Christopher Eccleston: is this why he really quit Doctor Who?

News Simon Brew 21 Jul 2011 - 08:39
The Ninth Doctor

In a new interview, Christopher Eccleston has laid down the reasons why he really quit Doctor Who after just one season…

When Doctor Who returned to our screens in 2005, Christopher Eccleston wasn’t many people’s obvious choice to don the jacket of the ninth Doctor. However, I for one thought he was terrific, and was one of many significant component parts in the success of the show’s return.

In interviews since he left the show, he’s always given understandably diplomatic answers as to why he left, suggesting that he didn’t want to be typecast. Earlier this year, he also ruled out returning for the show’s 50th anniversary, in 2013.

However, it seems that Eccleston may have now revealed the true reason behind his departure from Doctor Who. At an event at the Theatre Royal in Haymarket, he explained to an acting master class event the reason for leaving.

And, according to the Bad Wilf podcast, here’s what he had to say:

“I left Doctor Who because I could not get along with the senior people. I left because of politics. I did not see eye-to-eye with them. I didn’t agree with the way things were being run. I didn’t like the culture that had grown up around the series. So I left, I felt, over a principle.

I thought to remain, which would have made me a lot of money and given me huge visibility, the price I would have had to pay was to eat a lot of shit. I’m not being funny about that. I didn’t want to do that and it comes to the art of it, in a way. I feel that if you run your career and.. we are vulnerable as actors and we are constantly humiliating ourselves auditioning. But if you allow that to go on, on a grand scale you will lose whatever it is about you and it will be present in your work."

"If you allow your desire to be successful and visible and financially secure – if you allow that to make you throw shades on your parents, on your upbringing, then you’re knackered. You’ve got to keep something back, for yourself, because it’ll be present in your work", he added.

He concluded, saying "My face didn’t fit and I’m sure they were glad to see the back of me. The important thing is that I succeeded. It was a great part. I loved playing him. I loved connecting with that audience. Because I’ve always acted for adults and then suddenly you’re acting for children, who are far more tasteful; they will not be bullshitted. It’s either good, or it’s bad. They don’t schmooze at after-show parties, with cocktails.”

Crikey. We should note here that nobody from the BBC has said anything along this lines with regards Eccleston's departure. We'd imagine there is another side to the story, too, but one we're unlikely to hear.

For the full transcript of what Eccleston seems to have said, head over to Bad Wilf, here.

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Eccleson is my favorite Doctor.


I know this is a year coming, but, AMEN DUDE !! :)

You are judging his words from the perspective of your personal experience, versus actually comprehending what he's talking about. Try again.

And those 13 were each better than every single Tennant episode. ;p

Yeah, the BBC saw where Who was about to explode, thanks to him, and wanted to find ways to make him more of a tween heartthrob. I'm sure marketing asked him to downplay his Welsh roots, as that might not be "cool" or easily marketable. Also, all the stories of how badly Euros Lynn treated the filming crew and underlings, with Eccleston reported to having confronted him in the set about it, embarrassing the Beeb's pet director,and you have an obviously adversarial environment to work in. Add in the fact the marketing team prob wanted him to alter his life to fit the family-friendly nature of the show (just ask Tennant and Smith about how they are not allowed to be seen out partying while cast as a Doctor) and it is absolutely NO surprise he left. He made a conscience call, and went with integrity versus avarice. I love him all the more for it. And, I will forever miss his Doctor.

First off I loved Eccleson (then again I love all the actors who have played the Doctor), but this just seems a realy odd reason to leave the show. Isn't he just saying that he was upset that the show was change to appeal to the younger audiences rather then keeping the old format of the classic series? Maybe I'm putting words in his mouth but, I still think there is something that he is not telling us........ I mean things are alot different then they were in the Davies era, why will he not even consider returning for the 50th special? Seems to me he is being a bit stubborn.

I think it is a shame this inspirational and honest revelation has become a story. Eccleston was Brilliant in the role. Then again he usually is. See Cracker, shallow grave, our friends in the north. He was intending to help future generation of actors retain their integrity, which is tricky if you want fame. Few succeed! I thank him for his portrail, his fame was one reason budgets increased and the bbc are showing the winter season in around 3 weeks time.

Really? You didn't like Rose either? I thought I was the only one...

I'd image he didn't agree with the show having more sexual themes, especially when he had to kiss Captain Jack.

i don't know about welsh roots as such, but christopher eccleston was born in salford, and many of his roles he is of the manc-ish / northern (such as in cracker where i first saw him). he's always been great in everything i've seen of his - i'd recommend the second coming quite heavily (the messiah is revealed, at maine road ...!). he's always been his own man it appears - referring back to cracker he had his way about how / when his character left the show (good episodes featuring robert carlyle too).

