First introduced by author Agatha Christie in 1920, Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot has appeared in 33 novels and more than 50 short stories, before publication of his final tale in 1975.
With such a wide range of material to draw from, it was inevitable that Poirot would go on to be so widely portrayed on screen. Starting with Austin Trevor in 1931, many actors have stepped into the detective’s shoes over the years, with the latest incarnation being portrayed by Dunkirk’s Kenneth Branagh in this year’s Branagh-directed adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express.
In anticipation of Branagh’s take on this iconic role, we’re looking back on the other famous faces who made the legendary detective their own.
The first actor to play the detective on the big screen, Trevor first appeared as Poirot in the 1931 film Alibi. He went on to reprise the role in Black Coffee (1931) and Lord Edgware Dies (1934), and famously believed that the main reason he gained the role was down to his ability to speak with a French accent.
Trevor also appeared in a later Poirot film, The Alphabet Murders (1965), albeit in a smaller character role with Tony Randall stepping in as the detective.
Best known as a romantic comedy star, Randall’s sole appearance as the Belgian detective occurred in the 1965 made-for-TV adaptation of The Alphabet Murders.
Despite being based on a genuine Agatha Christie tale, the film was significantly altered from the original source in terms of both character and plot, and was viewed as more of a satire than a faithful adaptation.
The first to portray Poirot in a film adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express, Finney was highly praised for his performance in this 1974 release.
With an all-star cast including Vanessa Redgrave, Sean Connery and Anthony Perkins, the release went on to gain six nominations at the 47th Academy Awards, securing Finney’s status as the only actor to date who has been Oscar nominated for his performance in the role.
With Finney declining to reprise the role of Poirot, Ustinov became the next embodiment in the 1978 adaptation of Death on the Nile. During a rehearsal for the film, Christie’s daughter reportedly shared her concerns over the lack of physical resemblance to the popular detective.
However Ustinov, alongside a cast including Maggie Smith, Angela Lansbury and Bette Davis, proved to be massive success, and went on to continue the role for a further five films, ending with Murder in Three Acts in 1986.
The Alien and Lord of the Rings actor made for an effective Poirot in this speculative made-for-TV movie, in which Christie (played by Peggy Ashcroft) looks to kill off the character who brought her fame. There's a factual bass to this – Christie did in fact grow to resent the popularity of the Belgian detective – and the script is written by Horse Whisperer author Nicholas Evans.
Arguably the man most associated with the role, Suchet played Poirot for a grand total of 24 years. He was already a well-established actor when he first took on the role at the age of 42, in the ITV drama Agatha Christie’s Poirot.
Suchet’s reign lasted for a total of 13 series, securing his place as the longest-serving actor in the role, and covering almost the entire catalogue of Christie’s work. This included Murder on the Orient Express, which screened on Christmas Day 2010.
Many of the actors who appeared in the series have gone on to much greater fame, including Emily Blunt (Edge of Tomorrow), Michael Fassbender (Alien: Covenant) and Jessica Chastain (The Martian).
The final episode of the series aired on November 13th 2013, and was an adaptation of Christie’s novel Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case.
Molina portrayed the legendary detective in the second adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express, a made-for-TV adaptation that was released in 2001.
Set in the present day and with a cast of characters smaller than that of the novel, this movie adaptation served as a modern update of Christie’s bestselling thriller.
Which has been your favourite portrayal so far? And are you excited to see Kenneth Branagh’s take on this iconic role? Tweet us @Cineworld and be sure to check out Murder on the Orient Express when it arrives at our screens on November 3rd. Remember – tickets are on sale now.
Hannah Dixon is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.