Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie’s famous Belgian detective, has been a staple of mystery fiction for more than a century.

Over the years, numerous actors have taken on the role, each bringing their own unique interpretation to the character.

And, believe it or not, the first actor to portray Poirot was Charles Laughton in the 1928 stage play “Alibi,” based on The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Christie’s fourth book in the series.

Laughton’s performance helped to establish the character’s iconic traits, and given the success of the books at the time, it didn’t take long for the first Hercule Poirot to hit the silver screen.

That was when Austin Trevor took on the role, starring in Alibi (1931), Black Coffee (1931), and Lord Edgware Dies (1934). While these early films were crucial in popularising Poirot, he was missing one very important accessory – a mustache!

In the nearly one hundred years since Charles Laughton threaded the boards, ten different actors have attempted to capture Hercule Poirot, whether for TV or film.

Arguably, some have done it better than others with many of us having a firm favourite. For me personally, nobody tops David Suchet and I would happily watch and re-watch every episode of the 13 seasons (if I had the time!).

So, without further delay, let’s take a look at every actor who has played Hercule Poirot, and please note that these are for adaptations in English.

Charles Laughton

Adaptation: “Alibi” (Stage Play)

Year: 1928

Based on the novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, this was the first adaptation to bring Poirot to life on stage.

Laughton’s performance helped to set the tone for future portrayals of the famous detective.

Austin Trevor

Adaptations:

  • Alibi (1931)
  • Black Coffee (1931)
  • Lord Edgware Dies (1934)

Austin Trevor was the first actor to portray Poirot on screen.

In these early films, Poirot solves complex mysteries with his sharp intellect and keen observation skills.

Tony Randall

Adaptation: “The Alphabet Murders”

Year: 1965

In this comedic take on Agatha Christie’s novel The A.B.C. Murders, Tony Randall’s Poirot investigates a series of murders linked to the alphabet.

This adaptation is known for taking a much funnier approach rather than staying true to the original novel.

Albert Finney

Adaptation: “Murder on the Orient Express”

Year: 1974

Albert Finney’s portrayal of Poirot in this classic film is intense and commanding, and his portrayal is one of the most memorable performances of the famous detective.

Directed by Sidney Lumet, this film remains a classic and boasted a star-studded cast that included Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman (she won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role), Sean Connery and John Gielgud.

Peter Ustinov

Adaptations:

  • Death on the Nile (1978)
  • Evil Under the Sun (1982)
  • Appointment with Death (1988)

Ustinov also starred in several TV films, including Thirteen at Dinner (1985) and Dead Man’s Folly (1986).

He brought a unique charm to Poirot, where the Belgian detective is both cunning and approachable, solving mysteries in exotic locations.

Ian Holm

Adaptation: “Murder by the Book” (TV)

Year: 1986

Ian Holm starred in this unique TV film where Agatha Christie herself is a character.

Holm’s Poirot solves a mystery involving his creator, adding a meta twist to the story.

David Suchet

Adaptations: “Agatha Christie’s Poirot” (TV series)

Years: 1989-2014

David Suchet is perhaps the most iconic Poirot, having played the role in a long-running TV series that adapted most of Agatha Christie’s Poirot stories.

Suchet’s meticulous portrayal is celebrated for its faithfulness to Christie’s character, and across 70 episodes, he delighted audiences around the world until he and Poirot bowed out in Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case on August 25th, 2014.

Alfred Molina

Adaptations: “Murder on the Orient Express” (TV Movie)

Year: 2001

Alfred Molina took on the role of Hercule Poirot in the 2001 television film adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express.

This version was directed by Carl Schenkel and aired as part of the “Mystery! series” on PBS, offering a fresh take for a new generation of viewers.

John Malkovich

Adaptations: “The ABC Murders” (TV Mini-Series)

Year: 2018

John Malkovich took on the role of Hercule Poirot in the 2018 BBC adaptation of “The ABC Murders.”

This three-part miniseries, based on Agatha Christie’s 1936 novel, offered a darker and more introspective take on the famous detective and his world.

Kenneth Branagh

Adaptations:

  • Murder on the Orient Express (2017)
  • Death on the Nile (2022)
  • A Haunting in Venice (2023)

Kenneth Branagh’s Poirot is a bit more modern and dynamic, bringing new energy to the classic detective.

His films are visually stunning, though one could argue that there is far too much CGI and green screen! However, they all have an incredible cast with the likes of Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Michelle Yeoh and Tina Fey.

The first two films stayed relatively true to Christie’s works, but the third, A Haunting in Venice, bears absolutely no resemblance to its original material, Hallowe’en Party.

There’s “adding a fresh perspective”, and then there’s making up an entirely new story and winging it.

The Most Adapted Poirot Novel

The Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot novel that has been adapted the most times, with four films for both TV and the big screen, is Murder on the Orient Express.

It is one of Christie’s most famous and beloved novels and was first published in 1934, captivating readers and audiences with its intricate plot, compelling characters, and surprising resolution.

The story begins with Hercule Poirot in Istanbul, where he is called back to London urgently. He secures a place on the luxurious Orient Express thanks to his friend Monsieur Bouc, a director of the train company.

Onboard the train, Poirot encounters a diverse group of passengers, each with their own unique background and story.

Among them is Samuel Ratchett, a wealthy American who seeks Poirot’s protection, claiming his life is in danger. Poirot declines the offer, finding Ratchett unpleasant and untrustworthy.

During the night, the train is halted by a snowdrift in Yugoslavia, and the next morning, Ratchett is found murdered in his compartment, having been stabbed multiple times.

Bouc asks Poirot to investigate the murder.

As Poirot interviews each passenger and examines the evidence, he discovers that everyone seems to have an alibi.

So whodunit and how does he solve it…

Did Agatha Christie Really Dislike Poirot??

Agatha Christie’s relationship with her creation, Hercule Poirot, was complex.

While she did not “hate” him, she did grow tired of writing about him over the decades.

It all started off so well when Christie first introduced Hercule Poirot in her novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920).

She was enthusiastic about her new detective, and he quickly became a beloved character, with readers eagerly following his adventures.

However, as his popularity soared, Christie found herself writing more and more stories featuring him and, over time, began to feel restricted by the character.

She once described Poirot as “insufferable” and mentioned that he was “a detestable, bombastic, tiresome, ego-centric little creep.” Despite these harsh words, she continued to write about him because of his immense popularity with readers.

Christie understood that Poirot was a significant draw for her readers and contributed to her success as an author, but all things must come to an end, and Christie planned Poirot’s well in advance.

She wrote the final Poirot novel, Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case, during World War II and kept it in a safe deposit box.

The novel was published in 1975, shortly before her death, ensuring that Poirot’s story had a definitive conclusion, providing closure for both herself and her readers.

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