Christopher Eccleston

Christopher Eccleston (/ˈɛkəlstən/; born 16 February 1964) is an English actor. The recipient of an Emmy Award and two BAFTA Award nominations, Eccleston is best known for his work on television and in film – in particular for his collaborations with directors Danny Boyle and Michael Winterbottom and writers Peter Flannery, Jimmy McGovern and Russell T. Davies.

Christopher Eccleston
Eccleston at the premiere of Thor: The Dark World in October 2013
Born (1964-02-16) 16 February 1964
OccupationActor
Years active1989–present
Spouse(s)
Mischka Eccleston
(m. 2011; div. 2015)
Children2

Eccleston trained at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London and made his professional acting debut onstage in a Bristol Old Vic production of A Streetcar Named Desire. Eccleston garnered attention for his film roles as Derek Bentley in Let Him Have It and David Stevens in Shallow Grave and for his television performances in Cracker and Hillsborough. His BAFTA-nominated performance as Nicky Hutchinson in the BBC miniseries Our Friends in the North (1996) established Eccleston as a household name in the UK; he followed the serial with film roles in Jude, A Price Above Rubies, Elizabeth, eXistenZ, Gone in 60 Seconds, The Invisible Circus, The Others, 24 Hour Party People and 28 Days Later and television roles including the drama series Clocking Off and a second BAFTA-nominated performance as Messianic figure Stephen Baxter in the ITV drama serial The Second Coming.

Eccleston garnered widespread attention and acclaim for portraying the ninth incarnation of the Doctor in the 2005 revival of the BBC science fiction series Doctor Who, becoming the first to play the role since 1996. He departed the role after a single series, winning a National Television Award and receiving Broadcasting Press Guild Award and BAFTA Cymru Award nominations for his performance. Eccleston has since appeared in the television series Heroes, The Shadow Line, Blackout, Lucan, The Leftovers, Safe House, Fortitude and The A Word and films including G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Thor: The Dark World and Legend. He won an International Emmy Award for his performance in an episode of the anthology series Accused. Onstage, Eccleston has played the title roles in productions of Hamlet and Macbeth as well as starring in productions of Miss Julie, A Doll's House and Antigone. Since 2017, Eccleston has narrated the documentary series Ambulance.

Early life

Christopher Eccleston was born into a working-class family in Langworthy, Salford, Lancashire, England, the youngest of three sons born to Elsie and Ronnie Eccleston.[1] On his religious upbringing, he has said: "My dad’s family were Catholic. My mum was very Church of England – still is – but it doesn’t work for me."[2] His brothers, Alan and Keith, are twins who are eight years older than him.[3][4] The family lived in a small terraced house on Blodwell Street before moving to Little Hulton when Eccleston was seven months old.[5][6][7] Eccleston attended Joseph Eastham High School, where he became head boy.[8] At the age of 19, he was inspired to enter the acting profession by such television dramas as Boys from the Blackstuff.

Eccleston completed a two-year Performance Foundation Course at Salford Tech[9] before going on to train at the Central School of Speech and Drama.[10] As an actor, he was influenced in his early years by 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 the age of 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 from school, Eccleston took a variety of odd jobs at a supermarket, on building sites, and as an artist's model.[11]

Career

Early work (1991–2005)

Eccleston first came to public attention as Derek Bentley in the film Let Him Have It (1991), and an episode of Inspector Morse "Second Time Around" (1991). In 1992, he played the role of Sean Maddox in the BBC drama miniseries Friday on my Mind.[12] A regular role in the television series Cracker (1993–94) brought him recognition in the UK; and, after he told TV bosses of his desire to leave the series, they killed off his character in October 1994, making him a victim of the serial killer Albie Kinsella (Robert Carlyle). At around the same time, Eccleston appeared in the episode "One, Two, Buckle My Shoe" of the Poirot series adapted from mysteries by Agatha Christie.

He appeared in the low-budget Danny Boyle film Shallow Grave (1994), in which he co-starred with 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 starred in an ensemble cast that included actors Mark Strong and Gina McKee, as well as Daniel Craig. In 1996, he took the part of Trevor Hicks—a man who lost both of his daughters in the 1989 Hillsborough disaster—in the television drama film Hillsborough, penned by Jimmy McGovern. In real life, he was the best man to Trevor Hicks at his wedding in March 2009.[13]

His film career has since taken off with a variety of roles, including Jude (1996), Elizabeth (1998), eXistenZ (1999), Gone in 60 Seconds (2000), The Others (2001), 24 Hour Party People (2002) and 28 Days Later (2002). He played a major role as the protagonist of the 2002 Revengers Tragedy, adapted from Thomas Middleton's play of the same name.[14] He starred in the independent films A Price Above Rubies (1998) and The Invisible Circus (2001). He starred in the car-heist film Gone in 60 Seconds, but did not take his driving test until January 2004. He said on BBC's Top Gear that his licence restricts him to vehicles with automatic transmission.

