First it was Lady GaGa, then Johnny Depp, and now it's Eric Cantona. Singers, movie stars and footballers are all being linked to Doctor Who, the science-fiction TV series starring Matt Smith and Karen Gillan.
The Daily Star, now claim to know that Eric Cantona (44) – the French footballer who played for Manchester United between 1992 and 1996 – is to be cast as an alien enemy in the next series of Doctor Who, which begins filming in the UK shortly.
The paper claims that Matt Smith, who plays the eleventh Doctor in the drama series, would love to star opposite Cantona:
“I’d like Eric to do one and I’ve mentioned it to Steven Moffat. Eric’s got to be bad.”
Referring to an incident in 1995 when Cantona launched a kung fu-style kick into the crowd after he was sent off by the referee and was caught on camera as his foot connected with a Crystal Palace fan, the paper goes on to say that the BBC "are hoping the Frenchman might show off some of his famous Kung Fu moves in his baddie part".
During his professional sporting career, Cantona played for a number of French teams, including his first, Auxerre, from the early eighties, and Marseilles. He also played for the French national team, his international début being against West Germany in 1987. In the early nineties, he moved to the UK to play for Leeds United. From there, he joined Manchester United, where he stayed for five years until his retirement.
In 2003, Cantona admitted in an interview to the Independent that he may have quit too soon:
When you quit football it is not easy, your life becomes difficult. I should know because sometimes I feel I quit too young.
I loved the game but I no longer had the passion to go to bed early, not to go out with my friends, not to drink, and not to do a lot of other things the things I like in life.Movie star
However, since retiring as a professional soccer player, Cantona has carved out a career as an actor, mainly in his native France. Outside of France, he has appeared with Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth (1998), the late Mike Reid in Jack Says (2008) and Anne-Marie Duff in French Film (2009). Cantona has also worked on the other side of the camera, directing the 2002 short film Apporte-moi ton amour and co-producing the Ken Loach-directed film Looking for Eric (2009), in which he plays himself.
And of his rumoured role in Doctor Who, the Daily Star quotes what it calls a "BBC insider" as saying:
Matt has made a huge impression. The writers and producers all value his input and give his ideas careful consideration.
They like the thought of a French baddie and Eric would be perfect. He’s got acting experience and has charisma.
Smith was himself a professional footballer before injury forced him to quit and he became an actor. He actually shows off his footballing skills in the series, in a story called The Lodger by Gareth Roberts, where the Doctor is seen playing a game of soccer with his flatmate, Craig, played by James Corden (Gavin & Stacey).
But what is going on? It seems that hardly a day goes by without yet another rumour emerging concerning celebrities being lined up to appear in the BBC Wales-produced drama.
We now know that the Lady GaGa story from a couple of weeks ago was based on an off-the-cuff remark made by Roberts in Doctor Who Magazine. In an interview, the writer revealed that his original script for the current series of the sci-fi show was abandoned in favour of The Lodger, which premiered in the UK three weeks ago and will air 12 July in the US.
Roberts joked, of the shelved episode, that it “might end up on screen one day, or as an audio play in 2030, guest starring Lady GaGa, who will have fallen on hard times”.
The current series of the show ended its UK run last Saturday with The Big Bang, which was written by Doctor Who's head writer and executive producer, Steven Moffat. The following evening, Smith wowed his fans by appearing on stage at the Glastonbury Music Festival with Orbital, playing their rendition of the programme's theme tune.
At 27, Smith is the youngest person to have played the eponymous Time Lord in Doctor Who, making his debut in the role at beginning of this year. He, Karen Gillan (The Fires of Pompeii) and Arthur Darvill (Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll) will soon begin filming a Christmas 2010 special and the 2011 series. Gillan and Darvill play the Doctor's companions, Amy Pond and Rory Williams, respectively.
The Depp/Who-movie rumour seems just that, but what of Cantona?
Only Time will tell!