David Suchet, CBE, born 2 May 1946, is an English actor, known for his work on British television. He is recognised for his RTS- and BPG award-winning performance as Augustus Melmotte in the 2001 British TV mini-drama The Way We Live Now, alongside Matthew Macfadyen and Paloma Baeza, and a 1991 British Academy Television Award (BAFTA) nomination.
Suchet's older brother, John Suchet, is a British television presenter and newsreader, and his father was gynaecologist Jack Suchet. Suchet's nephew is the broadcaster Richard Suchet.
Suchet was born in London, the son of Joan Patricia (née Jarché; 1916–1992), an actress, and Jack Suchet, who emigrated to England from South Africa in 1932, and trained to be a doctor at St Mary's Hospital, London in 1933. Suchet's father was of Lithuanian Jewish descent, and his mother was English-born and Anglican (she was of Russian Jewish descent on her own father's side, and of English descent on her mother's side).
Suchet and his two brothers, Peter and John, attended Grenham House boarding school in Birchington-on-Sea, Kent; then, after attending another private school, Wellington School, Somerset, he took an interest in acting and joined the National Youth Theatre at the age of 18. He studied at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, where he now serves as a council member.
Suchet began his acting career at the Watermill Theatre, Bagnor, Berkshire, and retains a great affection for the place, saying that it "fulfils my vision of a perfect theatre". In 1973, he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Suchet performed the role of John in the play Oleanna at the Royal Court Theatre, London in 1993. It was directed by Harold Pinter and Lia Williams co-starred as Carol. He was also featured as Salieri from 1998–2000 in the Broadway production Amadeus. In 2007 at the Chichester Festival Theatre, he played a lead role as Cardinal Benelli in The Last Confession, about the death of Pope John Paul I.
Television and film
After making his first TV appearance in 1970, he appeared in the 1980 made-for-TV film version of A Tale of Two Cities. In 1980, he also played Edward Teller, later developer of the US H-bomb, in the joint BBC-US TV serial about the US Manhattan Project called Oppenheimer. In 1983, he played the insidious half-Chinese policeman with orders to kill British spy Sidney Reilly in Reilly, Ace of Spies. In 1985, he played Blott in the television series Blott on the Landscape (which also featured Julia McKenzie), and corporate whistle-blower Stanley Adams in A Song for Europe. Suchet appeared as Inspector Japp in the 1985 film adaptation of Lord Edgware Dies, screen-name Thirteen at Dinner, with Peter Ustinov portraying Poirot.
In 1988, he played Leopold Bloom in the Channel 4 documentary, The Modern World: Ten Great Writers - James Joyce's 'Ulysses, where some of the most famous scenes from the novel were dramatised.
In 1989, he took the title role himself for the long-running television series Agatha Christie's Poirot. He also portrayed Sigmund Freud (young and old) in the 6-hour mini-series Freud, co-produced by the BBC in 1984.
In 2001, he starred as the lead role in the David Yates-directed BBC television serial The Way We Live Now and, in April 2002, he played the famous barrister, George Carman QC, in the BBC's biographical drama Get Carman: The Trials of George Carman QC. In 2003, Suchet starred as the ambitious Cardinal Wolsey in the 2-part ITV drama Henry VIII opposite Ray Winstone as Henry VIII and Helena Bonham Carter as Anne Boleyn.
In May 2006, he played the role of the fallen press baron Robert Maxwell in Maxwell, a BBC2 dramatisation of the final 18 months of Maxwell's life. During the same year, he voiced Poirot in the adventure game Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express.
In December 2006, he appeared on the ITV programme Extinct, presented by Sir Trevor McDonald and Zoe Ball, which saw Suchet and seven other well-known celebrities visit critically endangered species of animals and try and plead their case for the viewers so that they would pick up the phone and vote for the animal. The animal with the most votes would receive a large sum of money, which would be used to try to save them. Suchet and his animal, the Giant Panda, did not win; however, they finished in the top three. The winners were Pauline Collins and the Bengal Tiger.
At Christmas 2006, he played the vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing in a BBC adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel Dracula. He appears in the disaster film Flood, released in August 2007, as the Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom at a time when London is devastated by flooding. Suchet appeared on daytime TV chat show Loose Women on 6 February 2008 to talk about his film The Bank Job, in which he played Lew Vogel, alongside Jason Statham and Saffron Burrows.
In 2008, he took part in the genealogy documentary series Who Do You Think You Are?, and discovered facts about his family history.
He starred in the 2009 CBC made-for-TV film, Diverted. He also starred as the main antagonist, Reacher Gilt, in the 2010 Sky TV adaptation of Going Postal, based on Prachett's book of the same name.
Suchet appeared in the film Act of God as Benjamin Cisco. In 1987, Suchet played a bigfoot hunter in Harry and the Hendersons. He had roles in two Michael Douglas films, A Perfect Murder and The In-Laws. In 1997, he starred in the independent film Sunday.
In November 2011, Suchet and ITV announced that Suchet would complete the canon of Poirot novels, in a thirteenth and final series of Poirot. With the exception of one short story, Suchet will have played the role in adaptations of every novel and short story featuring the character written by Dame Agatha Christie.
His first broadcast job was to read a "Morning Story" for BBC Pebble Mill Talks producer David Shute. They had met at the Mayor of Stratford's annual cocktail party to welcome members of the Royal Shakespeare Company to their new season.
