Monday, August 05, 2013

Who Is Peter Capaldi?

Just in case you were living in a cave on Sunday, Peter Capaldi has been unveiled as the new Doctor in Doctor Who. And even just hearing him say those few words gives this blogger a curious little fanboy tingle. The fifty five-year-old Glasgow-born character actor will be the twelfth man to play The Doctor on television (if you don't count Richard Hurndall and John Hurt. The fourteenth if you do), replacing out-going lead Matt Smith. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping is really, genuinely, properly made up by this news. I never, for a single second, thought the BBC would get such a 'name' for the role; too well-known, too high-profile, too in-demand, (perceived, by some, to be) too old, frankly. I could not, possibly, be more delighted to have been wrong in my massive wrongness. Peter is probably best known for his role as the acerbic, foul-mouthed spin-doctor Malcolm Tucker in the BBC's acclaimed political comedy The Thick Of It and its movie spin-off In The Loop. However, yer actual Keith Telly Topping has been a fan of Peter's work for a very long time indeed; he has a fabulous CV going back thirty years - Local Hero, Mr Wakefield's Crusade, Selling Hitler, The Cloning Of Joanna May, The Lair Of The White Worm, Dangerous Liaisons, Shooting Fish, Giving Tongue, Neverwhere (in which he was terrific as The Angel Islington), The Crow Road, In Deep, Fortysomething, Sea Of Souls, The Devil's Whore, Getting On, The Field Of Blood, and many, many others ... including his once-seen-never-forgotten performance as George Harrison in John and Yoko: A Love Story! The actor is also the first Oscar-winner to play the part of The Doctor after getting an Academy Award for directing the best live action short film in 1994, Franz Kafka's It's a Wonderful Life. Born in 1955, Peter's mother's family was from Ireland and his father's was from Picinisco in Italy. Peter attended the Glasgow School of Art, during which time he played guitar and sang in a never-legendary sub-Postcard indie band Dreamboys (previous The Bastards From Hell) whose number also included the comedian and chat show host Craig Ferguson on drums. The pair remain friends, Ferguson saying that it was: 'Great news that Peter Capaldi is the new Doctor. A spectacular talent and a beautiful man.' It was while studying at GSoA that Peter landed his acting breakthrough with a terrific, geeky comedy role in the cult 1983 movie Local Hero, directed by Bill Forsyth. Early roles in TV series like Minder led to a string of parts on dramas such as Ruth Rendell Mysteries (a superb performance as a fey, calculating David Bowie-like pop singer, Zano Vedast, in 1990's Some Lie & Some Die) and Prime Suspect. He seems to have made something of habit of playing amoral, smart, completely mental murdering bastards with some flawed fixation or other (as in, for example, a grand turn as the Grace Foley-obsessed banker Lucien Calvin in the Waking The Dead two-parter The Fall in 2008). One of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourite Capaldi roles was in a, now virtually forgotten, BBC drama, Chain, from the early nineties in which he played a cocky property fraud investigator sent to sort out some dodgy goings on in Portsmouth. 'So, this is Gotham City, you must be Batman,' he told the series' main protagonist, a local lawyer played by the excellent Robert Pugh. When asked who he is, he replies: 'Me? I'm The Boy Wonder!' More recently Peter has appeared in Skins and the BBC mini-series The Nativity. Peter has also written several TV shows, including a documentary about five hundred years of Scottish portrait painting and the acclaimed (and, genuinely, hilarious) Cricklewood Greats - a dry-as-a-bone spoof about the heyday of the British film industry. He also wrote and appeared in the 1993 film Soft Top Hard Shoulder - which was nominated for a Scottish film BAFTA - as well as writing and directing the 2001 gangster movie, Strictly Sinatra. Peter's stage credits include Professor Marcus in The Ladykillers at the Liverpool Playhouse, which later transferred to the West End. A lifelong fan of Doctor Who, landing the role of the Time Lord is a dream come true for Peter who has often spoken about the kindness shown to him by Doctor Who's then-producer Barry Letts when the teenage Capaldi wrote to the production office to ask questions about how TV shows were put together. He even wrote a letter to the Radio Times in early 1973, praising the magazine for its Doctor Who special issue celebrating the show's tenth anniversary (hopefully, he's still got his original copy as they're worth megabucks on eBay these days).
