British actor David Suchet first played Agatha Christie’s
famous detective, Hercule Poirot, in 1988. The role has
come to define his career.
His series, which appeared in America as a part of
PBS's Masterpiece Mystery, spanned a quarter of a
century. Suchet filmed 33 of Christie's novels and
dozens of short stories. Last year, his work as Poirot
concluded at Christie’s own summer home, a Georgian
manor house set in the green countryside of Devon.
“I cannot deny it was the hardest day filming of my whole
career," Suchet explained to Elizabeth Grice in an
interview for the Telegraph. "Poirot has been my best
friend, part of my family, part of my life. I’ve lived with this
man. He’s allowed me the career I don’t think I would
have had wirhout him. He’s given me stability in a
profession that is insecure.
"Poirot has literally subsidized the other side of my
career, . . . my theater side,” he said in a Los Angeles
Times piece (7/21/13) by Henry Chu.
“Extraordinary, absolutely extraordinary,” was Suchet’s
response when asked if he was sad. “I don’t think you
can ask anybody who’s reached the summit of Everest
whether they’re sad.”
Suchet’s filming wrapped in June of 2013, but his final
few Poirot episodes won’t appear in America until later
PBS’s “Agatha Christie: Poirot” is watched by about 5
million Americans, 80% higher than the public network’s
prime-time average. It is also popular in Brazil, Finland
and Japan, among other countries, making Suchet an
Other well-known actors who’ve played the role of Poirot
include Albert Finney in “Murder on the Orient Express”
and Peter Ustinov in “Death on the Nile.” But to my way
of thinking, only Suchet captures the true appearance
and mannerisms of the very distinctive detective.
Is he really like the sleuth he plays? “I do like order,”
Suchet confesses to Grice. “Poirot is a visual man. If he
looks on chaos on his desk, he will feel chaotic. Before
I start learning lines for a big play, I have to make my
desk absolutely clear so my mind is clear. Then I put the play
down and start work.
"I love symmetry. I will go into a room and, if I’m on my own, I
will straighten the crooked picture, as he does. I’m also very
traditional as a man. I’m not modern and never have been. I
think I was born 50 years of age and out of my time. Poirot’s
definitely out of his time.”
Early in the series, the makers decided to set every episode
in the 1930s no matter when it was written, allowing them to
concentrate the camera on the fabulous Art Deco details.
“We have people who watch ‘Poirot’ for the cars,” said
Rebecca Eaton, executive producer of PBS’ Masterpiece.
There have been perks to playing Poirot, one being when he
was asked to ride the Orient Express, following in the
footsteps of his character, Poirot. He was even allowed to
drive the train!
In addition to completing the Poirot oeuvre, Suchet has
recorded a spoken version of the Bible, set to be released
this Easter. He is working on a documentary on St. Peter to
complement the one he made on St. Paul.
A non-orthodox Jew, Suchet picked up a Bible in his hotel
room and started to read St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans.
“I read it as a letter that had just been sent to me through the
post,” he said. “By the time I got to the end," he told Grice, " I
found a world view I had been looking for all my life;
something I could hang onto. I don’t have blind faith. If I were
ever to write a book about my journey to faith, the title would
be ‘Dragged Kicking and Screaming.'”
David Suchet: the Definitive Poirot
Suchet in Jerusalem while filming "In the Footsteps of St. Paul."