Suchet provided the voice of Aslan in Focus on the Family's radio version of C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia.
Suchet performed as the voice of the villainous Dr. Julius No in BBC Radio 4's radio adaptation of Ian Fleming's novel Dr. No. In 1991, Suchet played the part of Henrik Ibsen alongside Martin Shaw playing August Strindberg, in a one-off documentary on BBC Radio 3 about the meeting of the two playwrights.
In March 2010 he played the title role in a BBC radio version of David Golder.
Canal Trust River Thames Alliance
Suchet is vice-president of the Lichfield and Hatherton Canals Trust, whose most challenging achievement to date has been securing funding (both via an appeal and from influencing government decisions) concerning the building of the new M6 Toll motorway where it cuts the lines of the Lichfield Canal and the Hatherton Canal, both of which the Trust wishes to see reopened. He has also been officially voted in as chairman of the River Thames Alliance in November 2005. At the July 2006 Annual General Meeting of the River Thames Alliance, he agreed to continue being chairman for another year. He is also a Patron of the River Thames Boat Project.
Awards and honours
Suchet's first major award was the Royal Television Society's award for best male actor for A Song for Europe in 1985. His performance as Agatha Christie's famous detective Hercule Poirot in the television series Agatha Christie's Poirot earned him a 1991 British Academy Television Award (BAFTA) nomination. In preparation for the role he says that he has read every novel and short story and compiled an extensive file on Poirot.
Suchet was given a Variety Club Award in 1994 for best actor for portraying John in David Mamet's play Oleanna at the Royal Court Theatre, London. He later won another Variety Club Award (as well as a 2000 Tony nomination for best performance by a leading actor in a play) for his portrayal of Antonio Salieri in a revival of Amadeus.
Suchet was nominated for another Royal Television Society award in 2002 for his performance as Augustus Melmotte in The Way We Live Now, which also earned him a BAFTA nomination. The same year, he was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).
On 10 October 2008, Suchet was awarded an honorary degree for his contributions to the Arts, from the University of Chichester. This was presented by the Vice Chancellor at the Chichester Festival Theatre.
On 24 November 2008, David Suchet won the 'Best Actor' accolade at the 2008 International Emmy Awards in New York for his role as tycoon Robert Maxwell in the 2007 BBC drama, Maxwell. He said: "It's been an unbelievable night for the Brits. I'm absolutely thrilled to bits, I can't believe it's really true. This is my first Emmy ever, and I can't tell you what it feels like to win for England because it's international, and to represent my acting community as well."
On 7 January 2009, David Suchet was awarded Freedom of the City of London, at the Guildhall in London.
On 13 July 2010, David Suchet was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Kent at Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury.
He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2011 New Year Honours for services to drama.
He was knighted and made a Knight Bachelor in the 2020 Queen's Bithday Honours List for services to drama and charity. This will entitle him to be addressed as "Sir David".
One of Suchet's hobbies is photography. His maternal grandfather, James Jarché, was a famous Fleet Street photographer notable for the first pictures of Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson and also for his pictures of Louis Blériot (1909) and the Siege of Sidney Street. Suchet first became interested in photography when his grandfather gave him a Kodak camera as a present. Suchet also plays the clarinet, and drums.
He affectionately calls his fat suit for Hercule Poirot his "armadillo padding".
He lived in Pinner, a London suburb, for many years.
In 1972, Suchet first met his wife, Sheila Ferris, at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, where they were both working; he says that he fell in love with her as soon as he saw her, and that it took a while to persuade her to go out for a meal with him. They were married on 30 June 1976, and they have one son, Robert, a captain in the Royal Marines, and a daughter, Katherine, a physiotherapist.
Suchet is the brother of John Suchet, a national news presenter for Five News and Breakfast Show Presenter on Classic FM (January 2011). He is the uncle of broadcaster Richard Suchet, who is son of Suchet's youngest brother Peter Suchet. His maternal grandfather's Jarché family was originally named Jarchy, and were Russian Jews. His paternal grandfather, Isidor Shokhet (from shochet, meaning "kosher butcher" in Hebrew]]), lived in Kretinga, a city in the Pale of Settlement of the Russian Empire (now in Lithuania), and changed his surname to the Germanised Suchedowitz after escaping to Memel, Prussia, and then to Suchet after moving to Cape Town, South Africa.
Suchet's maternal grandmother's great-grandfather, George Jezzard, was a master mariner. He was captain of the brig Hannah, which foundered nine miles off the coast of Suffolk during a terrible storm on 28 May 1860, in which more than 100 vessels and at least 40 lives were lost. Jezzard and six others of his crew were saved by local rescuers just before their ship sank.
Suchet has spoken of some of his ancestors coming to England from Lithuania.
Suchet's father was Jewish and his mother an Anglican (of paternal Jewish heritage); neither was religious. Likewise, Suchet's upbringing was without religious observance. In 1986, he underwent a religious conversion after reading Romans 8 in a hotel Bible; soon afterwards, he was baptised into the Anglican Church. Suchet stated in an interview with Strand Magazine, "I’m a Christian by faith. I like to think it sees me through a great deal of my life. I very much believe in the principles of Christianity and the principles of most religions, actually—that one has to abandon oneself to a higher good." In 2012, Suchet made a documentary for the BBC on his personal hero, Saint Paul, to discover what he was like as a man by charting his evangelical journey around the Mediterranean.
- 2013 - Poirot and Me, by David Suchet and Geoffrey Wansell