David Suchet, CBE (born London, England, May 2, 1946) is an English actor, known for his work on British stage and television. The grandson of James Jarché, the Fleet Street photographer notable for the first pictures of Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson – as well as for his 1909 pictures of aviation pioneer Louis Blériot and of the 1911 “Siege of Sidney Street” –, the son of Alexander Fleming’s associate in penicillin research Dr. Jack Suchet, and the brother of Five News and Classic FM Breakfast Show presenter John Suchet, David Suchet has come to be particularly associated with the longstanding role of the detective Hercule Poirot in Agatha Christie’s Poirot, for which he received a 1991 British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) award nomination. Trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, where he now serves as a council member, Suchet is an alumnus of the Royal Shakespeare Company, in whose productions he appeared for over ten years. His other notable screen appearances include, inter alia, his role as Edward Teller in the TV serial Oppenheimer and his performance as Augustus Melmotte in the 2001 British serial The Way We Live Now, for which he received the Royal Television Society and Broadcasting Press Guild’s best actor awards.
Suchet began his acting career as a member of the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain in the 1960s following graduation from high school. His first appearances after concluding his training at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts were on the stage of the Watermill Theatre, Bagnor, Berkshire; and he has since commented that Watermill “fulfils my vision of a perfect theatre”. In 1973, he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he was frequently, though not exclusively cast in the roles of Shakespeare’s archvillains. His repertory included, inter alia, Iago in Othello, Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet, Caliban in The Tempest, and Bolingbroke in Richard II, a role in which he appeared, inter alia, in a 1981-82 production opposite Alan Howard. By the end of the 1970s, Suchet had become one of the dominant players of the RSC. He also appeared as John in the drama Oleanna at the Royal Court Theatre in 1993, directed by Harold Pinter and co-starring Lia Williams as Carol. In 1996–97 he played opposite Dame Diana Rigg in the East-End production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Thereafter, he appeared as Salieri from 1998 to 2000 in the Broadway production Amadeus. In 2007, at the Chichester Festival Theatre, he played Cardinal Benelli in The Last Confession, a play about the death of Pope John Paul I. In 2014, he reprised the role of Benelli in the Australian tour of the play. Lately, he has starred as Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde at the Vaudeville Theatre in London since June 2015 and on tour.
After making his first TV appearance in 1970, Suchet appeared in the 1980 made-for-TV film version of A Tale of Two Cities. In 1980, he also played Edward Teller, later developer of the US H-bomb, in the joint BBC-US TV serial about the US Manhattan Project called Oppenheimer. In 1983, he played Inspector Tsientsin, the insidious half-Chinese policeman with orders to kill British spy Sidney Reilly in Reilly, Ace of Spies. Thereafter, he portrayed Sigmund Freud in the six-hour mini-series Freud, co-produced by the BBC in 1984. In 1985, he played Blott in the television series Blott on the Landscape, and corporate whistle-blower Stanley Adams in A Song for Europe.
Also in 1985, Suchet appeared as Inspector Japp in a screen adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Thirteen at Dinner, in which Peter Ustinov portrayed Poirot. In his memoir Poirot and Me, Suchet mentions that Ustinov one day approached him and told him that Suchet could play Poirot and would be good at it. Suchet continues:
“That conversation came back to me as Brian Eastman told me that ITV wanted to make a series of ten one-hour films based on the Poirot short stories. Then he dropped his bombshell: ‘We are very keen that you should play Poirot.’
My spoonful of curry stopped halfway to my mouth. I was astounded. Me, the serious Shakespearean actor, portrayer of men with haunted souls, playing a fastidious, balding detective?
Brian sent me two Poirot novels and I became intrigued. The Poirot in the books was nothing like the character I’d seen on screen: he was more elusive, more pedantic, and most of all, more human. But I still wasn’t sure whether I should play him. I called my elder brother John, then a newscaster at ITN, and asked what he thought.
‘I wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole,’ John said firmly. ‘Poirot’s a bit of a joke, a buffoon. It’s not you at all.’ I gulped.
‘Well, what I’m reading isn’t a buffoon,’ I told him. ‘It’s a character that I’ve never seen portrayed.’
There was a slight sigh. ‘Of course, you must do it if you want to,’ he said quietly. ‘Good luck. Only a word of warning: it may be difficult to get people to take him seriously.’
