- Category : Actor
- Type : PSE
- Profile : 3/5 - Martyr / Heretic
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Contagion 1
Christopher Eccleston (born 16 February 1964) is an English stage, television and film actor. He is well-known for his roles in several high-profile films, and in 2005 became the ninth incarnation of the Doctor in Doctor Who.
Eccleston was born in Little Hulton, near Salford, Lancashire and raised in an working class family. He considered himself to have been a "poor student" with a love of television and an ambition to play football for his beloved Manchester United. However, the age of 19, he found himself to be a much better actor than footballer, and was inspired by television dramas such as Boys from the Blackstuff. Eccleston trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama. As an actor, his early influences had been Ken Loach's Kes and Albert Finney's performance in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, but soon found himself performing the classics, including the works of Shakespeare, Chekhov and Molière. At age 25, Eccleston made his professional stage debut in the Bristol Old Vic's production of A Streetcar Named Desire. Underemployed as an actor for some years after graduating school, Eccleston took a variety of odd jobs at a supermarket, on building sites, and as an artist's model.
Eccleston first came to public attention as Derek Bentley in the 1991 film Let Him Have It, based on true events. However, it was a regular role in the television series Cracker (1993–94) — culminating in his character's dramatic death in the second series — that made him a recognizable figure in the UK.
He appeared in the low-budget Danny Boyle 1994 film Shallow Grave, in which he co-starred up-and-coming actor Ewan McGregor. The same year, he won the part of Nicky Hutchinson in the epic BBC drama serial Our Friends in the North, whose broadcast on BBC Two in 1996 helped make him a household name in the UK. Eccleston would share the screen in the show with Daniel Craig, the sixth and current actor to play James Bond in the movie franchise.
His film career has since taken off with a variety of high-profile but not — except in one or two cases — major roles, including parts in Jude (1996) (where he shared a scene with David Tennant, his successor as The Doctor in Doctor Who), Elizabeth (1998), eXistenZ (1999), Gone in Sixty Seconds (2000), The Others (2001), 24 Hour Party People (2002) and another Danny Boyle film, the horror movie 28 Days Later (2002). He played a major role as the protagonist of Alex Cox's 2002 Revengers Tragedy, adapted from Thomas Middleton's play of the same name. He has starred alongside two major Hollywood actresses in smaller independent films, playing opposite Renée Zellweger in A Price Above Rubies (1998) and Cameron Diaz in The Invisible Circus (2001). Despite starring in the car-heist movie Gone in 60 Seconds, he did not actually take his driving test until January 2004 and is only licenced to drive automatic transmission cars.
He has appeared in a variety of television roles, racking up credits in British television dramas of recent years. These have included Hearts and Minds (1995) for Channel 4, Clocking Off (2000) and Flesh and Blood (2002) for the BBC and Hillsborough (1996), a modern version of Othello (2002), playing 'Ben Jago', (the Iago character) and the religious telefantasy epic The Second Coming (2003) for ITV, in which he played Steve Baxter, the son of God (ironically, Eccleston and writer Russel T. Davies, whom he would later work with on Doctor Who, are both atheists). He also finds time for the occasional light-hearted role, however, as his guest appearances in episodes of the comedy drama Linda Green (2001) and macabre sketch show The League of Gentlemen (2002) have shown.
On stage, his highest-profile production has been his starring role in Hamlet at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds in 2002. The West Yorkshire Playhouse is a favorite venue of his, and he most recently returned there in the new play Electricity, which ran in March and April 2004.
Eccleston has been twice nominated in the Best Actor category at the British Academy Television Awards, the UK's premier television awards ceremony. His first nomination came in 1997 for Our Friends in the North, when he lost out to Nigel Hawthorne (for The Fragile Heart), and he was nominated again in 2004 for The Second Coming, this time being beaten by Bill Nighy (for State of Play). He did, however, triumph in the Best Actor categories at the 1997 Broadcasting Press Guild Awards and the Royal Television Society Awards, winning for Our Friends in the North. He won the RTS Best Actor award for a second time in 2003, this time for his performance in Flesh and Blood. In 2005 he received the Most Popular Actor award in the National Television Awards for Doctor Who.
In July 2004 a poll of industry experts, conducted by Radio Times magazine, voted Eccleston the 19th Most Powerful Person in Television Drama.