This article doesn't really tell us anything. The fact that CE doesn't get into specifics tells me that he was in the wrong about whatever it was that caused him to leave. If I had to guess, I'd say he didn't like the fact that RTD was gay and didn't like the gay content RTD added to DW.

, Christopher Eccleston is my favorite of the new Doctor's. Even though the show is a silly and wonderful and weird... I could feel his hearts break. Always an underlying, subtle pain that he seems to be always fighting against and yet had a way of quickly turning things around to laughter. Terrific actor. Not sure what he meant by not having the right face.... except that Tennant was obviously cast as a heart throb doctor. Not that there's anything wrong with that... he is adorable. However: CE was brilliant and strong and handsome in his own right.... and brought success to the 2005 incarnation of the show. It is good to know that he loved playing the part... because I loved watching him.

I really hope he reconsiders coming back for a 50th reunion episode if it'd be kinda weird with just the 10th and 11th....oh well, still love his Doctor,

His portrayal was good, but the Doctor was too often sidelined for awful Rose, deus ex machina, true garbage such as "anti-plastic", bodily function jokes, etc, etc... I can understand why he left... series 1 may have won over the teenieboppers of the time, but it felt more like a show that was using WHO's trademarks and reusing old plots (e.g. the lame retread of "Spearhead from Space") and making it too Earthbound for absolutely no reason... and the level of camp, which must have surprised Verity Lambert (based on her 2003 interview saying she was happy over who was writing because he was good with drama, after saying how the show got too campy in the 1980s... oops... the interview can be found on the DVD for "Planet of Giants", a story that has aged well might I add...)

Sure, but how filling is artistic integrity and what do the creditors say when you wave it at them?

Didn't like the fact that RTD was gay? Chris *tried* out for RTD's Queer as Folk ffs. And he has worked with him before in The Second Coming. CE was the one asked RTD to put his name on the audition list for DW. Why would he do that if RTD being gay is a factor?

Now you see - I get he wasn't happy with the seniors - RTD maybe or more likly Phill Collinson. He should of stayed for at least another series? Do two series then leave - take the cash and run - cos lets be honest he did GI JOE!!

Eccleston won me over as the Doctor, and I enjoyed his run. I wish him much success in the future whatever he does. I'm sure he'll proceed with dignity.

Quality actor and quality bloke!

Aww come on! Rose is by far my favourite companion since the re-boot.

That's a bit like saying herpes is your favourite STD. They've all been a bit "meh" compared to the classic companions.

It's not as if this one role was the only thing standing between him and poverty.

There is a real reason, but I don't think it's known to the general public.

Read the same thing years ago - that the culture on the set was crass and unprofessional, especially John Barrowman's party 'trick' of whipping his willy out (yes, seriously). Don't blame Chris at all if that's true.

Im really sad Eccleston left Doctor Who. For me was the best Doctor. When I finished watching the first season and he transformed into David Tennant I said: "I hope he will transform again and will be as he was". When I arrived high school the next day Eccleston left, lots of my mates didn't stop talking about him, nobody was happy when he left. We were all dissapointed.

It won't be the same without you Eccleston!

I understand his reasons and his decision was correct, but my mates faces and mine are with sadness.

I know for a fact the BBC wanted Christopher on a long term contract, he only ever wanted to do one season and always said that. I hope he does return for the 50th (he has said he loved Moffats scripts) and it would be great for the fans if a Paul Mcgann to Chris regeneration was shot . Tom Baker was also very negative about being the Dr, something he now regrets greatly. Count yourself lucky to get a role like the Doctor most actors would love to do it.

Going down the pub with barrowman sounds like torture to me! Give me eccleston any day. Why are people giving him grief over leaving a job coz he didnt like the management? People do it every day, Dr who took up so much time and if he felt he was working with nasty people he'd be inhuman not to leave. Seems like a very normal reaction to me not la de dah at all!

I've only watched the 2005 revival of the series (so maybe I shouldn't comment) but Christopher Eccleston is still my favourite Doctor. I felt like his portrayal was very realistic to who his character would be (as realistic as a man who flies around in a magic box could be anyway) and I was sad to see him go.

David Tennant was funny and gorgeous, but that was really all he brought to the role, I feel like he wasn't very versatile and there was no depth to his portrayal.

