David Suchet: ‘Poirot fans will love the new film’

TV Times talks to David Suchet about taking on Agatha Christie’s most famous story and the murder-mystery game we should all be playing this Christmas…

It is a very famous story. What makes this version different?

“Anybody who’s interested in Poirot should watch because it isn’t a remake of the 1974 film, but a film of the book. Fans have been waiting for this adaptation, and so have I to an extent, although I didn’t want to blow it out of all proportion. It’s another Poirot story and if I approached it with undue reverence – because it’s an iconic title – then it’d have made me too careful and try too hard.”

Do you think the ending is easy to guess?

“No, I defy anybody who doesn’t know the ending to even hazard a guess; it’s brilliant and extraordinary! The ending’s so iconic and unlike any other book ever written, which is what makes it so famous. This film’s revelatory because it’s Poirot’s journey into himself, as well as on the Orient Express. What’s not in the book, but in our version, is that he has blood-guilt on his hands after Rachett’s murder, which is logical for Poirot the man we know.”

What else is different in this version?

“We also see the physical disintegration of Poirot because of the conditions he’s in – two days and nights in minus-freezing temperatures. For the first time he can’t shave. We don’t play him Hollywood; he hasn’t got his lipstick on all the time, so to speak. So he’s the same man, but it’s a new take on the character.”

Did you do anything special for this mystery?

“I’ve done the voiceover for the talking book of Murder on the Orient Express, I know the book and I know the Albert Finney film almost frame by frame, so I didn’t have to do anything extra.”

How does the character differ from you?

“The difference between him and me is huge and there’s no way I can just come out of character, have a chat and a nice cup of coffee. He’s a very full, three-dimensional character and so unlike me. Certain attitudes may be the same as his, but I have to change myself to become him.”

Is it easy to switch off at the end of the day?

“I have to, otherwise I’d have no marriage left! I’m sure my wife wouldn’t enjoy living with Poirot!”

We hear there is a game that families play at home when watching Poirot. What is that like?

“I get letters from several families who watch Poirot live, but the moment the summing up, or the denouement, happens they start recording and switch the TV off. Then they try to solve the murder over dinner. The big challenge is to remember what happened and these families take notes during the episode. Then they each write down who they think did it on a piece of paper and put it in a sealed envelope. The host plays the denouement and the envelopes are opened. Each person puts money on the table and if they can’t solve it or get it wrong, the pot of money, rather like the lottery, rolls over to the next story. It turns the evening into a huge Poirot event, which is wonderful!”

Poirot: Murder on the Orient Express can be seen on Christmas Day at 9pm on ITV1.