Will Gore talks to David Suchet about his forthcoming West End role and his debt to the Belgian detective
The first thing I notice about David Suchet is his facial hair. It isn’t a stick-on Poirot tash, unfortunately, but a grey beard that he has grown for his latest role, James Tyrone, in the West End revival of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night.
The second thing is his smile. He greets me with a broad grin, and beams amiably throughout our time together. He has rehearsals to be getting on with, but is happy to let our scheduled 30 minutes stretch to an hour. Suchet is the most cheerful interviewee I’ve ever encountered.
He’s unpretentious, too. Some actors, mentioning no names except Richard E. Grant, hate to discuss the role that made them famous. But Suchet is more than willing to talk at length about Poirot, the TV character who has turned him into — it is no exaggeration to say — one of the most recognisable actors on earth. ‘I’ve been told by ITV Global that if everybody watched the show at the same time then the worldwide audience could be as big as 750 million,’ he says.
Suchet, 65, has landed a number of great stage parts over the years, including George in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Salieri in Amadeus. Most recently he won acclaim and awards for his portrayal of Joe Keller in Arthur Miller’s All My Sons and he knows that he has Hercule to thank for attracting theatre producers.
‘If Poirot hadn’t brought my name into the public arena to such a great extent then I probably wouldn’t be any sort of draw, and everyone who puts me in a play hopes the Poirot audience comes with me,’ he says.
‘For All My Sons they flew in from South Africa, they flew in from Australia, and we ended up hanging a map of the world by the stage door and every time someone from a new part of the world came to see us we put a pin in it.