Mirren, Rigg and Annis in the frame for a new, sexier Miss Marple

Sex is coming to the sleepy English village of St Mary Mead - slowly, steadily, and on a bicycle. More than 70 years after she first brought tenacious detective work to the realm of thatched roof and church fête, Miss Jane Marple is set for a television revamp that will mix a hint of 1970s sensuality with the old-fashioned sleuthing.

Chorion, owners of the Agatha Christie portfolio of 80 novels and plays, is looking for an actress to follow in the footsteps of the most recent, and most lauded, small-screen incarnation of Miss Marple, Joan Hickson. The company is drawing up a shortlist of around a dozen potential candidates for the role. Though Chorion refused to be drawn on the precise composition of the list, and has yet to make any formal approach to its possible candidates, several names have emerged to be in the running - amounting to a fantasy who's who for the 50-something generation.

The Independent on Sunday can exclusively reveal that actresses believed to be on Chorion's initial wish-list include Dame Helen Mirren, Francesca Annis, Dame Diana Rigg and Joanna Lumley. "We have a long list at the moment," said Chorion's new chairman, the Labour peer and media millionaire Waheed Alli. He would neither confirm nor deny names on the list, though formal approaches to actresses from a final list of three or four names are expected to take place within a few months. "There are established, familiar names - favourites," he said.

"I love Miss Marple," added Lord Alli, who made his fortune with the youth-orientated TV production company Planet 24. "She is my favourite literary character. I read all the books, watched all the TV series." However, Lord Alli was keen to stress that, whoever does eventually become the new Marple, fans of the old-style character should have no fears. "People in the end don't want you to muck about with a traditional form."

Chorion has recently signed a four-year contract with ITV to produce 16 feature-length dramas based around Marple and Christie's other great detective, Hercule Poirot. Two weeks ago the company secured the largest single sale of Christie programmes to the US TV networks: eight new shows for the A&E cable network. Poirot is to remain the fiefdom of the actor David Suchet. Production of new versions of Death on the Nile, Sad Cypress, The Hollow and Five Little Pigs starts next month.

Joan Hickson, who died in 1998, is believed to have come closest to Christie's vision of a physically delicate but intellectually tough English spinster. Her portrayal of Marple for BBC television from 1985 to 1992 is regarded as having set the standard, and will prove as formidable to follow in real life as her character was to tangle with in drama.

Hickson was aged 79 when she began her Marple role for the BBC. At a mere 57, Lumley is the youngest actress thought to be on Chorion's list. Strangely, Hickson had previously been asked to play Marple in the 1961 film version of Murder, She Said - by Christie herself. "She said to me 'Some day I would like you to play my Miss Marple'," Hickson recalled in the 1990s. "I was taken aback, as I was young at the time!" She was 56. Others who played Marple include Angela Lansbury, Margaret Rutherford, Helen Hayes and even Gracie Fields.

Plans to modernise another famous character from the Chorion stable have, however, been dropped. Noddy, says Lord Alli, stays Noddy. Stand down, Ralph Fiennes.

Classic Christie on the screen

Dame Margaret Rutherford (1892-1972) was the first on-screen Miss Marple in 1961's Murder, She Said. She went on to appear in four more Agatha Christie films, including Murder Most Foul (1964).

Albert Finney played the diminutive Belgian detective Poirot in 1974's Murder on the Orient Express. The film received six Oscar nominations and won three Baftas; the cast included Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman and Sean Connery.

Sir Peter Ustinov was the next screen Poirot. British-born with Russian, Italian and Ethiopian blood, he starred as Emperor Nero in Quo Vadis and won an Oscar for his role in 1960's Spartacus. His best known portrayal of Poirot was in Death on the Nile (1978).

David Suchet: 1989 saw the start of the long-running TV drama series starring Suchet as Hercule Poirot. He appeared in many Agatha Christie mysteries including Murder on the Links (1995) and Evil Under the Sun (2001). Suchet's first job was as an assistant stage manager in Chester.

Tom Matthews

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
science
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
tv
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
Kristen Stewart and Rupert Sanders were pictured embracing in 2012
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

ERP Business/ Implementation Analyst

£40000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: This is an e...

Software Developer / Software Engineer

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: Combining a passion for Softwa...

Lead Software Developer / Senior Software Developer / Technical Architect

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: Lead Software Developer / Seni...

Digital Designer / Web Designer

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Digital Designer / Web Desig...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried