David Suchet: “Everybody should be worried about the power of the press”

The star of BBC1's journalism drama Press on what he really thinks about tabloid moguls – and why Hercule Poirot wouldn't want Brexit

Ben Chaplin and David Suchet in Press, BBC1

Poirot star David Suchet plays George Emmerson, CEO of Worldwide News, in BBC1’s new journalism drama Press. He told Radio Times about what he really thinks about tabloid moguls – and what it’s like to be hounded by the paparazzi

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Is your character a Robert Maxwell or Rupert Murdoch figure?

I’ve played Robert Maxwell before and I didn’t want it to be like him and I told [Press creator] Mike Bartlett from the beginning that I didn’t want it to be like Rupert Murdoch.

Do you disapprove of Murdoch and The Sun?

I’m not a fan. I think it’s an unhealthy culture, which is sadly very popular. But everybody should be worried about the power of the press. People are influenced by it more than when I was a young man growing up, and the press has become far more aggressive in its campaigns, its likes and dislikes. We should be frightened of it because it can sway the electorate.

Would Hercule Poirot buy a right-wing pro-Brexit tabloid paper?

Poirot would really like us to be part of the European Union. He loves this country and he would say that there is safety in numbers. He doesn’t want to isolate Britain. The Brexit vote was led by a certain generation. I think it’s very hard on young people, who need the wider world in which to exist and to play and work.

Have the tabloids ever come for you?

Not so much now, because I’m in my 70s, but certainly as a younger man, they were always looking. I remember going out to dinner at the Ivy with a co-star and there were pictures in the press the next day. You’ve got to be careful.

Any secrets they’ve missed? 

The only drug I ever had – and I confess to this quite openly and hope it won’t appear all over the tabloids – was one time with an actor in 1969, in Chester, in my first rep. After dinner he said, “Would you like a spliff? Try it.” So I did! It made me depressed and feel like weeping.

When did you realise the papers were interested in you?

For me it began with Blott on the Landscape in the 1980s. People were beginning to take notice and you become aware of it. But today, anything can happen – actors and people in the public eye are looking at our past as things are continually being brought up. You look back over your life and hope that your behaviour has been OK.

But people come forward and say this and that, and the person in question says, “You know, it was 30 years ago, I can’t remember!” So it is a difficult time for people in the public eye.

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This article was originally published on 5 September 2018