And, actually, in terms of Peter's rabid fanboy credentials, that's merely the tip of the iceberg. Here, for instance, is a fanzine article Peter wrote in 1976, for issue two of the Doctor Who International Fan Club's DWIFC Magazine celebrating the show's title sequence.
The Doctor Who casting comes after a busy year for the actor, who was seen on the big screen in the zombie film World War Z and in the BBC2 drama series The Hour, for which he was also BAFTA nominated. He is currently filming the new BBC1 Saturday night drama series The Musketeers, in which he plays the villainous Cardinal Richelieu and which will be broadcast next year. He will also appear in the forthcoming Julian Assange film The Fifth Estate as Gruniad Morning Star editor Alan Runtbudgie and Disney's Maleficent. 'It's so wonderful not to keep this secret any longer, but it's been so fantastic,' Peter said after the news was revealed on a live BBC1 show interviewed by Zoe Ball - who can, it would seem, walk in a straight line and talk at the same time. Who knew? The actor had been the bookmakers' favourite to take on the role, with betting on him becoming the next Doctor suspended on Friday. It is not the first time Peter has appeared on the show - he played the Roman merchant Lucius Caecilius in the 2008 episode The Fires of Pompeii and he also appeared, to great acclaim, in the spin-off series Torchwood a year later. At fifty five, he is the same age as William Hartnell when he was cast in the role as the first Doctor in 1963. 'Being asked to play The Doctor is an amazing privilege. Like The Doctor himself I find myself in a state of utter terror and delight. I can't wait to get started,' he said. The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat, the show's lead writer and executive producer, said that casting Capaldi as The Doctor was an 'incendiary combination. One of the most talented actors of his generation is about to play the best part on television.' Moffat said that Peter had been cast after a secret audition at his house. 'We made a home video of him being The Doctor and I showed it around and everyone said "yes, that's the Doctor."' Moffat added that the actor had 'briefly flicked through my mind' the last time he was casting the role, in late 2009, but he did not think that he was right for the part at the time. However 'now that moment has arrived.' Peter said that he downloaded some old Doctor Who scripts from the Internet and practiced the lines in front of a mirror to prepare for the audition. He revealed that he was filming The Musketeers in Prague when he found out he got the part. 'I had my phone on silent so I missed the call,' he said. 'It was my agent and I rang her up and she said "hello Doctor" - I haven't stopped laughing since.' Outgoing Doctor Matt Smith welcomed Peter's casting in pre-recorded a message for the new Time Lord. 'I wish my successor all the best and say good luck and good on you for getting it, because I know he's both a huge fan of the show and a really nice guy,' he said. 'The casting made me ready excited and as a fan I think it's a canny choice. If I had to pick someone, I'd pick him because I think he's great. I'm excited because I know what's coming and he's going to have a blast.' Smudger also revealed that Peter had approached him in the street the day after his own first episode The Eleventh Hour was shown in 2010 to congratulate him.
Jenna Coleman, who stars as The Doctor's current companion, Clara, said: 'I'm so excited Peter Capaldi is the man taking on the challenge of becoming The Doctor. With Steven's writing and his talent I know we'll be making an amazing show with an incredible incarnation of number twelve. I can't wait to start this new adventure.' Ben Stephenson, the controller of BBC Drama Commissioning said Capaldi was 'an extraordinarily talented actor who can seemingly turn his hand to anything. We can't wait to premiere his unique take on The Doctor on Christmas Day and we are sure he's going to become one of the all-time classic Doctors.' Following the announcement, The Thick of It writer Armando Ianucci tweeted: 'There can't be a funnier, wiser, more exciting Time Lord than Peter Capaldi. The universe is in great hands.' Peter will film his first scenes on the series this autumn and will appear for the first time in the show's Christmas episode, Matt Smith's finale. The Christmas special will be written by Moffat. Smudger said that filming would commence on the episode once he has finished work on the movie How To Catch A Monster which he has been shooting in the US for the last two months. Moffat has suggested that filming will start in September. The episode will be directed by Jamie Payne, who previously directed last series' Hide. This will also be Doctor Who's eight hundredth episode. In addition to his acting, