Richard Osman’s Thursday Murder Club Movie Cast: Jonathan Pryce, David Tennant Confirmed

The big four have been announced for Chris Columbus' movie adaptation of Richard Osman's The Thursday Murder Club

Celia Imrie as Rose Fairchild in BBC Wales drama Keeping Faith
Photo: BBC/Scott Waller

UPDATE 18/06/24: As announced by Richard Osman on the latest edition of his and Marina Hyde’s “The Rest is Entertainment” podcast, a host of new names have been added to the Chris Columbus-directed film. They are: Jonathan Pryce as Elizabeth’s husband Stephen, David Tennant in an as-yet-undisclosed role, Naomi Ackie and Daniel Mays as police officers Donna and Chris, plus Henry Lloyd-Hughes. There are more names to come.

Previously confirmed on The Rest is Entertainment podcast, Celia Imrie (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Calendar Girls, Dinnerladies) was the final one of the ‘big four’ to be announced. She’s to play the role of Joyce Meadowcroft. Joyce would love that, we feel.

As previously reported by Variety in April 2024, Dame Helen Mirren, Sir Ben Kingsley and Pierce Brosnan are also attached to The Thursday Murder Club film adaptation, which is being directed by Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone director Chris Columbus. Mirren will of course play former spy Elizabeth, Kingsley will play psychiatrist Ibrahim, and in something of a casting curveball, Pierce Brosnan will play former union organiser Ron.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE: “Everyone shouts out ‘Helen Mirren! Julie Walters! Dame Judi Dench!’ in the street at me all the time,” said Richard Osman in 2021, which is mad because he doesn’t even look anything like them, and must make it weird when he goes out to buy his morning latte.

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Only kidding. After the millions of books he’s sold, there’s no way Richard Osman buys his own morning latte (and on reflection, he does look a tiny bit like Helen Mirren).

People are shouting those names at the author of the mega-successful Thursday Murder Club series as casting suggestions for the lead roles in the forthcoming movie adaptations. That’s who they want to see playing retired nurse Joyce – a terrible flirt (in that she excels at it) with a core of absolute steel and a person you’d absolutely want in your corner, and former British Intelligence agent Elizabeth – a great mind who can scheme a way out of any situation and who breaks the law with the ease with which most septuagenarians break a shortbread biscuit.

As to whom the street-shouters would like to see cast in the roles of Joyce and Elizabeth’s retirement village pals Ron and Ibrahim, a retired but fiery trade unionist and a fastidious, cerebral former psychiatrist, we’ll have to remain in the dark.

Osman said on The Graham Norton Show in December 2022 that while he wasn’t allowed to announce any names yet, “everybody we’re talking to has been a guest on this sofa,” (so, Will Smith, Dua Lipa and Dolly Parton haven’t been discounted yet, phew.) On Good Morning Britain, Osman confirmed that “It’s going to be British actors, that’s one thing the director has said.” (Oh. Sorry, Will Smith and Dolly Parton. Maybe next time for you?)

Something other than nationality and sofas to take into consideration is that there are currently four Thursday Murder Club books, and counting. At one point, Osman suggested he’d originally planned the continuing series to have eight to ten books. Even if that’s optimistic, and even if not every book published receives a film version, if this becomes another Harry Potter deal – and it might – then whomever they cast is potentially looking at a decade or more of film-making.

Not to be indelicate, but that’s a consideration for any group of seventy-somethings. One solution would be to cast younger actors and use the magic of cinema (i.e. confiscate their under-eye cream and turn off the high key lighting) to age them up a bit.

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With all that in mind then, and reiterating that this is mere daydreaming on our part, here are some fantasy casting ideas for the Cooper’s Chase Retirement Village sleuths and their pals.

Joyce Meadowcroft – Celia Imrie

Actor and novelist Celia Imrie will play Joyce. A very well-known actor, Imrie has starred in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel films, Women’s Institute nudity comedy Calendar Girls, and was a frequent collaborator with the genius that was Victoria Wood.