He has appeared in a variety of television roles, especially in British dramas. 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 (2001), 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 has made guest appearances in episodes of the comedy drama Linda Green (2001) and macabre sketch show The League of Gentlemen (2002). Eccleston appeared in a stage role in Hamlet in the 2002 production at Leeds's West Yorkshire Playhouse. March–April 2004 saw him return to the venue in a new play, Electricity.

Eccleston has been twice nominated in the Best Actor category at the British Academy Television Awards. His first nomination came in 1997 for Our Friends in the North, but he lost to Nigel Hawthorne (for The Fragile Heart). He was nominated in 2004 for The Second Coming; Bill Nighy won for State of Play. Eccleston won the Best Actor category at the 1997 Broadcasting Press Guild Awards for Our Friends in the North. In 2003 he won the RTS Best Actor award for a second 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."

Doctor Who (2005)

On 2 April 2004, it was announced that Eccleston was to play the ninth incarnation of the Doctor in the revival of the BBC science fiction television series Doctor Who, which began transmission on 26 March 2005. Eccleston was the first actor to play the role who was born after the series began, albeit by less than three months. On 30 March 2005, the BBC released a statement, ostensibly from Eccleston, saying that he had decided to leave the role after just one series, because he feared becoming typecast. On 4 April 2005, 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 series. The statement had been made after journalists made queries to the press office.[15]

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".[16] Eccleston would later go on to say that he left the show because he "didn't enjoy the environment and the culture that the cast and crew had to work in", but that he was proud of having played the role.[17] Noting in a subsequent interview that "My relationship with my three immediate superiors – the showrunner, the producer and co-producer – broke down irreparably during the first block of filming and it never recovered."[18]

On 7 November 2008, at the National Theatre to promote his book The Writer's Tale, Russell T. Davies said that Eccleston's contract was for a single year because it was uncertain whether the show would continue beyond a single revival series. In retrospect, he says, it has been an enormous success, but at the time there were doubts within the BBC. Eccleston was voted "Most Popular Actor" at the 2005 National Television Awards for his portrayal of the Doctor.

In July 2012, Eccleston spoke positively of his time on Doctor Who during a talk at the National Theatre.[19] This led to speculation he was considering making a return appearance as the Ninth Doctor for the show's 50th anniversary special, "The Day of the Doctor", in 2013. The Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, stated that he would have loved Eccleston to return but after discussing with executive producer Steven Moffat, Eccleston declined his role.[20][21] However, in a 2018 interview Eccleston claimed that the BBC had "blacklist[ed]" him when he left.[22]

Later work (2005–present)

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. Eccleston sat on the 2nd Amazonas International Film Festival Film Jury in November 2005. The director Norman Jewison was chairman of the Jury.[23] In December 2005, Eccleston travelled to Indonesia's Aceh province for the BBC Breakfast news programme, examining how survivors of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami were rebuilding their lives.[24]

In March 2006, Eccleston appeared in the ITV documentary special Best Ever Muppet Moments as a commentator. In May 2006, he 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 was released in 2008 to film festivals in America and Italy.

Late in 2006 he starred in Perfect Parents, an ITV drama written and directed by Joe Ahearne, who had directed him in Doctor Who.[25] Eccleston joined the cast of the NBC TV series Heroes in the episode "Godsend", which was broadcast on 22 January 2007. Eccleston played a character named Claude who has the power of invisibility, and helps Peter Petrelli with his powers.[26] Eccleston appeared as the Rider in a film adaptation of Susan Cooper's novel The Dark Is Rising, which opened in the USA on 5 October 2007.

Eccleston appeared on the BBC Four World Cinema Award show in February 2008, arguing the merits of five international hits such as The Lives of Others and Pan's Labyrinth with Jonathan Ross and Archie Panjabi. In 2009, Eccleston starred opposite Archie Panjabi in a short film called The Happiness Salesman. Eccleston agreed to do the film because of Panjabi and the fact that it was a winner of the British Short Screenplay Competition. He also appeared as the villainous Destro in the G.I. Joe film, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.[27] Eccleston also appeared in an episode of The Sarah Silverman Program as the titular cult favourite science fiction hero in a show-within-the-show called "Dr. Laser Rage", possibly in reference to his stint in Doctor Who.

Eccleston was cast as John Lennon in a BBC production called Lennon Naked which aired in the UK on 23 June 2010,[28][29] with Eccleston playing the title role, and Naoko Mori, who had previously appeared with him in Doctor Who, as Yoko Ono. In November 2010, Eccleston starred in the first episode of BBC One anthology drama Accused. He won an International Emmy Award for his role. In May 2011, he starred as Joseph Bede in The Shadow Line, a seven-part television drama serial for BBC Two.

