the Movie Made to the Book

Death on the Nile is a classic mystery novel, but that has not stopped its many adaptors making changes to the source material.

Kenneth Branagh's movie continues this trend, cutting some characters and changing the identities of others.

The 2022 adaptation also begins with a strange prologue, which acts as an origin story for Hercule Poirot's moustache and reveals a previously unmentioned love interest.

Don't worry, spoiler haters. Although this article will delve into the changes between Agatha Christie's book and the new Death on the Nile film, it will not reveal whether the movie has changed who gets killed and who murdered them.

The Biggest Changes the 'Death on the Nile' Movie Makes to the Book

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Kenneth Branagh in "Death on the Nile." His version of the character has some major differences from the Agatha Christie original. 20th Century Studios

First, there is that prologue, which shows Poirot fighting for the Belgians in the trenches of World War I. This changes the backstory of the detective somewhat. In the books, Poirot was already past fighting age when the war began and moved to England as a refugee during the conflict. (Poirot's identity as a refugee was a big part of Amazon's recent version of The ABC Murders.)

In this black-and-white opening scene, Branagh's version of the character gets a new backstory. We learn that he wears his moustache in that outrageous style as tribute to a commander in his regiment whose death he was unable to prevent, and also to cover shrapnel scarring on his face.

We also meet a love interest for the detective. The film tries to explain Poirot's seeming indifference to romance as guilt over the death of this woman, who was on her way to visit him when her train was hit by a bomb. In the novels, by contrast, there is only one woman the sleuth declares an interest in: a mysterious Russian aristocrat called Countess Vera Rossakoff. He meets her much later in life, however.

If you think about the dates of this prologue, it does not make sense. A de-aged Branagh seems to be in his mid-twenties in the World War I section, yet the detective appears to be in his early sixties during the events of Death on the Nile, which is set in 1937—just 19 years after the end of the war.

Generous viewers could see this as a tribute to Christie's own inconsistencies as to the character's age. The author never gave Poirot an explicit date of birth, but scholars have placed his birth year at anywhere between 1854 and 1873 based on various clues. Despite this, the detective was still solving crimes well into the 1960s.

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Agatha Christie signing books in the 1950s. Her books are inconsistent about exactly how old Hercule Poirot is. Getty

As for Poirot's moustache, in the novels it is not covering up any scars. He simply has it because he likes it. However, his facial hair is described as "military" in his first adventure The Mysterious Affair at Styles, so the movie could be pulling from this for inspiration.

The Death on the Nile film makes other major changes, cutting some characters seemingly to give its starry cast more to do. Not appearing in this version are Cornelia Robson (the cousin of Jennifer Saunders' Marie Van Schuyler) the communist Mr Ferguson, the Italian archeologist Guido Richetti and the solicitor Jim Fanthorp.

Other characters get a change of nationality. The Austrian physician Dr Bessner becomes the British doctor Linus Windlesham (played by Russell Brand), who is now also the ex-fiancée of Linnet Doyle (Gal Gadot). Doyle herself becomes more ambiguous. Usually played as an American socialite (most recently by Emily Blunt in a 2004 adaptation for British TV), Gadot keeps her Israeli accent in the movie and her nationality is left unclear. It is mentioned that she has spent some time in France and her husband Simon Doyle (Armie Hammer) compares her to Cleopatra.

This ambiguity extends to the character's family members. In the book, Linnet is travelling with her trustee Andrew Pennington, but in the movie he becomes her cousin and lawyer and is called Andrew Katchadourian. That surname is traditionally Armenian and the character is played by Indian actor Ali Fazal.

Another character gets swapped with a familiar face from Branagh's Murder on the Orient Express. The novel's Tim Allerton becomes Bouc (Tom Bateman), a friend of Poirot's who is in Egypt for the Doyle wedding. Bouc in the movie inherits Allerton's mother from the book, played by Annette Bening.

Other changes are more minor. The film makes Van Schuyler the communist, leading to some of the film's funniest moments. It also suggests that she and her nurse Mrs. Bowers (Miss Bowers in the book, and played by Dawn French) are lovers. Salome Otterbourne (Sophie Okonedo) is changed from a romance novelist to a blues singer, allowing the movie to give us two scenes in a jazz club that are inventions of the film-makers.

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Sophie Okonedo on "Death on the Nile.' The actor plays blues singer Salome Otterbourne. 20th Century Studios

The book starts with Poirot already in Egypt, while the film follows the prologue with a scene in which Poirot is watching Salome perform. Salome and Poirot also have a flirtation in the film that is far steamier than anything Christie would have her Poirot engaging in.

The character Rosalie Otterbourne is changed from Salome's daughter to her niece and is played by Black Panther's Letitia Wright. Both characters are also Black in the film—adding some much-needed diversity to the very white world of Christie's book.

As for the plot, the movie does make some changes, including an extra murder we will not spoil here.