1. EXT. PARIS, QUAI HENRI IV - EVENING
A SKY TINTED WITH THE REMAINING DAYLIGHT.
Text appears - June, 1929
The stars are absent, but a quarter moon hangs in the sky.
PAN: DOWN OVER A ROOFTOP, LIGHTS LIT INSIDE. SLOWLY THE TRAFFIC OUTSIDE GROWS LOUDER.
Cars clog the street. The street, Quai Henri IV, is backed up for several blocks.
PAN: DOWN INTO A CAB.
2. INT. CAB - SAME TIME
The interior is dark. The car’s headlights glare through the window as they pass.
Mother SUSAN BENJAMIN (39), a large round woman; ABIGALE (14), the bookish daughter; and brother JASPER (22) - the tall, gangly son, are all crammed together in the back seat.
JASPER: Move over.
He shifts only a small amount in his seat. He sighs.
JASPER: Should’ve ridden with Father and Michael.
Susan flattens the creases in her dress. It does nothing.
SUSAN: Abigale, put the book away. We’ll be there soon.
Abigale looks at her mother without moving. She returns to reading and turns the page.
SUSAN: Abigale, what did I say?
ABIGALE: Let me finish this chapter.
Susan sighs, shaking her head and looking out at the Seine.
3. EXT. PARIS, QUAI HENRI IV - SAME TIME
PAN: UP OVER THE STREET UNTIL GARE DE LYON LIGHTS UP ON THE HORIZON.
Credits begin rolling.
4. EXT. PARIS GARE DE LYON - SAME TIME
The neoclassical building is lit from head to toe, and clogged with taxis and cars outside the entrance. The large clock tower outside ticks away - 8:36.
5. INT. PARIS GARE DE LYON TICKET HALL - SAME TIME
The long room is glowing in gold. Bundled messes of people separate into lines for the ticket windows.
A young man, WILBUR RATCHETT (26) - the suave American businessman - finally steps up to the ticket window with a leather suitcase and a black-leather briefcase in hand. A female ATTENDANT is standing poised and ready.
ATTENDANT: Bonjour, monsieur. How are you?
RATCHETT (Breathless): Yeah, what’s the next train to Venice?
The attendant looks at the paperwork beside her.
ATTENDANT (In broken English): The Rome Express left two hours ago. There’s Le Train Bleu to Nice, that departs tomorrow and a connecting train to Milan and Venice the following day.
There are some available berths on the Simplon Orient Express. It departs tonight, at 10:20.
Ratchett looks around quickly and turns back to the Attendant.
RATCHETT (Breathless): Yeah, yeah. Sure. I’ll take it.
ATTENDANT (In broken English): First or Second Class?
The Attendant looks at the paperwork beside her. He sighs.
ATTENDANT (In broken English): I’m sorry, there’s no Second Class berths available; they’ve all been booked. Would a First Class berth be acceptable?
RATCHETT: When’s the next train to Venice?
ATTENDANT (In broken English): The Train Bleu departs tomorrow, but the next direct train to Venice depart tomorrow morning. Besides the Simplon.
RATCHETT: Fine. Fine, I’ll take the berth.
The Attendant nods and fills out some paperwork.
ATTENDANT (In broken English): Do you have any baggage?
RATCHETT (Hastily): No.
The Attendant nods again. She hands him the ticket.
ATTENDANT (In broken English): Down the hall, turn right. The Simplon train from London is standing at platform two.
Ratchett nods, and leaves.
6. INT. PLATFORM TWO - SAME TIME
The Simplon train from England is stopped, it’s coaches gleaming under the gold light of the station. Passengers poke their heads out the carriage windows. The CONDUCTOR (late 40’s) approaches the carriages and steps inside. Very slowly, the passengers begin trickling out to a waiting area immediate beyond the platform.
A young-looking man - GABRIEL THOMAS (19) - steps down from the Second Class carriage, at the far end of the train, with a medical book in his arms. He looks back at the end of the train and notices another locomotive coming down the track.
CONDUCTOR BELLANGER (38) - the Simplon’s French conductor - swings from the First Class sleeping car’s door.
GABRIEL: What’s going on?
BELLANGER: I don’t know. But we will be leaving punctually at 10:20, don’t be worried, sir.
Gabriel nods nervously and follows the other passengers.
The TRAIN DRIVER, a soot-covered man, steps out of the cab and approaches the Conductor when he exits the carriage. The Conductor nods, and proceeds towards the telephone by the entrance to the platform.
