Is Death on the Nile the Most Cursed Movie of the Decade?

Gal Gadot in Death on the Nile
Courtesy of 20th Century Studios.

Death on the Nile started out as a delightfully simple little proposition of a movie: a bunch of widely adored or otherwise buzzy actors reenacting one of Agatha Christie’s most beloved mystery stories as a sequel to Kenneth Branagh’s surprise 2017 hit Murder on the Orient Express. What could go wrong?

Apparently, almost everything.

The story began sometime after Murder, which starred Branagh as Christie’s classic sleuth Hercule Poirot alongside an all-star cast of Penélope Cruz, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench, Leslie Odom, Jr. and more, grossed over $350 million worldwide from a reported $55 million budget. Distributor 20th Century Fox, of course, wanted more. Christie had used Poirot in dozens of stories, so there was ample material available. Fox penciled it in for a November 2019 release date, before pushing it back to December 20, 2019, when it would have served as adult-minded counter-programming to Disney’s release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

Then Disney bought Fox, as you may have heard. But that originally only pushed Death’s release back to 2020. Luckily (or so it seemed at the time), shooting had finished by December 2019.

Well, we all know how 2020 went for movies. Dozens of films had their release dates reshuffled and rejiggered. Had the film been held for another year it wouldn’t have been a particularly notable story.

It felt, for a while, like the film could withstand the reshuffling. It had a stacked cast, after all.

Gal Gadot, riding high from Wonder Woman was cast in one of the lead roles opposite Armie Hammer, then hot off the career-redefining success of Call Me By Your Name. Black Panther breakout star Letitia Wright scored a plum supporting role. Annette Bening joined as a new character not previously included in Christie’s original. Game of Thrones’s Rose Leslie, Russell Brand, Sex Education’s Emma Mackey, and Sophie Okonedo signed on as well. Branagh even reunited the beloved British comedy team of Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders to fill out the cast. (If you’re American, and this means nothing to you, then the equivalent might be the feeling of “Oh, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are both in this too?”). Jodie Comer was attached to the film as well, before dropping out. Though, you can’t have them all, we guess.

The point is, there was a movie star in here to catch just about anyone’s attention. At one stage in the process, certain members of the cast were even figuring into very, very early 2020 Oscar predications. The problem with packing a film full of stars, however, is that it increases the chances that one of them may get canceled in the interim.

Hammer, of course, has since been hit with multiple allegations of rape, abuse, and non-consensual BDSM. The actor has denied the accusations, but has reportedly spent time in rehab, pulled out of multiple film roles, and been dropped by his agency and publicist.

Wright, too, has found herself in the middle of controversy after sharing contentious and scientifically unfounded views about vaccinations. She’s reportedly parted ways with her U.S. team, and her fate with Marvel has been the subject of many rumors in recent months.

Gal Gadot? Well, she’s not canceled, but you can only “imagine” the year she had in 2020.

There’s still probably an audience out there excited by the mere idea of “Annette Bening meets French and Saunders,” but perhaps not a big enough one to meet Disney’s expectations. The film has since been moved around the release numerous times before Disney decided on a date of February 2022 back in March. The studio is not only keeping firm with the date, but also confirmed there were no plans to reshoot Hammer’s scenes with a different actor.

So here we are with a brand new trailer for the film released today. Compared to the previous trailer from over a year ago, there is far less Hammer in this one. While his character appears multiple times in the sneak peek, he only utters three words in this cut. Wright gets four. Saunders, at least, gets six, but it appears the marketing has since be reworked to put the emphasis on Gadot and Branagh instead.