On 31 December 2011, Eccleston played the role of Pod Clock in an adaptation of Mary Norton's children's novel The Borrowers on BBC One. In July 2012, he starred in the political thriller Blackout on BBC One. In the same month, he starred as Creon in an adaptation of Antigone at the Royal National Theatre; his performance in the play was called "charismatic" and "intense".[30]

In 2013, Eccleston portrayed the villainous Malekith in Thor: The Dark World, the sequel to Thor and the eighth instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.[31] Starting in 2014, he portrayed the regular character The Reverend Matt Jamison on the HBO drama series The Leftovers.[32]

Eccleston began appearing in 2016 as Maurice Scott in the BBC drama The A Word. Maurice is the eccentric but lovable dad to his daughter who, with his husband, has an autistic son. The second series began airing in November 2017 both in the UK and the US, where The A Word airs on SundanceTV. A third series has now been confirmed, during his chat with the audience following a showing of Shallow Grave at the start Norwich Film Festival. Cast member Lee Ingleby was quoted as saying "We’ve always planned on doing it every two years."[33]

Eccleston has played the lead role in the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Macbeth in 2018.[34]

Personal life

Eccleston married copywriter Mischka, 20 years his junior, in November 2011.[35] They had their first child, Albert, in February 2012.[36][37] Their second child, Esme, was born in 2013.[5][38] They were divorced in December 2015, on the grounds that the marriage had broken down due to Mischka's "unreasonable behavior," which caused Eccleston "stress, anxiety, sleeplessness and loss of weight."[39]

Eccleston formerly identified as an atheist,[40] but in 2016 gave interviews describing his changing attitude towards faith and stated that he no longer considered himself an atheist, but agnostic.[41] In a 2019 interview, he reaffirmed that he was an atheist.[42]

He is a supporter of Manchester United[43] and was a regular marathon runner until 2000.[4][44]

In September 2007, as part of a £9.5m building scheme, Salford's Pendleton College named its new 260-seat auditorium the Eccleston Theatre.[45]

Eccleston became a Mencap charity ambassador on 28 April 2005,[46] and is also a supporter of the British Red Cross.[47] He also supports research for Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia; his father, Ronnie, suffered from vascular dementia in his later years, from 1998 until his death in 2012.[48][49]

Politically, Eccleston has criticised the Conservative Party and expressed concern at opportunities for actors from his background to achieve his level of success in the future. He was quoted in July 2017 as saying, "It's always been a policy of the Conservative government and party to destroy working class identity. If you prevent them from having a cultural voice, which is what's happening, they achieve that. They hate us, they want to destroy us, so we're being ruled out of having a voice."[50]

In his autobiography, Eccleston would describe chronic eating disorders and depression, and said that he had considered suicide. Speaking about his poor mental health he wrote that he was "a lifelong body hater".[51]

Filmography

Film

Year Title Role Notes
1991Let Him Have ItDerek Bentley
1992Death and the CompassAlonso Zunz
1993AnchoressPriest
1994Shallow GraveDavid Stephens
1996JudeJude Fawley
1998ElizabethDuke of Norfolk
A Price Above RubiesSender Horowitz
1999HeartGary Ellis
ExistenzSeminar Leader
With or Without YouVincent Boyd
2000Gone in 60 SecondsRaymond Calitri
The TyreSalesmanShort film
2001The OthersCharles Stewart
The Invisible CircusWolf
This Little PiggyCabbieShort film
StrumpetStrayman
200224 Hour Party PeopleBoethius
I Am DinaLeo Zhukovsky
Revengers TragedyVindici
28 Days LaterMajor Henry West
2007The SeekerThe Rider
2008New Orleans, Mon AmourDr. Henry
2009G.I. Joe: The Rise of CobraJames McCullen / Destro
AmeliaFred Noonan
The Happiness SalesmanSalesmanShort film
2012Song for MarionJames Harris
2013Thor: The Dark WorldMalekith
2015LegendLeonard "Nipper" Read
2018Where Hands TouchHanz
Dead in a Week (Or Your Money Back)Harvey

