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The First and Final Days as Poirot: David Suchet Speaks

The First and Final Days as Poirot: David Suchet Speaks

There
were Poirots before him. There will be Poirots to follow. Right now, for over
seven hundred and fifty million plus viewers who have watched the detective
series since its debut in 1989, David Suchet is Poirot. Poirot is David Suchet.

Moments
following a screening of Curtain:
Poirot’s Last Case
, at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills last June, a
casually dapper Suchet strode on to the stage, for a Q&A led by Robert
Lloyd of the Los Angeles Times. The
classically trained thespian felt present—in his skin—in the best sense of the
word.

(More
on Agatha Christie’s Poirot, Season 13)

He
quickly disarmed the audience with a relaxed greeting and an infectious warmth
and spoke about the process he used when first creating the all-seeing,
all-knowing mustachioed sleuth:

“The
worst thing that I can do as an actor is to say “How shall I play this role?” …
That can lead to misinterpretation because you’ll be doing what I want. So what I try to do on
everything, is what I did with Agatha Christie… I started reading…  with a huge notebook to write down every
single character detail that I could find. Not to determine how I was going to
play him, but just to get to know what she
was writing, what eccentricities, how he dressed, what was his past… So
having got this dossier then you have to study the personality and use your
imagination and use every piece of creativity within oneself to change who I may be to become them rather than to
adapt them to be me.”

“I
worked on his dress sense… on how he looked… on the padding underneath to give
me the shape that Agatha Christie had designed for him with his head slightly
forward, tilted to one side ‘like a black bird’ she describes him. All these
little things, having two eggs exactly the same size for breakfast. And in fact…
I started to become his protector… when I started to get directors who wanted
to turn him into a comedy—into a two dimensional character—and I just wanted to
be the Poirot that Christie wrote. I didn’t want to be jut a comedy cardboard
cutout.

“The
great thing in the interpretation that I was able to create, was that when I
started reading the novels and the short stories I suddenly met a character
that I had not seen portrayed. That was my luck, because I love Albie
Finney.  He’s a great actor and a great
Poirot. And I loved Peter Ustinov, Ian Holm, etcetera. But I hadn’t seen the
Poirot that Christie wrote.

“So
I thought, this is terrific. I’m going to be that. An early thought was that it
wouldn’t be as entertaining. In fact when I was interviewed in the Daily
Telegraph just before it came out, they asked how did I think it was going to
be received and I said: ‘I’m not sure. It may be a bit boring.’

“Because
I wasn’t going to be the comic, entertaining figure that, maybe, the audience
wanted to see. I wanted to be the Agatha Christie’s
Poirot. The Poirot… that her readership would recognize. And they did. They
came out of the woodwork and they read it and they said… ‘We’ve found him.’ And
that was my method, that’s how I worked on the character.”

Suchet
noted that playing the role had made him far more observant than he was used to
being and he also picked up another useful trait.  

“I was never really a good
listener,” Suchet said. “And to listen well is a great-great compliment to whom
you’re with, if someone is speaking to you, if they get your ear in totality,
it’s enormously complimentary and important. Poirot is one of the greatest
listeners. … And I quote: he says, “I listen to what you say but I hear what you mean.”

Suchet went on: “… to listen well
is as tiring as to speak because it’s total attention. That person is the only
person in the room. And that’s what Poirot does. And that’s what he taught me.
And I’ve got to struggle to hang on to that now I’m not playing him anymore.“

To
his good fortune, Suchet was never typecast as Poirot and has continuously worked
in all theatrical arenas playing a variety of roles. However, he never knew
from one season to the next if there was to be another go round for Le Petit Belge.

“…at
the end of every series, I was never optioned. Never, for twenty-five years.”
Suchet exclaimed with exuberance. “That’s both a good thing and a bad thing.
The good thing about it was that I had gaps, because I thought I had finished.
I was able to do Long Day’s Journey.
I was able to do All My Sons. I was
able to do another television… lots of film—lots of radio, and then I’d get a
phone call: ‘Will you do a Poirot?’
Well, uh, yes. But I was never optioned.

