I am always irritated by film versions of classic novels, especially when I’ve recently read them. I needn’t have worried about Death on the Nile. Kenneth Branagh’s Agatha Christie adaptation, already subject to no fewer than six delays, has been pushed back yet again to the first quarter of 2022. By the time it comes out – if it does – I’ll have forgotten the original.
With that airless sense of ‘here we go again’, Nile’s delay has been caused because its leading man, Armie Hammer, has been accused of sexual assault, including rape, and sundry other unsavoury forms of sexual conduct – allegations which he denies.
In an age in which far lesser alleged infractions than Hammer’s routinely destroy careers, the chances of my ever having to clash with Disney’s interpretation of Death on the Nile on the big screen are, in fact, extremely slim – insiders expect Disney to skip a cinema premiere altogether and quietly go straight to streaming on Hulu.
It’s not even possible, according to the latest reports, for the studio to simply cut Hammer out and reshoot the role as they did with Kevin Spacey in All the Money in the World in 2018 after Spacey was accused of sexual assault. Hammer is too big a part, and the film is done. Disney is waiting and watching the scandal unfold, but it’s hard to see how it can ever go away. Once accused, the stench around a disgraced actor is permanent.
It will be some time before a legal and police verdict are delivered on Hammer. But the outcome of those inquiries doesn’t matter and we all know it. Disney knows it, and so does everyone else who has ever worked with Hammer, or ever will. Since rumours about Hammer first appeared on Twitter in February, long before the accusations reached their present gravity, he was fired from Shotgun Wedding, a romcom with Jennifer Lopez; The Offer, a Paramount film about the making of The Godfather and Billion Dollar Spy, a Cold War thriller opposite Mads Mikkelson.