Thu
Sep 10 2015 11:00am

Voilà: Rowan Atkinson as Jules Maigret

To play a convincing Sherlock Holmes you need to be long and lean.

To play a convincing Poirot you need to be... well... David Suchet.

To play Georges Simenon’s great detective Jules Maigret, the requirements aren’t as specific. That’s one of the great things about Maigret. We know he’s a gent who enjoys a pipe and a beer and who possesses finely honed instincts regarding human nature. Beyond that, he’s everyman. Even Simenon admitted that he didn’t have a clear mental picture of Maigret’s face.

Over the years Maigret has been portrayed in French by Jean Gabin and Bruno Crémer, among others. English Maigrets have included Michael Gambon and Richard Harris. (Hmm... What other beloved literary character do they have in common?) There have been Russian, Italian, Dutch, Belgian, German, Czech, and Yugoslavian versions of Maigret. There even was a  Japanese Maigret TV series in the 1970s. It marked a rare onscreen role for Kinya Aikawa, a popular voice actor whose work included the role of Racer X in the 1960s cartoon Speed Racer and dubbing Jack Lemmon’s voice into Japanese for films such as Some Like it Hot and The Apartment. It doesn’t get more “everyman” than that.

Now prepare for a new Maigret as Rowan Atkinson steps into the role for two stand-alone TV movies:  Maigret Sets a Trap and Maigret’s Dead Man. They’re both set in 1950s Paris. Filming started on September 8th in Budapest, which apparently is standing in for the City of Light.

Are we ready for Mr. Bean (or Edmund Blackadder, if you’re hardcore) to take on the role of Simenon’s detective? I think we might be. Atkinson says he’s a fan of Simenon’s Maigret novels (who isn’t?) and he doesn’t seem like the type of guy who would tamper with perfection. This production could warrant further investigation.


Leslie Gilbert Elman is the author of Weird But True: 200 Astounding, Outrageous, and Totally Off the Wall Facts. Follow her on Twitter @leslieelman.

Read all of Leslie Gilbert Elman’s posts for Criminal Element.

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2 comments
Diane Hernandez
1. diane92345
I am not sure I can get the Mr Bean antics out of my head but I cannot wait for the series to begin.
2. Matt Gibbs
Since you refer to a variety of famous actors who have played Maigret, including English ones, it is baffling to me why you failed to mention Ruprt Davies, who played Maigret in the longest running series (a pilot plus 4 series of 13 episodes 1960-63) of the French detective on the BBC and who Simenon himself described as the most Maigret-like! Maigret was well described in the 1931 novel, Le pendu de St. Pholien, in the 1963 Penguin translation - "tall and broad shouldered, especially broad, thick and solid and his rather ordinary clothes emphasised his rather plebian build."
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