No mystery: it’s curtains for Hercule Poirot as David Suchet says goodbye after 25 years
The actor, whose television portrayal of Agatha Christie’s most popular character comes to an end this month, is still saying farewell to the Belgian detective
True to character: David Suchet as Hercule Poirot. Photograph: Kieron McCarron/ITV
True to character: David Suchet. Photograph: Didier Baverel/WireImage
For 25 years, actor David Suchet has played Hercule Poirot, inhabiting every pore of the Belgian detective once described by his creator Agatha Christie as “a detestable, bombastic, tiresome, ego-centric little creep”.
In that time hundreds of millions of viewers have disagreed, enjoying Suchet’s portrayal in more than 70 television films, shown so far in 100 countries and dubbed into 80 languages.
When he was offered the part, in 1987, Suchet, who was already a well-regarded character actor, had to admit that he had never read Christie’s work, which had begun in 1920 with the publication in the United States of The Mysterious Affair at Styles.
But he had seen Albert Finney’s portrayal in Death on the Nile. He began to read Christie’s books. He soon took the view that the character she had created had never been brought to life.
“The one thing I decided was to be true to Agatha Christie. I wanted to make it right for her,” Suchet told Poirot fans this week in London, each of them able to finish the lines of the best-known scenes in the ITV series.
The close relationship between fans and the series is nothing new. In the mid 1990s Suchet, wearing full costume – the pince-nez, well-cut suit and cane topped with a silver swan – left the film set one summer evening in Hastings, on the south coast of England.
“I was very, very tired at the end of the day. I just needed to get away. We were out on location on a little road. I leaned on my cane and went, ‘Phew’,” he says, gesturing to show his exhaustion. “Then there was a little old lady with her shopping trolley, and she looked at me. I looked at her, and she looked at me again. She says, ‘Well, hello, Mr Poirot.’ What do I do? What do I do? I am resting off the set, but dressed as Poirot.
“I suddenly realise that I have got the moustache and the hat. I can’t reply, ‘Well, hello, love, are you doing all righ’?” Suchet says, slipping into a south London twang. “I just can’t do it. So I said, ‘Hello, Madame’, moving back into Poirot’s character. She says, ‘What are you doing here? There hasn’t been a murder or anything?’ I said, ‘No, no, no: no murder in Hastings. I am here en vacances.’ She says, ‘Who?’ I said, ‘I’m here on holiday.’ She says, ‘I’m so pleased.’
“She walks on, but then she suddenly turns around and says, ‘Can I say one thing, Mr Poirot?’ ‘Oui, madame?’ ‘Thank you so much for choosing Hastings,’ ” he says, his pleasure at the memory undimmed.
Two of the four episodes in the last series have been shown. The final one, Curtain, will be broadcast on November 13th – though Dead Man’s Folly, which has just been shown, was the last to be filmed.
Curtain, which was filmed on a sealed set, records the detective’s death. Neither Suchet nor those associated with Poirot over the decades could face the prospect of filming his death scenes last, so they were done earlier.