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Things We Saw Today: Kenneth Branagh Reveals the Secrets of Hercule Poirot’s New Mustache

Happy Murder on the Orient Express release day, mes amies! Let’s take a closer look at how the new production refashioned some of the most famous facial hair in history.

While I am on record about having my doubts about Kenneth Branagh’s Poirot and his bristly handlebar of a mustache (and, OK, the film at large), I’ll save any real judgments for after I get to see the movie. I remain, however, fascinated by how this mustachioed aesthetic change came to be. Branagh’s rather flamboyant whiskers are in stark contrast to the neat ‘stache seen on Albert Finney in the 1974 Orient Express and the iconic, upturned edges sported by my main man David Suchet throughout 20+ years of playing Poirot for ITV.

But in the end, Branagh’s mustache might actually be the most canonical. In Agatha Christie’s novel, Poirot is described as “a little man with enormous moustaches,” and this detailed article on guides us through the ever-changing history of Poirot’s trademark look. It points out that by the time Orient Express rolled around, Poirot had grown into that handlebar:

The more Poirot became an established private detective, the bigger his trademark moustache became. By the early 1930s his famous facial hair had evolved from being stiff and military into a magnificent, luxurious asset which gained much comment from himself, narrators and other characters within each story. Throughout Christie’s stories, his moustache was described as ‘gigantic’, ‘immense’ and ‘amazing’, pointing to the importance of this physical asset.

Kenneth Branagh clearly took these descriptives to heart when it came to his Poirot: “What are you going to do about the mustache?” was the first question put to him by the Agatha Christie estate. As described in an article in the LA Times, “For his lavish, star-studded new version, in which he stars as Poirot and which hits theaters today, Branagh knew he needed to go big.” And boy, did he ever.

Incredibly, the restyled mustache practically had the gestation period of a human child. They were not messing around: “After trying in vain to grow the mustache himself, Branagh and his team spent six months developing what are unquestionably the most elaborate Poirot whiskers ever to grace the screen.”

“We knew Poirot’s mustache was a sort of critical visual and a chance to mark this as a new departure,” Branagh told the Times. “It is his superpower. It’s his people-tester: Why would you take that guy seriously? And then suddenly he’s got you by the throat.”

I actually rather love this “people-tester” reasoning behind the totally over-the-top new ‘stache. I remain a bit concerned by the “got you by the throat” part—I’m flinching, a little, that we might be about to see Hercule Poirot, action hero, playing out onscreen. Poirot’s fussy elegance is part of his charm, and it’s terribly hard for me to imagine him dashing through snow drifts and swinging from bridges; the Poirot I know and love would hate what this would do to his immaculate outfits. However, I understand that this production will be a different, bigger, brasher Orient Express than we’ve ever seen before, with a Poirot to match. My fingers are crossed that Branagh can pull it off.

(via the LA Times, images: 20th Century Fox)

Okay … I apparently had more mustache emotions than I realized. Here are a few more things happening today:

  • Amazon’s show Good Girls Revolt, about female journalists dealing with a culture of sexual harassment, is looking to make a return after it was canceled by then-head of Amazon Studios Roy Price, who “didn’t like it,” and recently … wait for it … yep, he resigned after accusations of sexual harassment. The show was popular, and is needed now more than ever. (via Jezebel)
  • Deadpool—yes, that Deadpool—is the “guest editor” of this month’s Good Housekeeping magazine, and we are living in interesting times, to say the least. (via Syfy)
  • Some of the first Justice League reactions are in, and while reactions like the tweet below leave me unsure of how to feel, let’s just say it’s cautiously optimistic? Like, maybe we’ll have a good time at this movie even if it’s a narrative mess? It’s unclear why this tweet was later deleted. 

So what’d you see today, my friends?

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Kaila Hale-Stern (she/her) is a content director, editor, and writer who has been working in digital media for more than fifteen years. She started at TMS in 2016. She loves to write about TV—especially science fiction, fantasy, and mystery shows—and movies, with an emphasis on Marvel. Talk to her about fandom, queer representation, and Captain Kirk. Kaila has written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.