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British actor David Suchet

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It's Britain's finest actors vs Shakespeare in the 2012 Cultural Olympiad

Simon Lewis // Daily Mail

With London 2012 just around the corner, the BBC is celebrating the Cultural Olympiad with an epic production of Shakespeare’s history plays. Simon Lewis meets the men at the heart of the action

This epic ‘Henriad’, telling of England’s bloody rebellions and wars around the turn of the 15th century, was overseen by James Bond director Sam Mendes, part-funded by American networks and filmed on a huge scale. It’s the most ambitious Shakespeare project on television since the BBC’s complete works in 1978-85.

We gathered the lead actors in the new productions — David Suchet, Tom Hiddleston, Rory Kinnear and Ben Whishaw — at a London studio to discuss what Suchet calls the ‘Henry-fest’.

First of all, what do you know about the Cultural Olympiad, of which this is a part?

Rory Kinnear It’s trying to bring the focus of the Olympics on to these other things we’re good at. I’m so excited that they’re coming to London. Having only got two tickets to the boxing, I won’t be seeing much of the sporting action. So I’m glad to be involved in the Cultural Olympiad.

What’s most important, drama or athletics?

David Suchet For me? Drama, all my life — and I was quite a successful sportsman at school. But take drama away, and we’re sitting on a two-legged stool.

Tom Hiddleston Winston Churchill said, ‘If we cut funding to the arts, then what are we fighting for?’ We have an incredibly rich arts culture here: British actors and films are winning Oscars, Adele won all those Grammys. British theatre is the best in the world. We should be very, very proud. But I love sport too.

RK The thing about sport is that it’s got untold drama in it. It’s why Shakespeare wrote about kings: where the stakes are highest, people live in heightened states.

Exclusive interview with the stars of Long Day's Journey Into Night, David Suchet and Laurie Metcalf

David, you have now performed back to back in plays by two of the 20th Century’s greatest writers, Arthur Miller and Eugene O’Neill, how do they compare and what made you take on these roles?

Both Miller and O’Neill are masters in writing about emotions whether they are family dramas or ordinary relationships. Both Joe Keller and James Tyrone are perhaps two of the great 20th Century roles for an actor.

How would you sum up your character, James Tyrone?

James Tyrone is a very complex man. Coming from poverty in Ireland to becoming a hugely successful actor in America — he put money and security above the well-being of his family. A truly tragic figure.

Long Day's Journey into Night

Michael Coveney // Whatsonstage.com

Following his recent remarkable West End performances in Terence Rattigan’s Man and Boy and Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, David Suchet puts even further distance between himself and Hercule Poirot with this beautifully modulated version of Eugene O’Neill’s James Tyrone in the mother of all dysfunctional family dramas Long Day’s Journey into Night.

David Suchet (about Long Day’s Journey Into Night)

He’s not one of those actors who has felt the touch of a royal sword on his shoulder. Nor is he remotely to be reckoned with in Hollywood’s corridors of power. The name is perhaps not quite of the household variety. Yet there are fewer streets David Suchet can walk down anywhere on the planet without being recognised than perhaps any star from these shores. Why? There’s a one-word answer: Poirot.

“I am to this day astonished,” he says, “that it’s shown in something like 73 territories around the world, and that if everybody were to switch on at one time we could hit more than 700 million people.” He sounds it: these are not the faux-modest bromides of a practised mega-celeb. Later this year, Suchet will put on the body padding and curlicued moustache for the last time. There are five more Poirot stories to film, after which ITV will have exhausted the supply of cases created by Agatha Christie. And there is one more play, which he is to perform in Chichester this summer. “That will mean I will have done the complete works.”

Interview: David Suchet

As David Suchet tackles Eugene O’Neill’s ’Long Day’s Journey Into Night’, he surveys his 43-year career.

There is more to David Suchet than a finely waxed moustache. The RSC star became a household name when he stepped into the patent-leather shoes of Agatha Christie’s Belgian super-sleuth, Hercule Poirot. But he was and is a big draw in the theatre, as he proved in 2011 when his moving portrayal of Joe Keller in Arthur Miller’s 1947 classic, ’All My Sons’, made him Critics’ Choice and Audience’s Choice for Best Actor at the Whatsonstage.com Awards.

My grandad the big shot: David Suchet picks up a camera to follow his grandfather's footsteps

This year is one marked by nostalgia for David Suchet. Not only will it be the last time he dons moustache and padding to film the Poirot role that’s made him so famous, but it also sees the release of a very personal documentary he’s made for ITV, retracing the steps of the man he calls his ‘surrogate father’ — his maternal grandfather, James ‘Jimmy’ Jarch?, a Fleet Street photographer who took iconic images of royalty, the rich and the horrors of war.

His biggest coups included a 1911 image of Winston Churchill, the then Home Secretary, in a top hat, peeking from cover during the armed Siege of Sidney Street in London’s East End, and the first candid shot of King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson together, in 1936. ‘He was the man I knew as Jimmy and I grew up under his spell, so his story is not only very close to my heart, but also very emotional, because Jimmy was my surrogate father,’ explains David, who was brought up as the middle son of Jack Suchet, a Harley Street doctor, and his wife, Joan, an ex-actress.

David Suchet has to aim for new heights in classic role at Theatre Royal in Bath

Set to appear at the Theatre Royal next week in Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night, David Suchet compared the job of playing the character to that of a mountaineer.

Well-known for his role in Agatha Christie’s detective series Poirot, Suchet will return to the theatre, joined by Laurie Metcalf, this month in the American classic.

Playing the role of James Tyrone, a husband and father who happens to be an actor, elements of the role resonate with him.

He said: “Laurence Olivier, who played the part in the early 1970s, said that an actor playing an actor can fall into the trap of being ’on’ all the time, of never stopping acting, even when he’s at home.”

David Suchet's journey to stage classic

David Suchet аѕ James Tyrone іn Long Day’s Journey іnt? Night David Suchet talks аb??t hіѕ role іn Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey іnt? Night, gives hіѕ tips ?n acting drunk ?n stage аn? с?аrіfіеѕ h?w hе?s managed t? avoid being typecast а?? through hіѕ long friendship wіth Poirot. It wаѕ thе play іtѕ writer ѕаі? ѕh???? never bе staged. Eugene O’Neill himself ?еѕсrіbе? іt аѕ being “written іn tears аn? blood”. Written іn 1941, Long Day’s Journey іnt? Night wаѕ O’Neill’s m?ѕt autobiographical play.

“Hе hа? t? enter thіѕ play іn peacefulness t? exorcise hіѕ ?wn demons,” ѕауѕ David Suchet, wh? leads thе cast іn a nеw production whісh opened thіѕ week аt London’s Apollo Theatre.

David Suchet's Poirot finally boards the Orient Express

After 21 years playing the sleuth, David Suchet tells Naomi West why his version of Murder on the Orient Express is ‘exciting and disturbing’.

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Actor David Suchet's Bombastic Detective Poirot

© 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.”

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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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