I don’t know if you noticed this, but the BBC already announced who is going to replace Matt Smith and become the 12th Doctor on Doctor Who, starting with the 2013 Christmas Special (assuming Steven Moffat doesn’t have any tricks up his sleeve for the 50th Anniversary Special). It’s not a woman, it’s not a person of a color (well, I guess white is a color) nor is it, quite obviously, a woman of color. Instead, it’s a crusty old white dude named Peter Capaldi who is probably going to be amazing in the role.
However, there was an over 2-month long speculation cycle in-between Matt Smith’s announced departure and Capaldi’s announced arrival. The attention now turns to examining any parsel of information out there as part of the indelicate process of determining whether or not Capaldi was the first choice for the role (since Steven Moffat saying it was the case makes us believe it even less considering his love for lying in the press). Surely, it’s possible an other actor or actors/actresses could have been offered and turned down the part. Why? Because it’s happened tons of times in the past.
As a result, over the past week or so there have been some seriously misleading headlines out there implying that both Chiwetel Ejiofor and Bill Nighy were offered the role of the 12th Doctor but turned it down.
So, here are the facts:
Chiwetel Ejiofor Might Have Been Offered the Part of the 11th Doctor But Passed, Allowing It to Go to Matt Smith
After Capaldi was announced, in a Tumblr post responding to a question from a fan author Neil Gaiman (screenwriter for the season 6 episode “The Doctor’s Wife”) snuck in this little nugget in the area of the potential for a black Doctor:
“I know one black actor who was already offered the part of the Doctor, and who turned it down.”
Gaiman’s written two episodes for modern Doctor Who giving his words extra weight. Gaiman would later clarify that he was not necessarily referring to the most recent re-casting of the Doctor. To wit, the UK Mirror swooped in with a report that Chiwetel Ejiofor was the black actor offered the role but that it was for the part of the 11th Doctor to replace David Tennant and not the role Capaldi won to replace Matt Smith. The Mirror’s BBC source claimed Ejiofor’s reasoning for turning down a role he once claimed he would absolutely take if offered was an inability to agree to the terms (be it money, the production/promotion schedule, etc.)
If true, this is generally how we find these kinds of things out, i.e., years after the fact. British actors who have almost been cast as the Doctor simply do not discuss such things for it serves them no benefit and disrespects the person who did get the role, highlighting their second choice (or even third choice in Tom Baker’s case) status. Ejiofor has 12 Years a Slave coming out this year with Oscar buzz, and Matt Smith went from a nobody to performing the greatest magic trick of all: being so amazing we briefly forgot about David Tennant. It all worked out for the best.
Bill Nighy Says He Was Offered the Part of the Doctor Once, Though He Won’t Say Which Doctor
Of course, another actor we know was once approached to be the Doctor is Bill Nighy. At the time that Eccleston was cast in the re-launched show, Nighy was the guy rumored to have been offered/officially cast in the role. The speculation was partially correct, with Nighy confirming to The People (a Sunday-only UK newspaper that historically leans toward tabloid news) June of last year, “I was offered the role once, I won’t tell you when because the rule is that you’re not allowed to say you turned that job down because it’s disrespectful to whoever did it. I will say that I was approached. But I didn’t want to be the Doctor. No disrespect to Doctor Who or anything. I just think that it comes with too much baggage.”
Funny thing is the UK Express recently published an article in which Nighy is quoted as saying the same exact thing, word for word, yet the Express in no way acknowledges the quote as having come from an outside source. So, either Nighy is incredibly brilliant at sticking to his talking points, or the Express simply pulled the old quote and pawned it off as new to generate page views (and considering how quickly it blew up across the internet during a slow news cycle the strategy worked). The one new piece of information they claim to have is that Nighy said of Capaldi, “He’s a marvellous actor. He’ll be very good as the Doctor. He’ll bring a lot of wit and dry humor. He’s elegant and he looks great.” If we’re already not trusting anything the Express says, though, doesn’t that sound so perfectly vague that Nighy could have been referencing any of the prior modern Doctors?
In short, there is nothing we didn’t already know here, people. Do not go crazy and start thinking Nighy might have been approached to replace Matt Smith. Well, of course, he absolutely could have been, but a UK paper re-using a year’s old quote does not mean anything’s actually changed since the last time Nighy spoke on the subject.