A previous favourite to play Joyce was Penelope Wilton, of Downton Abbey, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Ever Decreasing Circles fame. Wilton is what many The Thursday Murder Club readers picture when they read Joyce’s narration (and go on her Instagram account @greatjoy69) for very good reason. She’s only a year younger than the 78-year-old character, and has both the capacity for comedy and steel for which Joyce is known.

If not Wilton, then the aforementioned Dame Julie Walters was also thought perfect, as was Dame Judi Dench, though she already has 10 years on the character. One suggestion was the much younger option of The Crown’s Imelda Staunton aged up? Being played by the same actor as Queen Elizabeth II would no doubt tickle Joyce…

Elizabeth Best – Dame Helen Mirren

Dame Helen Mirren was a lot of people’s first thought for the role of wily pragmatist Elizabeth, a women of secrets who takes rare advantage of her new-found ‘invisibility’ in old age to get up to all kinds of trouble. The film’s producers obviously agreed, and Mirren is confirmed for the role. She’s is roughly the same age as 76-year-old Elizabeth, which works out perfectly. If they had decided to skew younger Killing Eve’s Fiona Shaw (who reads the audiobooks) or Phantom Thread’s Lesley Manville (who read the first audiobook) could possibly have been aged up a decade? If it wasn’t Mirren, our choice would have been the similarly magnificent Geraldine James (Anne with an E, Utopia).

Ibrahim Arif – Sir Ben Kingsley

Sir Ben Kingsley has been confirmed as playing former psychiatrist Ibrahim, who is one of the older members of the Thursday Murder Club at 80, but thanks to his strict Pilates regime, looks just 74. He’s described as a handsome, slim man with great skin, which shot Holby City’s Art Malik to the top of the people’s wish list before the Kingsley news was confirmed. Malik, a Shakespearean actor and Jewel in the Crown star, appears to tick all the boxes apart from in age, so it makes sense to have gone for Sir Ben.

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Ron Ritchie – Pierce Brosnan

Few were expecting blue-eyed former James Bond Pierce Brosnan (Mamma Mia!) to play ex-trade union leader Ron, but we think Ron would be extremely flattered at the turn of events. 83-year-old Ricky Tomlinson from The Royle Family was the actor who sprang to mind for many when they think of Ron for reasons relating to Tomlinson’s political activism, though the age wasn’t quite right. National treasure Jim Broadbent was also on fan lists for the part. If they had been looking younger though, some ageing-up could have been done on 65-year-old Gary Oldman, who’s currently starring in Apple TV+’s excellent Slow Horses, or on 66-year-old Ray Winstone who would also have been perfect.

DC Donna De Freitas – Naomi Ackie

Playing no-nonsense cop Donna, the partner to slightly-more-nonsense-and-definitely-a-lot-more-Cadbury’s-Twirls cop Chris Hudson will be I Wanna Dance With Somebody star Naomi Ackie (The End of the F***ing World, Master of None).

DCI Chris Hudson – Daniel Mays

Chris is a detective with largely a chocolate bar and crisps-based diet, who gets drawn into the Thursday Murder gang along with his work partner Donna. We knew they were looking for a Danny Mays type here, and wouldn’t you know it, they’ve cast Line of Duty and Des‘ Danny Mays.

Stephen – Jonathan Pryce

Elizabeth’s husband Stephen is a smaller role, yes, but an important one for the stories’ pathos, and he’ll be played by British screen actor Jonathan Pryce, seen most recently in Apple TV+’s excellent Slow Horses, and as the High Sparrow in Game of Thrones.

Bogdan Jankowski – ?

Muscle for hire and chess player extraordinaire Bogdan Jankowski is yet to be confirmed, unless either David Tennant (very unlikely) or Henry Lloyd-Hughes are to play him.

The Last Devil To Die, the fourth book in Richard Osman’s The Thursday Murder Club series, is out now.

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