Recently, it was announced that the BBC and Amazon are making a three-part series adaptation of Agatha Christie's The ABC Murders, one of the greatest detective stories starring Hercule Poirot, the iconic Belgian sleuth who solves posh murders in Edwardian Britain. Throughout the years, many great British thespians have portrayed Poirot -- none more famously than David Suchet, who played the detective with the quirky politeness he's known for today.
But this time around, Poirot will be played by none other than John "Where did he get that knife from?" Malkovich. It's a weird choice, and not just because Malkovich has a less than great track record when it comes to doing accents. Then again, he did live in France for many years, so maybe his French accent is quite-
... Never mind. So why would one of the weirdest actors in Hollywood be cast as one of the sweetest detectives in literary history? Maybe so that this character finally makes sense.
Eccentric fictional detectives -- your Miss Marples, your Mentalists, your Sherlock Holmeses -- prefer to employ an old-fashioned criminological technique called "guessing." Using supernatural deduction skills, they somehow manage to get murderers to confess simply by repeating their crimes back to them in exact detail, like it's a game of Detective Hero wherein tapping out a perfect score automatically unlocks the prison bonus round. Though typically, the criminals then either commit suicide on the spot or get killed by an angry lover. It saves everyone a lot of paperwork. And mistrials.
The problem with this trope is that these clever fictional detectives are often also very lovely people. They're sophisticated, they're genteel, they'll never racially profile. Poirot is the best example of this, an old man with a silly mustache and a bowler hat milling around country estates charming murderous aristocrats with his accent.
This is why it might be a stroke of genius to give the role to John Malkovich, an actor so frightening that his fans are afraid to approach on the street out of fear he'll rip their arms off. Malkovich has a history of playing intense, volatile and even unhinged characters, the types who always seem one snippy comment away from stabbing someone to death with a teaspoon.
Having someone as sinister as Malkovich play Poirot might just work for us modern viewers, who have a harder time believing that murderers just confess out of polite sportsmanship to kindly detectives. But if Malkovich, with his creepy stare and mad twitching, locked a bunch of us up in a billiards room with him and announced that nobody was getting out until he had a murderer, you'd break a snooker cue in half and jam it through someone's neck just to get to the safety of a British prison. So we definitely look forward to the darkness he'll bring to this sweet old detective. And if that approach works, we also look forward to Amazon's future reboot of Murder She Wrote starring Angelina Jolie as Jessica Fletcher.
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