Actor David Suchet has revealed that he almost quit the role of Hercule Poirot part way through filming the first series in 1988.
In his forthcoming memoir, Poirot and Me, Suchet describes a clash with director Ed Bennett that took place during the shooting of the opening episode, The Adventure of the Clapham Cook.
The pair disagreed over a scene in which Suchet decided to demonstrate Poirot’s pernickety sensibilities by placing a handkerchief on a park bench before sitting down so as not to dirty his trousers.
Suchet reports that Bennett thought the action “ridiculous”, while the actor argued that he was doing what the author Agatha Christie would have him do in that situation:
“If I lost the argument, it would mean that my custodianship of Poirot’s character was in severe jeopardy – so much so that I really thought that I might not be able to go on playing him,” says the actor in the book. “I had to play the character she created, I was certain of that. I would not compromise.”
Indeed, the stand-off became so tense that producer Brian Eastman was called to adjudicate, the outcome being that he sided with his actor.
But as Suchet explains to RadioTimes.com, the fraught situation had the potential to curtail all future episodes of the ITV drama:
“It was very serious. As charming as I may appear, when it comes to defence of character or my work then I will fight and I will not compromise,” says the actor. “There will be directors throughout my 44-year career that have had a hard time with me because I will serve my writer. I will not ever be told how to play a role. That’s my job.”
On the topic of his interpretation of Poirot, Suchet adds to RT: “If Agatha Christie writes that he [Poirot] dusts dirty chairs on park benches, then I will show it. And if a director says that it looks odd then I’ll say, ‘sorry, that’s what he does’. And if the time comes when it’s make or break, then I will walk.
“I will say this openly and honestly – in defence of my character, I would have walked at some points had I not got the support of my producers.”