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British actor David Suchet

way we live now

When Anthony Trollope started writing what would become his longest novel, he never dreamed a con artist in a supporting role would take over the plot, swindling not only the characters in the book but the author himself! Such was the force of personality of his creation, Augustus Melmotte. David Suchet’s rendition of Melmotte in The Way We Live Now makes it clear what Trollope was up against. No fastidious, obsessive, mincing Hercule Poirot he — at least, not in this performance.

In addition to his signature roles as Poirot on Mystery! and in the 1992 Masterpiece Theatre production The Secret Agent, Suchet has appeared in the feature films A Perfect Murder, Sunday, Wing Commander, Executive Decision, and RKO 281 on HBO. Among his many stage roles, he has appeared as George (opposite Diana Rigg) in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and as the professor in David Mamet’s Oleanna. He made his Broadway stage debut in Peter Hall’s Amadeus playing Salieri.

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From Inspector Poirot to Melmotte in The Way We Live Now, David Suchet becomes one with his characters. He tells Emma Brockes how Robert Maxwell was his rogue role model.

In the second between being stopped in the street and being asked for his autograph, David Suchet allows a faint hope to prosper: that the celebrity-spotter’s “are you...?” concludes otherwise than, “the bloke who plays Inspector Poirot?” Of course, he is usually disappointed he says. "But I’m occasionally surprised when someone stops me and says, ’I’ll never forget your Sigmund Freud.’ Or, as happened last week, ’Oh, I saw you in Murder in Mind, you were wonderful, have you ever played a homosexual before?’ I get caught out by that. You see them coming and you immediately think it’s going to be about Poirot. And I get surprised and very pleased when it’s not."On Sunday night, the 55-year-old appeared in the role he hopes will unseat his association with the skittle-shaped Belgian detective. He was Augustus Melmotte, the villain of Andrew Davies’ BBC adaptation of Anthony Trollope’s novel The Way We Live Now. Suchet wasn’t the main focus of the first episode, but the reviews still seized on his portrayal of the vulgar plutocrat. He folds himself into the part with total conviction — divests himself of charm and becomes a stoop-shouldered, swivel-eyed maniac. It is a rendition, he hopes, that will promote the character of Melmotte to a notoriety equalling Dickens’ finest. “It was one of the most alien characters I have played,” he says. “He bore absolutely no relationship to me at all.”

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