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Meet the man behind the character

Published: Monday, 18 June 2007, 10:28AM

We interviewed David Suchet as he promoted four new ITV adaptations of the Poirot stories in which he stars as Agatha Christie's Belgian detective.

We understand that you don’t read  detective books?

That’s right. I have never read detective books. I prefer factual books because my whole working life is fiction. If I pick up a novel, I’m working.

You’ve done more Poirot stories than any other actor. Is there a challenge in it for you any more?

That’s a very good question because Agatha Christie doesn’t change him very much. She was on a winning formula and didn’t need to change it.

You must get bored.

Oh no, part of the challenge is to keep it fresh and keep the standards high. There was a time when I thought the standards had gone down a bit. [Now] I have a say over the script on filming days and its look. But I don’t have the say over the final edit. If there’s too much blood on set I will mention it but the director will reassure me.

You’ve worked with lots of directors, they must be petrified of you.

Yes, some do get a little nervous but I say: “Don’t be intimidated.” I tell them I am their greatest ally as long as we keep to the script and the book.

But some books don’t lend themselves to TV, do they?

That’s absolutely true. We have to keep to the style of the books but we do change some things. But we don’t have sex or excessive violence.

Aren’t you a producer now?

Yes, I’m an associate producer.

What happens to Poirot’s old  ‘taches?

I keep them and auction them off for charities. I keep a collar and bow ties and sell those as well. When I was playing Amadeus in New York I auctioned off some Poirot bits and made $7,000 for charity.

His moustache looks different as he gets older.

We do our best to get the moustache right. It has 18 different descriptions in Christie’s stories. About five years ago it was criticised more than the programme. We don’t always go back to the same maker. This is a huge improvement on the early episodes. It’s still very manicured.

Have you tried growing your own?

I have, that’s why we use a false one.

Why haven’t you made Poirot into a film?

Well now, I’d love to do a big-screen Poirot. I think the last episode should be a big-screen version. But a movie requires large-scale funding and it might not make back the same amount of money that a TV version would. Plus a film version would be truncated and not as good because it would have to be 90 minutes long.

But you’d still like to. Which book in particular?

Murder on the Orient Express.

How does Poirot end?

They are six very short stories called The Labours of Hercules, based on Greek myths, and Poirot solves them. Some of them would be only 10 minutes long. They would amount to the thirteenth. I’ll feel awful when we finish.

Does Poirot actually die?

He does die and I’ve said I won’t do that episode until we’ve shot all the others. I have to be wizened, thin old man living in an old people’s home called Styles. Styles is featured in the first Poirot book [The Mysterious Affair at Styles, published in 1920].

Didn’t Christie want to kill him off early on?

She wrote his demise 20 years before she actually published his death in public. So she wanted him dead 20 years before the publishers let her kill him. Wouldn’t happen to JK Rowling, would it?

When will you finally stop being Poirot?

I was 61 in May (2007) and I’d love to finish it before I’m 65. 

Do you feel you have a legacy?

That’s my ultimate aim, to leave behind a role something that I’ve always wanted to do.