It turned out he was right. Nonetheless, I was convinced that I could bring the true Poirot, as Agatha Christie had written him, to life. I told Brian that I would do it.“
In 1988, he played Leopold Bloom in the Channel 4 documentary The Modern World: Ten Great Writers, in which some of James Joyce’s Ulysses was dramatised. During the time, he spent days reading Agatha Christie’s books about Hercule Poirot. He remembers:
“The more I read, the more the little man entranced me. There were so many foibles and mannerisms – his need for order, his dislike of the country, his silver ‘Turnip’ pocket watch. I started to write a private list of his habits and character.
‘Hates to fly,’ I wrote in my dossier. ‘Makes him feel sick. Regards his moustache as a thing of perfect beauty. A man of faith and morals. Regards himself as “un bon Catholique”.’
I carried this dossier around on the set throughout all my years as Poirot, years in which I grew to love and admire the little Belgian.
In 1989, Suchet finally took the title role of Hercule Poirot for the television series Agatha Christie’s Poirot, which would go on to comprise a total of 70 episodes and run for over twenty years until, in November 2011, Suchet and ITV finally announced that Suchet would complete the canon of Poirot novels, in a thirteenth and final series of Poirot. The final episode, Curtain, aired on ITV on November 13, 2013. During the time the final episode was filmed, Suchet expressed his sadness at his final farewell to the Poirot character he had loved:
“This is the death of a dear friend. For years it has been Poirot and me – and to lose him is a pain almost beyond imagining.
Poirot’s death was the end of a long journey for me. I had only ever wanted to play Dame Agatha’s true Poirot […] He was as real to me as he had been to her: a great detective, a remarkable man, if, perhaps, just now and then, a little irritating.
I think back to Poirot’s last words in the scene before he dies. That second ‘Cher ami’ was for someone other than Hastings. It was for my dear, dear friend Poirot. I was saying goodbye to him as well – and I felt it with all my heart.”
With the exception of one short story, Suchet has played the role in adaptations of every novel and short story featuring the character written by Dame Agatha Christie.
Nevertheless, in the years while he was portraying Poirot, Suchet also continued to appear in other roles. As such, he was a member of the cast in two Michael Douglas films, A Perfect Murder and The In-Laws. In 2001, he had the lead role in the David Yates-directed BBC television serial The Way We Live Now and, in April 2002, he played the real-life barrister, George Carman (QC), in the BBC drama Get Carman: The Trials of George Carman QC. In 2003, Suchet starred as the ambitious Cardinal Wolsey in the two-part ITV drama Henry VIII opposite Ray Winstone as Henry VIII and Helena Bonham Carter as Anne Boleyn. In May 2006, he played the role of the fallen press baron Robert Maxwell in Maxwell, a BBC2 dramatisation of the final 18 months of Maxwell’s life. During the same year, he voiced Poirot in the adventure game Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express.
At Christmas 2006, he played the vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing in a BBC adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula. Moreover, he appeared in the disaster film Flood, released in August 2007, as the Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom at a time when London is devastated by flooding. Suchet appeared on daytime-TV chat show Loose Women on February 6, 2008 to talk about his film The Bank Job, in which he played Lew Vogel, alongside Jason Statham and Saffron Burrows. In 2008, he took part in the genealogy documentary series Who Do You Think You Are?, and discovered facts about his family history. He also starred in the 2009 CBC made-for-TV film Diverted, and appeared as the main antagonist, Reacher Gilt, in the 2010 Sky TV adaptation of Going Postal, based on Pratchett’s book of the same name.
Major Awards and Honors
Titles of the British Empire
- 2002: Officer of the British Empire
- 2011: Commander of the British Empire
City of London
- 2009: Freedom of the City
Emmy Awards (USA)
- 2008: International Emmy Award, Best Actor – “Maxwell”
Royal Television Society Awards
- 1986: Best Performance, Male – “Freud”
- 1986: Best Performance, Male – “A Song for Europe”
- 1986: Best Performance, Male – “Blott on the Landscape”
- 2002: Best Actor, Male – “The Way We Live Now”
- 2013: Lifetime Achievement Award – “Agatha Christie’s Poirot”
Broadcasting Press Guild Awards (Great Britain)
- 2002: Best Actor – “The Way We Live Now”
Variety Club Awards (Great Britain))
- 1994: Best Actor – “Oleanna”
- 2007: Best Actor – “The Last Confession”
Gemini Awards (Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television)
- 2009: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Dramatic Program or Mini-Series – “Diverted”
Online Film and Television Association
- 2015: Best Actor in a Motion Picture or Miniseries – “Agatha Christie’s Poirot”
Istanbul International Film Festival (Turkey)
- 1998: Special Prize of the Jury – “Sunday”
- Poirot and Me (2013)
- Jackanory (1966)
– Role: Narrator; TV series, 2 episodes (Emil and the Detectives)
- The Mating Machine (1970)
– Role: Henry; TV series, episode Flo and Monty and Henry … and Henry
- Public Eye (1971)
– Role: Martin Kulman; TV series, episode And When You’ve Paid the Bill You’re None the Wiser
- The Protectors (1973)
– Roles: various; TV series, 2 episodes.
