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British actor David Suchet

poirot

For a fictional character to be recognised as the greatest detective in the world is a tribute to the skill of Agatha Christie... and the man who plays him.

it has probably been said before, but it bears repeating: David Suchet is a gentleman through and through and an interviewer s dream. Had I spoken to him 30 minutes later, however, it would have been Hercule Poirot who replied, another gentleman but one from a totally different era. By then, the moustache would have gone on, the character would have kicked in and Poirot would have been in full spate. Once he is in full costume David Suchet recedes into the background and Poirot takes over. It is something over which David has no choice, he says. When you are filming, you can t just drop in and out of character, especially someone so extreme as Poirot. I have to be bang on for that character just as soon as the director shouts action . When the moustache goes on, Suchet dons Poirot like a comfortable coat.

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It's been five years since Agatha Christie's most popular detective exercised his "little gray cells" on a good whodunit yarn. At 7 p.m. Sunday, Hercule Poirot gets back to business. A&E brings him out of retirement to solve Christie's famous case of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. It's the first of two new Poirot movies, and both A&E and David Suchet hope there'll be more. Suchet said he actually had trouble getting back into the walk and the talk. But, in Roger Ackroyd, Suchet's still got it -- the consummate Poirot. Even though this case is not one of his all-time teasers, it's great to have him back. It's also great to see him reunited with his perfect partner-in-detection, Philip Jackson's Chief Inspector Japp. Faithful Poirot fans are bound to miss Hugh Fraser's Captain Hastings, his slightly muddle-headed friend and associate. He's off running a ranch in South America. Pauline Moran's Miss Lemon, Poirot's splendid secretary, isn't there, either. Poirot has closed his London office and retired to the picture pretty village of Kings Abbott. He is happily tending his garden when his old friend Roger Ackroyd is murdered, right down the road, and a curious journal becomes the clue to nail the guilty party from a cast of prime suspects.

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The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, which aired on A&E, marked the return of dapper detective Hercule Poirot to the television screen after a five-year hiatus. In films, Agatha Christie's most famous creation has been portrayed by a number of actors, ranging from Charles Laughton to Peter Ustinov, but none have inhabited the character so completely and compassionately as British actor David Suchet. Suchet's career began onstage with roles in Shakespeare standards, then gradually branched into feature films ( Executive Decision, The Falcon and the Snowman, and A Perfect Murder, among others). He finds himself in front of the footlights again as Antonio Salieri in the current Broadway production of Amadeus, but to mystery aficionados around the world, his best-known disguise involves a wax mustache, generous padding, and a French accent. He has appeared in 45 adaptations of Christie's stories, which are rerun on PBS and A&E. Suchet chatted with Amazon.com's Larisa Lomacky Moore about a curious "little man" named Hercule Poirot.

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Jo Litson // Sunday Telegraph

In 1985, David Suchet played Inspector Japp in a film of Agatha Christie’s Thirteen at Dinner with Peter Ustinov as Poirot. Fortunately he wasn’t very good. Had he been, he may never have taken on the role of Poirot himself.

Suchet, of course, played Christie’s fastidious little Belgian detective in 74 telemovies over 25 years, winning millions of fans around the world.

In between his Poirot commitments, he returned regularly to the stage though he wasn’t able to undertake a long run. However, after Poirot’s death in the final episode last year, Suchet now has the time to tour internationally in a play by Roger Crane called The Last Confession, currently in Australia. Set in the Vatican it is billed as “a thriller” set around the sudden (some think suspicious) death of Pope John Paul I in 1978.

Next, he plays Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde’s “trivial comedy for serious people” The Importance of Being Earnest in London’s West End.

During a quick media stop-over in Sydney before the start of the tour in Perth, the thoroughly charming, genial British actor took time to talk about saying goodbye to Poirot, his current role in The Last Confession, his conversion to Christianity, Twitter and the chance to play Lady Bracknell.

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David Suchet, is probably best known as the eccentrically observant detective Hercule Poirot from Agatha Christie novels. Suchet is not the first to play Poirot, but he has defined the character in ways that other actors haven't broached. Suchet never expected his Poirot run to be more than a year, but now more than a decade later he is still reveling in his love of the quirky, little man. Recently I spoke to Suchet about how he feels defining a fictional personality, his thoughts on Agatha Christie, and how he developed that kooky, little walk.