Matt Smith...I'm pissed off about. I find him unbelievably attractive, but he looks like a college kid. I've found myself wondering if Doctor Who is going to be a toddler in a few years. I'm not at all pleased with his performance. Also the Eleventh Doctor is kind of an asshole.

To talk about companions for a moment, Donna was my absolute favourite, and I think they could have done way more with her character before they gave her the boot (which they did in the worst way possible). Amy Pond? Ugh...I don't even know what to say. Her character seemed to have potential as a child, but her adult self is a disappointment.

Saying your face doesn't fit is just an English expression, it means you don't fit in, you're out of place. It's not a literal comment about his looks. Hope that helps :)

I really liked him as the Doctor, David Tennant is my fave, but he isn't at all far behind ^^

Christopher was an excellent doctor, I must say. I've only started watching Doctor Who and its very addictive to watch (like reading Harry Potter). I'm 10 and I really loved him as the doctor. David Tennant and Matt Smith were also very good.

I wouldn't say that means he's precious. Some people are just naturally more melancholic in temperament, but very nice. I would say I'm melancholic and introverted. I don't like to party around but I do have a sense of humor and other qualities that make me worth being around. I can be a team player without going to a Madonna concert and going to the pub. A person doesn't have to drink and listen to pop music. LOL. Maybe he likes fine wines and classical music or something. As much as I love Tennant and Barrowman, they do come off as a bit hyper. LOL.

Yeah! I don't like being in party mode just because others expect me to be. I bet Eccleston would provide me a more cultured evening.

My guess is he didn't want to deal with the Rose romance at all. I think he wanted to stay pure to Doctor Who's roots. If you look at more recent articles, the way he comments about the show leads me to think he liked everything else.

You've never seen Eccleston in drag, have you?

Also, I've seen him in other roles. I'm sure he made the smile forced on purpose, to add to the quirkiness of the character.

I think Doctor Who wouldn't have been well for Tennant if Eccleston hadn't laid the groundwork. Tennant just came in as the fun guy who tookover. He doesn't have that way about him that says, "all of my people are dead except me, I was in a Time War and I'm hurting."

I love them both!

He wanted the show to stay true to the what Doctor Who has always been. That's what I got from what he was saying. And the difference between your acting friends and him, is that Eccleston actually has roles to choose from.

I'm thinking Rose. He got tired of the romance being pushed. I see him saying in a more recent article that he would do the 50th if a certain Who writer would do the episode. Then he met with Moffat "several" times and decided not to. So maybe it's Rose he doesn't want to involve his script with.

Eccleston is about as northern a surname as you can get as well.

Who knows. If more confrontation had gone on in the 60's perhaps Jimmy Saville wouldn't have gotten away with being a low life child molester. I for one think Chris walked away with his dignity, and whilst I watch and like every doctor previous and since Chris, he certainly is up there as one of my favourite.

I really was disappointed not to see him in the 50th anniversary episode. It would have been nice if when John Hurt regenerated into Christopher that he could have at least had a couple lines to set up his tenure as the Doctor. I wonder if he is willing to read be the doctor again in any audio books or radio stories. Tom Baker will always be my Doctor but Christopher is the reason I started watching again, even though I restarted watching when David was already the Doctor.

I realize speaking out of ignorance in hopes of being heard and seen as "relevant" is what you are hoping for here. But, unfortunately, you're coming off like an uninformed tool of mediocrity. Read a book, inform yourself, and then try again.

CE comes across as sounding like a diva and I wish they never had casted him. It's not like he added anything special to the role besides a dopey smile that seemed forced more than anything else. It's too bad they didn't start with DT because that man loved the role as much as Tom Baker did. Tennant could have been the Doctor for 10 seasons and it still would have been awesome. CE was... meh. And now he's just a tool that's going to screw up the 50th anniversary by being "that guy". If there's a multi-doc special, I say just recast the ungrateful sod.

He's had plenty of roles, probably had a number of opportunities waiting for him but even if he didnt money shouldn't be able to buy your pride, views and integrity. I'd rather live in my parents attic taking a walk to the job centre everyday that be stuck in a rich miserable rut.

So very true

I do think Donna and Amy brought it back to life!

I feel Amy was sort of a care giver, more than any of the other recent-ish companions. She took it upon her to look after him like a sister would, since 11 is childish which i find refreshing! I think she was brilliant, but each to own!

I don't think he want's fame, I think he just loves to act. I could easily see him living the rest of his career in low paid but thrilling roles.

I just started watching Dr who.

I'm 10 too! :D

I used to love him,but kinda lost respect after he disappointed all the fans in the 50th years special.

Same here

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