- The Quality Connection (1977)
– Role: George; short film.
- The Professionals (1978)
– Role: Krivas; TV series, episode Where the Jungle Ends
- Wings of Ash (1978)
– Short film.
- A Tale of Two Cities (1980)
– Role: John Barsad; TV movie.
- Schiele in Prison (1980)
– Role: Gustav Klimt
- Oppenheimer (1980)
– Role: Edward Teller; TV miniseries.
- Play for Today (1981)
– Role: Reger; TV series, episode The Cause
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1982)
– Role: Clopin Trouillefou; TV movie.
- The Missionary (1982)
– Role: Corbett
- Trenchcoat (1983)
– Role: Inspector Stagnoss
- The Last Day (1983)
– Role: Howard; TV movie.
- Red Monarch (1983)
– Role: Beria; TV movie.
- Being Normal (1983)
– Role: Bill; TV movie.
- Reilly, Ace of Spies (1983)
– Role: Inspector Tsientsin; TV miniseries, episode Prelude to War
- Master of the Game (1984)
– Role: André d’Usseau; TV miniseries, 3 episodes.
- Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984)
- The Little Drummer Girl (1984)
– Role: Mesterbein
- Freud (1984)
– Role: Dr. Sigmund Freud; TV miniseries, 6 episodes.
- Oxbridge Blues (1984)
– Role: Colin; TV series, 2 episodes.
- Gulag (1985)
– Role: Matvei; TV movie.
- Blott on the Landscape (1985)
– Role: Blott; TV miniseries, 6 episodes.
- The Falcon and the Snowman (1985)
– Role: Alex
- A Song for Europe (1985)
– Role:Steve Dyer; TV movie.
- Thirteen at Dinner (1985)
– Role: Inspector Japp; TV movie.
- Mussolini: The Untold Story (1985)
– Role: Dino Grandi; TV miniseries, 2 episodes.
- Stress (1986)
– TV movie.
- Iron Eagle (1986)
– Role: Minister of Defense Col. Akir Nakesh
- Murrow (1986)
– Role: William L. Shirer; TV movie.
- King & Castle (1986)
– Role: Devas; TV series, 1 episode.
- The Last Innocent Man (1987)
– Role: Jonathan Gault; TV movie.
- Harry and the Hendersons (1987)
– Role: Jacques Lafleur
- The Modern World: Ten Great Writers (1988)
– Role: Leopold Bloom; TV Mini-Series documentary, episode James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’
- A World Apart (1988)
– Role: Muller
- Tales of the Unexpected (1988)
– Role: Yves Drouard; TV series, episode A Time to Die
- To Kill a Priest (1988)
– Role: Bishop
- Once in a Life Time (1988)
– Role: Herman Glogaue; TV movie.
- Agatha Christie’s Poirot (1989 – 2013)
– Role: Hercule Poirot; TV series, 70 episodes, including, inter alia:
- Cause Célèbre (1989)
– Role: T.J. O’Connor K.C.; TV movie.
- When the Whales Came (1989)
– Role: Will
- 4 Play (1989)
– Role: Carver; TV series, episode Nobody Here But Us Chickens, segment More Than a Touch of Zen
- The Play on One (1990)
– Role: Joe; TV series, episode Separation
- Theatre Night (1990)
– Role: William Shakespeare; TV series, episode Bingo: Scenes of Money and Death
- The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship (1990)
– Role: Narrator; TV movie.
- Long Ago and Far Away (1991)
– Role: Narrator; TV series, episode The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship
- Science Fiction (1992)
– Role: Roger Altounyan; TV series, episode Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Missing Link
- The Secret Agent (1992)
– Role: Alfred Verloc; TV series, 3 episodes.
- The Lucona Affair (1993)
– Role: Rudi Walz
- The Curious (1994)
– Role: Optician; short film.