Doctor Who (2005)
On 20 March 2004, it was announced that Eccleston was to play the ninth incarnation of the Doctor in the revival of the legendary BBC science fiction television series Doctor Who, which started airing in March 2005. The series executive producer and writer Russell T. Davies has said that Eccleston was always the first choice for the part. Despite this, the British tabloid press ran reports that Bill Nighy had been offered the role first, but declined (and in the 2005 documentary series Doctor Who Confidential, Davies said that he "wouldn't have thought Chris would be interested").
Eccleston was the first actor to play the Doctor on television in nine years (since Paul McGann in 1996) and the first actor to play him in an ongoing series in 16 years (since Sylvester McCoy in 1989). He was also the first actor to play the Doctor who was actually born after the beginning of the original television series. (He was born two weeks after the famous first Dalek story was first broadcast in the UK).
The new Doctor Who series premiered on 26 March 2005, receiving considerable praise for its opening story and special effects. Given the high ratings which the first episode had enjoyed (over 10 million), the BBC immediately announced that Doctor Who would be commissioned for another series and a Christmas special. However, on 30 March 2005, the BBC released a statement, ostensibly from Eccleston, saying that he had decided to leave the role after just one season, owing to fears of becoming typecast. On 4 April, the BBC revealed that Eccleston's "statement" was falsely attributed and released without his consent. The BBC admitted that they had broken an agreement made in January not to disclose publicly that he only intended to do one season. The statement had been made after journalists made queries to the press office. Eccleston's three-month tenure makes him either the shortest or second-shortest serving Doctor to date, depending on how one counts Paul McGann's Eighth Doctor. (McGann appeared once, but was not "replaced" for nine years on screen, as no Doctor Who series was made at that time. Eccleston appeared in the role thirteen times, but his successor, David Tennant, appeared at the end of Eccleston's final episode, "The Parting of the Ways".)
On 11 June 2005, during a BBC radio interview, when asked if he had enjoyed working on Doctor Who, Eccleston responded by saying, "Mixed, but that's a long story." Eccleston's reasons for leaving the role continue to be debated in Britain's newspapers: on 4 October 2005 Alan Davies told The Daily Telegraph that Eccleston had been "overworked" by the BBC, and had left the role because he was "exhausted". Ten days later, Eccleston told The Daily Mirror this was not true, and expressed some irritation at Davies for his comments.
Eccleston was voted "Most Popular Actor" at the 2005 National Television Awards for his portrayal of the Doctor.
After the Doctor
In June 2005, it was announced at the Cannes Film Festival that Eccleston had signed to appear in a British-made sci-fi romantic comedy called Double Life, about a man who thinks he loves twin sisters. The film has been billed as "a tale of love and obsession" set in Budapest, and will be directed by Joe Ahearne (who directed Eccleston in Doctor Who). It is being produced by author Lynda La Plante's company Cougar Films.
On 30 October 2005, Eccleston appeared on stage at the Old Vic theatre in London in the one-night play Night Sky alongside Navin Chowdhry, Bruno Langley, David Warner, Saffron Burrows and David Baddiel.
In December 2005, Eccleston traveled to Indonesia's Aceh province for the BBC Breakfast news programme, examining how survivors of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami were rebuilding their lives.
On 20 December 2005, it was announced that Eccleston would lead the cast as playwright, poet and spy Christopher Marlowe in Peter Whelan’s The School of Night. Directed by Bill Alexander, The School of Night was due to preview from 16 February 2006, but on January 6 the production was cancelled without a full explanation.
In May 2006, Eccleston appeared as the narrator in a production of Romeo and Juliet at The Lowry theatre in his home city of Salford. The theatre company with which he performed, Celebrity Pig (of which he is patron), is made up of learning disabled actors.
Late in 2006 he starred in Perfect Parents, an ITV drama written and directed by Ahearne.
In May 2006 it was reported that Eccleston was in advanced negotiations to star in a Sky One revival of the seminal 1960s drama series The Prisoner, as Number Six, the character originally played by series creator Patrick McGoohan. Eccleston's agent has since categorically denied these rumours.
In August 2006, Eccleston starred in New Orleans, Mon Amour with Elisabeth Moss. The film was directed by Michael Almereyda, and shot in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans.
Eccleston joined the cast of the NBC TV series Heroes, in the episode Godsend which aired on 22 January 2007. Eccleston plays a character named Claude who can become invisible, and helps Peter Petrelli with his powers.
Eccleston will also appear as "The Rider" in a film adaptation of Susan Cooper's novel The Dark is Rising which opens in the U.S. on October 5, 2007.