Christopher Eccleston (IPA: /krɪstɒfɜr ˈɛklstən/, born 16 February 1964) is an award-winning English stage, film and television actor. He is well-known for his roles in such high-profile films as Shallow Grave, Elizabeth and 28 Days Later, and in 2005 became the ninth incarnation of the Doctor in Doctor Who.
Eccleston was born in Little Hulton, near Salford, then Lancashire now Greater Manchester, and raised in a working class family. He was head boy at Joseph Eastham's High School, Hilton Lane, Little Hulton with a love of Granada and BBC1 television and an ambition to play football for his beloved Manchester United. However, at 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 he 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. However, it was a regular role in the television series Cracker (1993–94) that made him a recognizable figure in the UK. At around the same time he appeared in Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot.
He appeared in the low-budget Danny Boyle 1994 film Shallow Grave, in which he co-starred with 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.
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, appearing 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. 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 July 2004 a poll of industry experts, conducted by Radio Times magazine, voted Eccleston the 19th Most Powerful Person in Television Drama.
Career since 2005
On October 30, 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. Eccleston sat on the 2nd Amazonas International Film Festival Film Jury in November 2005. The director Norman Jewison was chairman of the Jury.
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. 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.
In August 2006, Eccleston filmed New Orleans, Mon Amour with Elisabeth Moss. The film was directed by Michael Almereyda, and shot in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, it is currently in post-production and scheduled for a 2008 release. Late in 2006 he starred in Perfect Parents, an ITV drama written and directed by Joe Ahearne, who had directed him in Doctor Who. Eccleston joined the cast of the NBC TV series Heroes in the episode Godsend, which was broadcast on January 22, 2007. Eccleston played a character named Claude who has the power of invisibility, and helps Peter Petrelli with his powers.
Eccleston appeared as The Rider in a film adaptation of Susan Cooper's novel The Dark Is Rising, which opened in the U.S. on October 5, 2007.