Agatha Christie’s Poirot takes his final bow on TV tonight. The actor who has played him for the past 25 years, David Suchet, tells Steve Pratt about his close relationship with this “dear little man”

ACTOR David Suchet will settle down in front of the TV set at home tonight to watch himself die. It’s no secret that the final episode of Agatha Christie’s Poirot is just that – final. The very title – Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case – indicates as much.

For Suchet, it is the culmination of his intention, ITV producers willing, of playing the Belgian detective in small screen adaptations of all 70 stories in which he appears. He has spent the best part of the past 25 years doing it.

The official closure comes tonight at 8pm, although Suchet will be the centre of attention again tomorrow when Bafta “is throwing an evening for me” to mark his Poirot achievement.

Then he embarks on a publicity tour for his book Poirot And Me – guess what that is about – ending with a final appearance (as himself) in Harrogate, the town where Christie turned up following her mysterious disappearance.

You don’t need to exercise your little grey cells to realise that Suchet and Poirot are not ready to be separated just yet. “I think I will be talking about the dear little man for the rest of my life,” he admitted.

Watching the series as it is shown on TV is part of a routine. He said: “I’ll be sitting down with my wife and I think my son and daughter- in-law are coming over. We don’t record it, we watch it as it goes out. I’ve not seen the final edited version of the episode.”

He has watched himself as Poirot over the years to ensure that his portrayal did not deviate from the template he drew up by reading all the stories and making a list of the detective’s physical qualities and quirks.

“I wanted to be exact that I had to observe myself and be very critical about my performance,”

he said about monitoring his performance.

“The reason is because Agatha Christie never changed the character at all. She never expected to be writing about him for so long.

‘‘He was a retired policeman at the start. If she’d known he would go on so long, she’d have made him younger. As it is, he would have been over 120 years old by the last story.”

He appreciates that being allowed to develop a leading role over 25 years is both an honour and privilege denied most actors. His responsibility was always to the writer and the character she created, he says. His wish was to be true to that.

Although he was able to go off and do other roles, Poirot lingered around because he was not sure when, or indeed if, ITV would commission another series. “I never knew whether it was closure, so I had to keep him on the boil.

This is the first time I know for sure I won’t be doing it any more,” he said.

Any more on TV, he could add. If asked to play Poirot on the silver screen, he would not say no. Movie producers take note.

He has not only been lucky to play an iconic character for so long, but also not get typecast in the process although, as he admits, he will be remembered for Poirot rather than anything else.

Before ITV approached him for the part, he’d appeared as Inspector Japp in the Poirot film Thirteen At Dinner, in which Peter Ustinov played the Belgian sleuth. “He was such a brilliant character actor and I have always said mine was one of the worst performances I have ever given,” he said.

It was his portrayal of Blott, the eccentric and malevolent gardener in a BBC TV version of Tom Sharpe’s comic novel, that brought him to the attention of the Poirot producers.

Surely, you think, there must have been times when he felt like abandoning the Belgian sleuth. It seems not. “I’ve never felt that with this little man,” he said. “I have always enjoyed playing him and leading the company. I’ve actually enjoyed every single moment.

‘‘I won’t say it’s always been easy because new people coming in to the series would like to take me out of my comfort box. It’s always been a bit of a fight to maintain the integrity of the character.”

Putting down on paper his thoughts about the character in his new book Poirot And Me has been very gratifiying for one of the few actors who has not written an autobiography.

“I’ve been asked and asked and asked but I am really not interested in me. I have never been interested in me. I never became an actor to become a star or become rich but to serve my writers.

“The fact that I had a lucky break and am a so-called famous person doesn’t mean I have to write my life. People know enough about me anyway. I’m quite a private person and autobiographies today are not quite what they were a couple of years ago.”

Publishers, and it appears the public, want kiss-and-tell tales these days. Suchet’s new book has shown this with his revelation that he achieved Poirot’s mincing walk by walking with a penny clenched between his buttocks, achieving more attention that the more serious stories in the book.

No doubt he’ll be asked about it on his promotional tour. After the final date in Harrogate, he will swap Poirot for a cardinal’s outfit in a tour of the play The Last Confession to the US, Canada and Australia.

It considers the conspiracy theory surrounding the election and death of Pope John Paul I. He calls it a “Vatican whodunit”. But an investigation in which that “dear little man”

who has been in his life for the past 25 years does not figure.

  • Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case is on ITV1 tonight, 8pm. Then in Being Poirot (10.35pm) David Suchett analyses the appeal of the character.
  • Poirot And Me by David Suchet is published by Headline, £20. Also available in eBook and as an audio download, read by Suchet.
  • Poirot And Me: An Evening With David Suchet is at the Royal Hall, Harrogate, on December 10, at 7.30pm, sponsored by Theakstons Old Peculier. Tickets 01423-562303 and online at