Not only the Twelfth Doctor, but also an Oscar-winnning writer-director for his short film Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life, Peter Capaldi’s career spans almost four decades of impressive, inventive performances. Capaldi first truly captured the nation’s heart when he became sweary spin doctor Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It in 2005, a role that could only be eclipsed for some by his stint in the TARDIS.
After three glorious years of his Doctor, a terrific turn in The Personal History of David Copperfield, and popping up in the comic book world of The Suicide Squad, Capaldi’s latest venture – thriller The Devil’s Hour – is out now on Prime Video and reminding us what makes him so captivating on screen. Let’s revisit some of Peter Capaldi’s finest performances.
Local Hero (1983)
Capaldi was just 25 when he landed one of his first roles in Local Hero, a warm, quirky gem of a film about an American oil refinery trying to buy an entire village on the west coast of Scotland for a new refinery. Starring alongside Burt Lancaster, Denis Lawson and Peter Riegert, Capaldi shows his comic charm has been firmly in place since the early days. Well worth watching if you haven’t already.
The Paddington films are packed with one massive long list of Britain’s finest and best-known acting names, and Capaldi more than earns his place among them as the unsavoury and very silly Mr Curry. A lovable baddie, his partnership with Nicole Kidman as the malevolent Millicent Clyde is a comically one-sided romance, and for a man who wants to be Windsor Gardens’ fun sponge, Mr Curry is one hell of a lot of fun to watch.
Doctor Who (Twice! 2008 and 2013-2017)
Capaldi’s portrayal of the twelfth Doctor gave us a complex, tormented and fiercely kind incarnation of this iconic role, and as a result he earned the praise and admiration of critics and Whovians alike. We saw his interpretation of the Doctor (and his hair!) evolve over the three series he’s a part of, but for Capaldi it was the episode ‘Listen’ which defined his era of the Doctor:
‘For me, that was really one of the first [episodes] of, oh, this is really who this Doctor is. He was quite brutal with people, but he was also kind and he was also funny and acidic. I think that was the first one where he really first appears.’
And, of course, we also got the timey-wimey twist of Peter Capaldi appearing in Doctor Who several years before he became the Doctor, when he featured in Tennant era episode ‘Fires of Pompeii’:
Peter Capaldi clearly just really, REALLY wanted to be in Doctor Who, because as far as we can tell, he is the only actor to appear not twice but THREE times across the Whoniverse. Back in 2009 he appeared in the harrowing ‘Children of Earth’ series of Torchwood, playing government official John Frobisher, who gets caught up in the mysterious ‘456’ aliens’ demand for 10% of the world’s children. It’s a much less fun role than the other two, but Capaldi is brilliant as a man out of his depth with an impossible decision to make.
The Thick of It (2005-2012)
The acerbic wit, volatile energy and savage, profanity-laden put-downs of government Communications guru Malcolm Tucker is what made Capaldi a household name, and with good reason – it’s one of the most iconic comedy characters of this generation. It also won him a slew of awards, including a BAFTA and two British Comedy awards, and was the reason a new political description – omnishambles – was added to the dictionary. It’s physically impossible to choose a favourite Malcolm Tucker line, but feel free to fight this out in the comments.
In the Loop (2009)
This Oscar-nominated film spin-off to The Thick Of It gives us another dose of Malcolm Tucker, this time giving us the treat of seeing how he deals with US politics, including an incredible face-off with the legend that is The Sopranos’ James Gandolfini. The film – and Capaldi – rightfully earned critical acclaim, probably helped by the fact this political satire was released back in 2009, before the world of politics became beyond parody.
Neil Gaiman’s first solo novel, Neverwhere, was released in 1996 at the same time as his and Sir Lenny Henry’s BBC miniseries of the same name. Peter Capaldi plays the ethereal, sinister Angel Islington, who inhabits a magical realm called London Below, which coexists with the ‘real’ London, known in Neverwhere as London Above. With an excellent cast including Capaldi starring alongside the likes of Paterson Joseph and Tamsin Greig, the series may not have benefitted from a big budget (noticeably in places!) but is still worth well watching for Capaldi and Gaiman fans.
The Hour (2012)
His breathtaking performance as Randall Brown in The Hour earned Capaldi well-deserved nominations for BAFTA’s Best Supporting Actor and Best Actor at the Broadcasting Press Guild Awards. Set in the 1950s, this BBC drama centres on a controversial new current affairs programme (called The Hour), and Capaldi plays the new Head of BBC News alongside a star-studded cast which also included Ben Whishaw, Dominic West and Romola Garai. His on-screen chemistry with Anna Chancellor is exceptional, and the gut-wrenching scene above will stay with you long after you’ve finished watching the show.
Soft Top Hard Shoulder (1992)
This 1992 comedy drama was both written by and stars Peter Capaldi alongside his future wife Elaine Collins, and sees him play a down-on-his-luck artist making an eventful journey from London back to his native Glasgow, picking up a mysterious female hitchhiker (Collins) along the way. Capaldi’s offbeat, engaging performance earned him a Best Actor award at the Scottish BAFTAs, where Soft Top Hard Shoulder also won Best Film.
The Musketeers (2014)
Casting Peter Capaldi as the dastardly Cardinal Richelieu in the BBC’s period drama The Musketeers caused a bit of a pickle for the show’s production team, as he landed the role of the twelfth Doctor midway through filming the first series, which meant he wouldn’t be able to return as planned for series two. Despite having a very good reason, it’s a shame we didn’t get to see more of his villainous Cardinal, as he had the perfect balance of ‘love to hate’, and there was almost a hint of Malcolm Tucker to his scheming ways.
The Vicar of Dibley (1994 and 1996)
He first appeared as dreamy Songs of Praise producer Tristan in series one of The Vicar of Dibley, but it was when Peter Capaldi reprised the role in the infamous 1996 festive special ‘The Christmas Lunch Incident’ that we get his truly unforgettable appearance. The hilarious misunderstanding between him and Geraldine is just as funny now as it was two and a half decades ago.
Lewis Capaldi’s Someone You Loved video (2019)
Somewhat bizarrely, Lewis and Peter Capaldi are long-lost relatives: although Lewis had been told Peter Capaldi was his second cousin growing up, the pair had never met, until Peter went to one of Lewis’ gigs in 2018. This led to Peter Capaldi appearing in a special music video for Lewis Capaldi’s hit single Someone You Loved, a collaboration with UK Organ Donor charity Live Life Give Life. In the video, we see a grieving husband (Peter Capaldi) meeting the grateful recipient of his late wife’s heart donation. In a scene that would make even the stiffest lip wobble, he places his hand on the woman’s chest so he can hear his wife’s heart beating again. Yep, we’re crying too.
The Devil’s Hour is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video from 27th October