Bill Nighy has confirmed that he was offered the lead role in the BBC’s long-running science-fiction drama series, Doctor Who.
Nighy – pronounced “Nigh” – has long been associated with the role of the Time Lord from Gallifrey.
In 2003, when the BBC announced that Doctor Who was to return to television, his name was at the top of the list, as he was known to be a favourite of the then-Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies.
Indeed, in 2004, on the day that most newspapers reported that Christopher Eccleston had been cast as the Ninth Doctor, the Daily Mail initially claimed in that day’s edition that Nighy had won the coveted role – though corrected their error online later that same day.
However, Nighy, 62, doesn’t confirm whether it was for Doctor Who’s 21st-century revival in 2005 that he was offered the part.
As reported in the Huffington Post, Nighy says, “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.”
Explaining why he turned the offer down, Nighy continues, “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.”
Not the Doctor, but ...
Despite having not played the Doctor, Nighy did appear as a doctor – Dr Black – opposite Smith in the 2010 Doctor Who story Vincent and the Doctor. The episode was written by Richard Curtis, the film writer/director that Nighy worked with on Love Actually (2003).
Nighy has appeared in many other films – including Still Crazy (1998), Underworld (2003) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010) – and numerous TV dramas, such as Paul Abbott’s State of Play (2003), The Girl in the Café (2005) and Page Eight (2011).
Later this year, he can be seen with Colin Farrell in the science-fiction movie Total Recall, a remake of the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger original.
To date, since 1963, there have been eleven incarnations of the Doctor: William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and Matt Smith.
Smith – who became the Eleventh Doctor in 2010 – is currently filming his third season, which is due to begin broadcasting towards the end of 2012, and is expected to remain in the role until at least Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary, in November 2013.