The famed mystery novelist Agatha Christie was responsible for two of the most iconic detectives in literary history: Hercule Poirot (Murder on the Orient Express) and Miss Marple. What made Marple such a unique addition to the genre, for those unaware, was her kind nature, her nationality (English), and her status as an aged spinster.
Which is why it’s supremely disappointing to learn that Jennifer Garner has been tapped for the role.
According to Deadline, Disney is adapting the character’s exploits for the big screen with Garner as the detective. Let’s say that again: The Texas-born, American actress Jennifer Garner, age 38, is going to be playing a detective known primarily for being an English old lady.
It’s hard not to be incredibly cynical about this move. After all, Hollywood has a tendency to unnecessarily Americanize and skew younger with adapted properties – despite the creative damage that it does – all in the name of dollar signs and the lowest common denominator. In fact, this whole ordeal reminds me of the Arrested Development joke where Tantamount Studios adapts Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea as “The Young Man and the Beach” starring Jude Law.
I think this image accurately captures the ridiculousness of this casting choice
The question is, what remains of this character that makes her Miss Marple? Jennifer Garner won’t be wearing aging makeup, so scratch the elderly aspect of the character off the list. Perhaps Garner will be affecting a British accent – a terrifying prospect, if true – but more likely they’ll just make her American and be done with it. So why, then, didn’t Disney just craft their own, entirely new female detective? Call her “Miss Bristow” or whatever and leave old Miss Marple out of harm's way.
As with so many things these days, the reason is branding. In the same way that Battleship and Dark Shadows are brand names, Miss Marple is a brand name - although a relatively unknown one here in the States. Why concoct a wholly new story when you can cinematically cannibalize one that already exists, right?
Check out a clip (below) from Murder Ahoy, one of the more famous films about Miss Marple (as portrayed by character actress Margaret Rutherford), which previously held the title for being most loosely based on the character:
Murder Ahoy, 1964
Miss Marple has been adapted for the silver screen several times, though the last time (not counting the 1983 Russian adaptation and a slew of television movies) was in 1980 with The Mirror Crack’d, starring Angela Lansbury. Incidentally, the character was a major influence for Jessica Fletcher of Murder She Wrote fame, also starring Lansbury.
The new Miss Marple will be written by Twin Peaks co-creator Mark Frost and produced by Juliana Janes (13 Going on 30). As the old saying goes, this does not bode well.