“Now
… if someone had said at the beginning: We’re going to give you a character and
we’re going to option you for twenty-five years… I’d have said no. Because I
couldn’t have worked outside it. As a character actor I would have been stuck
for a quarter of a century. But the fact that I wasn’t, now looking back, was a
gift!”

Curtain airs Monday night, August 25th, on Acorn
TV
, and is the last of the five episodes making up Poirot’s 13th
and final season.  Take a peak:

  

Longtime Hercule Poirot sidekick Hugh Fraser (Captain Hastings) joins
Suchet in the finale.

* * *

WARNING—SPOILER ALERT: If you’ve not read the novel nor seen the final
episode, you may want to stop reading and return to this after the airing.

How
Curtain came to be, as told by David
Suchet:

“She
(Christie) wrote Mysterious Affair at
Stiles
in the twenties. Hugely popular. She wrote it as a dare. She wasn’t
going to be a novelist. She was a chemist…as a nurse during the first World
War. Overnight success. Started to write other novels.

“World
War II comes along and anybody could die in World War II in Britain. We were
just a place for bombs to drop. And she thought she’d write the last story. Kill
him off, so that the readership, if she died, it would round off one of the
most popular characters for twenty-odd years.

“So
after the war, she was still alive. She gave it to her publisher who refused to
publish it. So it stayed undercover. She was ordered to write more. But it got
to that point where she actually had to
write more and not long before her own death, she was allowed to end (it) and Curtain came out, but it was written,
like, thirty-odd years before it was published. Interesting.”

When
it came to filming, Suchet requested they tackle Curtain first:

 “I can’t help but watch it with great emotion,
because he’s my best friend and I get very emotional because this episode, that
you’ve seen, is the end. That is it. And…. I just asked for the chance to—of the
last five films that we did, I asked if I could film this first and not last,
because, I didn’t want to leave him dead. Because I’ve lived with this guy and
he’s lived with me for twenty-five years. 
And even though I’ve done other work and everything in between it’s a twenty-five
year relationship and we’ve become incredibly close. It’s a strange thing to
say, but we have.

“I
know him possibly better than I’ve known anybody else. I didn’t want to leave
him after twenty-five years, remember him like that, so we did this one before
Christmas and then we worked right through to June. So I packed up with him
still very much alive and very much with me.”

Ms.
Rosalind Hicks (Agatha Christie’s daughter) once said to Suchet “I’d like you
to know that if my mother were still alive, she would be delighted.”

Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case brings the series to a full stop with a whopping 70 episodes.
It debuts Monday, August 25th on Acorn TV where “the little
grey cells” of David Suchet’s creation of Agatha Christie’s Poirot will remain alive and available for
streaming by fans everywhere. It has been reported that they, too, are
delighted.

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Comments

Gary Legacy ... Canadian

"I am not beating around the shruberies" I am still roaring to this very day .. No one loves this character more than I .. I am wondering if you plan on meeting the fans through some type of autograph signing event .. I would come from Canada to attend this .. A bucket wish on my list .. Are you saying it to me, it is so? ( :-)

Marc

re: ZZmike…Agree on Brett and Suchet… sad to say have not seen one Rumpole of the Bailey, but will remedy that immediately. I would however vote to place Krister Henriksson as Wallander in that same League of Gentlemen.

ZZMike

There are at least three roles like this. John Mortimer wrote Rumpole for Leo McKern to play, and McKern was born to play Rumpole. Conan Doyle wrote Holmes for Jeremy Brett to play, and Brett was born to play Holmes. And Christie wrote Poirot for Suchet to play, and Suchet was born to play Poirot.

anonymous

"I read there's going to be another Poirot book out soon by a hired writer. It's called Monogram Murders. Guess the Agatha Christie style is easily mimicked."

I doubt it will be as good as any Christie novel.

Francis

I read there's going to be another Poirot book out soon by a hired writer. It's called Monogram Murders. Guess the Agatha Christie style is easily mimicked. Could be they hire him again and then all this fanfare would be for nothing.

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