After watching the brilliant Sir David Suchet for the last 25+ years lend his excellence to the creation of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, it would be hard to imagine anyone even attempting to re-create perfection should another Poirot series materialize somewhere, someday. Of course, I said the same thing in the 1980’s when finding it impossible to believe there could be another Sherlock Holmes other than Jeremy Brett. We all know how that played out in 2010…
David Suchet brought Hercule Poirot to life back in January of 1989 with “The Adventure of the Clapham Cook”. 25 years, 13 series and 70 episodes later, he completed the entire Agatha Christie catalog with the June 2013 broadcast of “Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case”. This past Fall, Suchet spoke with interviewer and biographer Geoffrey Wansell at the BFI about getting the role of Poirot.
Should anyone consider following in the footsteps of Benedict Cumberbatch when he took on the role of the world’s greatest consulting detective and attempt to re-boot of the world famous Belgian detective, Sir David has given a bit of insight as to his preparation. Thanks to Charlotte Runcie at The Telegraph for a brilliant look at a brilliant actor.
- Be prepared – Before playing Poirot for the first time, Suchet compiled a dossier of more than 90 facts about the detective that he gleaned from Christie’s novels and short stories. He then consulted this list every time he filmed an episode. Suchet would also watch every single previous episode of Poirot in which he’d starred before filming a new one, in order to reimmerse himself in the role. This means Suchet has watched himself play Poirot at least 2,450 times.
- The walk – Christie’s original description of Poirot’s walk is as a “rapid, mincing gait, with his feet tightly and painfully enclosed within his patent leather boots”. To replicate Poirot’s walk, Suchet took inspiration from Laurence Olivier’s portrayal of a Restoration fop: “Famously he [Olivier] put a penny in the crack of his bottom and walked and wouldn’t let it drop. If you do that, you can’t walk fast, so I did the same thing… What I made myself do when I wanted to walk like Poirot was to squeeze my bottom. That makes you walk with short strides.“
- The moustache – “As soon as the moustache goes on, I speak as him,” Suchet says. “It changes the flexibility of my top lip and it’s like a catalyst that, immediately, gets me into the little man… and once the voice is there, every single thing about him slots into place.“
- ‘Zee accent’ – Suchet listened to French and Belgian radio to find an accent somewhere between the two for Poirot. The result is mostly French, with occasional hints of guttural Flemish. Suchet maintains the accent throughout filming, even when the cameras are not rolling. He has taken staying in character to eccentric extremes. When a visitor to the set of a Poirot episode being filmed in Paris became upset on realising that her handbag had been stolen earlier in the day, Suchet came to her aid. Except he did so as Hercule Poirot, launching into a lengthy, extemporised analysis of the crime, the rise of pickpocketing in Paris and a potential list of suspects. Poirot soothed her frazzled nerves but sadly the bag was never retrieved.
For a complete look at the definitive guide to Sir David Suchet’s quarter of a century iconic portrayal of Hercule Poirot, check out The Telegraph article here to see if you still want to channel your inner-Benedict Cumberbatrch and become the next Hercule Poirot.