7. EXT. OUTSIDE PARIS GARE DE LYON - SAME TIME
Two navy colored cabs roll up to the entrance of the station. Susan steps out first, followed quickly by Abigale and Jasper. From the second taxi steps DAVID BENJAMIN (41), the father of the Benjamin family -and MICHAEL BENJAMIN (21), the plumper second son.
Three baggage attendants swarm the two taxis, taking the two steamer trunks off the car’s tops.
Vendors try to sell bundles of flowers by the station entrance. The Benjamin’s move past them.
WIDE: THE BENJAMIN’S ENTERING THE STATION.
The clock rings out. It’s 9:00.
8. INT. OUTSIDE PLATFORM TWO - SAME TIME
The passengers gather and sit at the long benches. Attendants from a nearby cafe begin serving hot drinks. The Benjamin family sit together, luggage close beside them.
Wilbur Ratchett sits on the other side of the room, hugging his briefcase to his chest and watching the other passengers; a folded newspaper dated days before is folded against the briefcase.
A smaller article outlines the rise of radical Fascism in Italy.
Ratchett’s eyes rest briefly on the book Gabriel’s reading. Gabriel looks up and notices the man sitting two rows away looking at him. The two match gazes for a moment.
Gabriel goes back to reading.
The ornate gates separating the waiting area and the platforms close with a CLICK.
9. INT. PLATFORM TWO - SAME TIME
A clock face TICKS away slowly. It’s 09:21.
The coaches of the arriving train from England are being moved to Platform One, while the arriving locomotive slowly stops HISSING.
The coaches move down the platform, and another locomotive comes and takes the rest of the train away.
10. INT. OUTSIDE PLATFORM TWO - SAME TIME
Children stuff their faces between the spaces of the gates, watching the train intently.
PAN: UP SLIGHTLY TO SEE THE BENJAMIN FAMILY.
Susan stands up to flattens the creases of her dress. Abigale has returned to reading, and Michael and Jaspers are talking to David.
SUSAN: Abigale, you’re being antisocial. Put the book away.
Abigale glares up from pages and returns to reading. Exasperated, Susan steps over to David.
SUSAN (Quietly): Your daughter is being antisocial again.
David sits up.
Abigale looks at him.
DAVID: Please put the book away. Come join us.
Abigale turns back to the book. After a moment, she sighs and closes the book.
DAVID: You should listen to your mother, darling. She is wise beyond her years.
David looks up at Susan and smiles. Susan smiles thankfully to her husband and goes back over to the bags left by Abigale.
11. INT. PLATFORM TWO - SAME TIME
A clock face TICKS away slowly. It’s 09:42.
The Conductor strolls along the station platform, noting the time on his pocket watch. The clock looms behind him. He SWALLOWS and inhales slowly, watching the Simplon coaches back down onto Platform One.
He SIGHS, and proceeds towards the end of the platform.
12. INT. OUTSIDE PLATFORM TWO - SAME TIME
People are beginning to become antsy, with others begin to inquire why there’s a delay.
13. INT. PLATFORM TWO - SAME TIME
A clock face TICKS away. It’s 09:51.
The Simplon train now stands at Platform One, ready to head off into the night on its journey to Milan and Venice.
SHOUTING is heard in the distance. The gates at the far end of the platform open again, and the passengers begin to board, some with the help of the porters.
PASSENGER #1 - a poised American woman with four steamer trunks - proceeds ahead of the PORTER, a short, stoutly man with a full mustache.
Passenger #1 stops and waits for the Porter to pass.
SIMPLON PASSENGER #1: I will not have my things banged about like they’re some common baggage. That luggage is a Louis Vuitton original. Put them onboard carefully.
PORTER: Oui, madame.
Through the decorative gates separating Platforms One and Two from the rest of the station, a local train pulls in on a nearby platform. The locomotive covers the tracks in steam and HISSES to a halt.
The Conductor strolls along the station platform, noting the time on his pocket watch. The clock is right behind him.
Passengers come up and continue boarding the train. Subdued conversations mix with the sounds of the station.
The Benjamin family step aboard the metal-bodied sleeping car as a porter takes their luggage to the front of the train, to the baggage car, a long wooden carriage behind the locomotive and in front of the new metal cars. The clock face CLICKS - 10:20. The conductor eyes the pocketwatch nervously before SIGHING. He strolls away.
The GUARD - a fit man dressed in the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons Lits’ colors - waves the green flag, signaling to the Driver that the train can depart.
The Simplon locomotive SQUEALS as it blows its whistle, and begins to move.