Television

Year Title Role Notes
1990Blood RightsDickEpisode #1.1
CasualtyStephen HillsEpisode: " A Reasonable Man"
1991Inspector MorseTerrence MitchellEpisode: "Second Time Around"
ChancerRadioEpisode: "Jo"
BoonMarkEpisode: "Cover Up"
1992Rachel's DreamMan in DreamTelevision short
PoirotFrank CarterEpisode: "One, Two, Buckle My Shoe"
Friday on my MindSean Maddox3 episodes
Business with FriendsAngel MorrisTelevision film
1993–1994CrackerDCI David Bilborough10 episodes
1995Hearts and MindsDrew Mackenzie4 episodes
1996Our Friends in the NorthNicky Hutchinson9 episodes
HillsboroughTrevor HicksTelevision film
1999Killing Time – The Millennium PoemMillennium Man
2000Wilderness MenAlexander Von Humboldt3 episodes
Clocking OffJim Calvert2 episodes
2001OthelloBen JagoTelevision film
Linda GreenTom Sherry / Neil SherryEpisode: "Twins"
2002The League of GentlemenDougal SieppEpisode: "How the Elephant Got Its Trunk"
Flesh and BloodJoe BroughtonTelevision film
The King and UsAnthonyTelevision film
SundayGeneral FordTelevision film
2003The Second ComingStephen Baxter2 episodes
2005Doctor WhoNinth DoctorSeries 1; 13 episodes
2005–2007Kings and PharaohsPharaoh RamesesLead role
2006Perfect ParentsStuartTelevision film
2007HeroesClaude5 episodes
2008The Sarah Silverman ProgramDr. Lazer RageEpisode: "I Thought My Dad Was Dead, But It Turns Out He's Not"
2010Lennon NakedJohn LennonTelevision film
AccusedWilly HoulihanEpisode: "Willy's Story"
2011The Shadow LineJoseph Bede7 episodes
The BorrowersPod ClockTelevision film
2012BlackoutDaniel Demoys3 episodes
2013 The Day of the Doctor Ninth Doctor Television special (archival footage)
2013LucanJohn Aspinall2 episodes
2014–2017The LeftoversMatt Jamison23 episodes
2015FortitudeProfessor Stoddart3 episodes
Safe HouseRobert4 episodes
2016–presentThe A WordMaurice Scott12 episodes
2016The Life of Rock with Brian PernLuke Dunmore2 episodes
2017–presentAmbulanceNarrator (voice)16 episodes
2017Manchester: 100 Days After the AttackNarrator (voice)Television special
2018Come HomeGreg3 episodes
King LearOswaldTelevision film

Stage

Year Title Role Notes
1988A Streetcar Named DesirePablo GonzalezBristol Old Vic
1989Dona Rosita the SpinsterPhyllida LloydBristol Old Vic
1990BentRoyal National Theatre
Abingdon SquareRoyal National Theatre
Aide-MemoireRoyal Court Theatre
1993Waiting at the Water's EdgeWillBush Theatre
2000Miss JulieJeanHaymarket Theatre
2002HamletHamletWest Yorkshire Playhouse
2004ElectricityJakeyWest Yorkshire Playhouse
2009A Doll's HouseNeil KelmanDonmar Warehouse
2012AntigoneCreonRoyal National Theatre
2018MacbethMacbethRoyal Shakespeare Theatre
Barbican Theatre, London

Performances with unknown dates

Music videos

Year Artist Title
2003I Am Kloot"Proof"
2010I Am Kloot"Northern Skies"

Radio and narration

Year Title Role
1998Room of LeavesFrank
Pig ParadiseJack
2001Some Fantastic PlaceNarrator
Bayeux TapestryHarold
2002The Importance of Being MorrisseyNarrator
IliadAchilles
2003Cromwell – Warts and AllNarrator
2004Life Half SpentRoger
2005Crossing the Dark SeaSquaddie
Sacred NationNarrator
Born to be DifferentNarrator
A Day in the Death of Joe EggBrian
E=mc² (Einstein's Big Idea)Narrator
Dubai DreamsNarrator
Wanted: New Mum and DadNarrator
Children in NeedNarrator
This Sceptred IsleVarious Characters
2006The 1970s: That Was The Decade That WasNarrator
2008The Devil's ChristmasNarrator
2009WoundedNarrator
2011The Bomb SquadNarrator
2012Timeshift: Wrestling's Golden Age: Grapplers, Grunts & GranniesNarrator
2016AmbulanceNarrator

Awards and nominations

BAFTA Awards

BAFTA TV Awards

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref.
1997 Best Actor Our Friends in the North Nominated
2004 The Second Coming Nominated

BAFTA Cymru Awards

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2005 Best Actor Doctor Who Nominated

Emmy Awards

International Emmy Awards

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2011 Best Actor Accused Won
2019 Come Home Pending

Others

Year Work Award Category Result
1997 Jude Golden Satellite Award Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama Nominated
Our Friends in the North Broadcasting Press Guild Award Best Actor Won
2003 Flesh and Blood Royal Television Society Award Best Actor Won
2005 Doctor Who TV Choice Award Best Actor Won
National Television Awards Most Popular Actor Won
Broadcasting Press Guild Award Best Actor Nominated
2007 Heroes SyFy Genre Awards Best Special Guest Nominated
2015 The Leftovers Satellite Award Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries, or Television Film Nominated
Critics' Choice Television Award Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Nominated
2016 Critics' Choice Television Award Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Nominated

References

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