- Moses (1995)
– Role: Aaron; TV movie.
- Cruel Train (1995)
– Role: Ruben Roberts; TV movie.
- Executive Decision (1996)
– Role: Nagi Hassan
- Screen Two (1996)
– Role: Vlachos; TV series, episode Deadly Voyage
- Sunday (1997)
– Role: Oliver / Matthew Delacorta
- Solomon (1997)
– Role: Joab; TV movie.
- The Phoenix and the Carpet (1997)
– Role: The Phoenix; TV miniseries, 6 episodes.
- Seesaw (1998)
– Role: Morris Price; TV miniseries, 3 episodes.
- A Perfect Murder (1998)
– Role: Mohamed Karaman
- RKO 281 (1999)
– Role: Louis B. Mayer; TV movie.
- Wing Commander (1999)
– Role: Captain Jason Sansky
- Sabotage! (2000)
– Role: Napoleon
- Murder in Mind (2001)
– Role: Edward Palmer; TV series, episode Teacher
- Victoria & Albert (2001)
– Role: Baron Christian Friedrich von Stockmar, M.D.; TV movie.
- The Way We Live Now (2001)
– Role: Augustus Melmotte; TV miniseries, 4 episodes.
- NCS: Manhunt (2001-2002)
– Role: DI John Borne; TV movie (2001) and TV series (2002), 6 episodes.
- Get Carman: The Trials of George Carman QC (2002)
– Role: George Carman QC; TV movie.
- Live From Baghdad (2002)
– Role: Naji Al-Hadithi; TV movie.
- Pinocchio (2002)
– Roles: Geppetto / Judge / Narrator (voice, English dubbed version)
- The In-Laws (2003)
– Role: Jean-Pierre Thibodoux
- Foolproof (2003)
– Role: Leo Gillette
- Henry VIII (2003)
– Role: Cardinal Wolsey; TV movie.
- A Bear Named Winnie (2004)
– Role: General Hallholland; TV movie.
- Space Odyssey: Voyage To The Planets (2004)
– Role: Narrator; TV documentary.
- Space Odyssey: The Robot Pioneers (2004)
– Role: Narrator; TV documentary.
- Flushed Away (2006)
– Role: Rita’s Dad (voice)
- Dracula (2006)
– Role: Abraham Van Helsing; TV movie.
- Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express (2006)
– Role: Hercule Poirot (voice); video game.
- Arthur and the Invisibles (2006)
– Role: Narrator (English version, voice)
- Maxwell (2007)
– Role: Robert Maxwell; TV movie.
- Flood (2007)
– Role: Deputy Prime Minister Campbell
- The Bank Job (2008)
– Role: Lew Vogel
- Diverted (2009)
– Role: Samuel Stern; TV movie.
- Act of God (2009)
– Role: Dr. Benjamin Cisco
- David Suchet on the Orient Express (2010)
– Roles: Himself / Hercule Poirot; TV movie documentary.
- Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal (2010)
– Role: Reacher Gilt; TV miniseries, 2 episodes.
- Ten Glorious Seconds (2010)
– Role: Albert (voice); short film.
- Hidden (2011)
– Role: Sir Nigel Fountain; TV miniseries, 3 episodes.
- Great Expectations (2011)
– Role: Jaggers; TV miniseries, 3 episodes.
- The Hollow Crown (2012)
– Role: Duke of York; TV series.
- The Book of John (2013)
Narrator (voice); short film.
- Effie Gray (2014)
– Role: Mr. Ruskin
- David Suchet: In the Footsteps of St. Paul (2014)
– Role: Himself / host; TV miniseries documentary.
- David Suchet: In the Footsteps of Saint Peter (2015)
– Role: Himself / host; TV miniseries documentary.
- The Importance of Being Earnest (2015)
– Role: Lady Bracknell
- Shakespeare Live! From the RSC (2016)
– Role: Oberon; TV movie.
- David Suchet at the Internet Movie Database (IMDb)
- David Suchet at Britannica.com
- David Suchet’s profile on the Famous Birthdays site
- Hercule Poirot Central (unofficial site)
- Agatha Christie’s author page on this blog, Lioness at Large
- Project: Little Grey Cells: St. Mary Mead & Elsewhere
- Project: Appointment With Agatha: The Agatha Christie Centenary Celebration
- Project: On Page and Screen
- Reviews and blog posts related to David Suchet on this blog, Lioness at Large