When you were first approached with the role of Hercule Poirot, given that other people had played it before you, what was your greatest challenge in bringing something new?

DS: Well, the first thing I did was to remind myself exactly how he was played, in a "Poirot" with Peter Ustinov [Thirteen at Dinner]. He played Hercule and I played Inspector Japp. I think it has to go down on record publicly that it was probably the worst performance I've ever given in my life, but having said that, I watched Albert Finney doing Murder on the Orient Express and other "Poirots." I can't remember their names off hand, but the two famous ones, of course, [are] Albert Finney, although he only did one, and Peter Ustinov, who has done very, very many.

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© 2010 National Public Radio.  For personal, noncommercial use only.

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Transcript:

Actor David Suchet has had his turn on the stage, television and the big screen. But despite roles in many films and more than a decade with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Suchet is best known as Agatha Christie’s well-loved but somewhat disagreeable Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. He first starred as the mustachioed sleuth on British television more than 20 years ago. The latest Blu-ray release featuring Suchet, Murder On The Orient Express, has just come out. Though he’s been playing Poirot for more than two decades, Suchet still remembers his very first scene as the detective. “The camera was on my very shiny patent leather shoes,” he tells NPR’s Neal Conan. Then, slowly, it panned up his legs to reveal his striped trousers, morning coat, gray waistcoat, bow tie, wing collar and “of course, the famous mustache.”

<...>

David Suchet joins us now from the BBC and Broadcasting House in London. And thanks very much for being with us today.

Mr. SUCHET: Hello.

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After a five-year absence, David Suchet is back as Agatha Christie’s beloved Belgian sleuth.

Before our conversation even began, David Suchet had a mystery to unravel.

Oh, it’s not one fraught with the sort of gasp-inducing revelations he’s accustomed to tackling as Agatha Christie’s eminent investigator Hercule Poirot. But he’s as intent on straightening out the phone number mix-up that prevented our originally scheduled interview as Poirot is about bringing a killer to justice. It makes sense that Suchet would share Poirot’s inquisitive mind. If people who live together can start to resemble each other, then Suchet should definitely share some traits with the fussbudget Belgian sleuth he’s spent so much time with over the past decade.

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TV Times talks to David Suchet on his enduring friendship with co-star Zoe Wanamaker and preparing to say farewell to Poirot...

Is it fun having Zoe back playing Ariadne Oliver in this new adventure?

“Always! Zoe and I have been such good friends for a very long time. I was absolutely delighted when she first became Ariadne [in 2005’s Cards on the Table], and whenever she is set to appear, I look forward to it immensely. It is also great for Poirot to have a sparring partner, and Ariadne certainly provides that.”

Is your relationship in any way similar off screen?

“No, not in any way. We’re out of the roles as soon as filming finishes and go back to being just dear friends.”

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photo by James Braund / Getty // The New York Times

Hope Reeves // The New York Times

The actor talks to Hope Reeves about embracing Christianity, joining Twitter and saying goodbye to Hercule Poirot.

 

After 25 years on the air, “Agatha Christie’s Poirot” recently broadcast the final five episodes in the United States on Acorn TV. I read that you filmed the final episode first.

To have him die at the same moment I finished the role would have been a very negative thing for me to go through. So I asked the producers if I could film him dying first. Then I would leave him as I want to remember him, alive and kicking.

Did you mourn for him?

Filming his actual death was the hardest day of the whole 25 years. Part of me died with him.

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David Suchet believes Agatha Christie probably MET Hercule Poirot or someone very like him in real life.

“I think she found him, really,” Suchet says in an accent one never would mistake for that of the little Belgian detective, perhaps Christie’s most popular character. “The Belgians were refugees in the southwest of England where (Christie) was a dispensing nurse (during War War I), and she would have met Belgians there.

“She might have found someone as wonderfully eccentric and irritating yet charming as Poirot,” he says.

Only Christie would know better than Suchet who, for six years, donned a padded costume and artificial facial hair to play Poirot with such affection and conviction as to be able to convince those of us who watched that he truly was the prissy little man with the overactive gray cells.

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