‘Death on the Nile’: Kenneth Branagh, David Suchet, and Other Actors Who’ve Played Hercule Poirot
Hercule Poirot is back on the case. Death on the Nile is Kenneth Branagh’s new adaptation of Agatha Christie’s classic mystery novel. The movie also stars the Oscar nominee as the mustachioed Belgian detective. But he’s hardly the first person to portray the famous fictional sleuth, who made his debut in the 1920 novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Here are some others who have stepped into Poirot’s shoes over the years.
Albert Finney played Hercule Poirot in ‘Murder on the Orient Express’
Audiences got their first look at Branagh’s Poirot in 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express. But that wasn’t the first big-screen adaptation of Christie’s 1934 novel about a murder committed on a train traveling between Istanbul and Paris. The 1974 movie Murder on the Orient Express was directed by Sidney Lumet and starred Albert Finney as the cerebral private detective who cracks the case. The ensemble cast also includes Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Anthony Perkins, and Sean Connery.
Peter Ustinov starred in an earlier version of ‘Death on the Nile’
Christie wrote more than 30 novels featuring Poirot, including 1937’s Death on the Nile. That book was turned into a movie in 1978 with Peter Ustinov as the detective. The cast also includes Maggie Smith, Angela Lansbury, Mia Farrow, and Bette Davis. Ustinov went on to play Poirot in several more film and TV adaptations through the 1980s, including Evil Under the Sun, Appointment With Death, 13 at Dinner, and Dead Man’s Folly.
David Suchet played Hercule Poirot for more than two decades
David Suchet wasn’t the first person to play Poirot onscreen (that honor goes to Austin Trevor in the 1931 movie Alibi). But he is the actor most associated with the character. Suchet made his debut as Poirot in 1989, when Agatha Christie’s Poirot premiered. He played the character 70 episodes over the next quarter-century, finally hanging up his hat after 2013’s Curtain.
According to some, Suchet is the actor whose Poirot most resembles the man in the books.
“I was always scared stiff, because it was well known Agatha Christie was never happy with any of the cinematic portrayals of her characters,” Suchet told The New York Times in 2014. “But Rosalind [Hicks, Christie’s daughter] had my wife and I over to the family house, and it made me absolutely well up when she said, ‘My mother would have been absolutely delighted with what you’ve done.’ It meant so much because that was my whole reason for doing this role.”
John Malkovich appeared in ‘The ABC Murders’
John Malkovich offered his take on Poirot in 2018’s miniseries The ABC Murders (streaming on Prime Video in the U.S.). His version of the character is older and has a more fleshed-out backstory, including a tragic past during World War I.
“[He’s] lived in England 20 years at the outset of our story,” the actor explained to Decider. “And he had tried to kind of blend in to English society. He had had a popular time for a while and had solved these cases and had achieved some degree of notoriety in the U.K. But that was many years before. At this point he’s sort of down on his luck.”
Kenneth Branagh takes on Hercule Poirot
Finally, there’s Branagh, who plays Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile, both of which he also directed. In a 2017 interview, he said that he related to the meticulous detective in some ways.
“He was a good fit for me, Poirot – he was a good fit for a film director – because his mind was dedicated to the kind of order and the imposition of balance that frankly you’re often trying to achieve as a director,” he told Deadline. “So, I found that the character of Poirot, as he overtook me during the months ahead of the shoot, was actually beneficial.”
Check out Showbiz Cheat Sheet on Facebook!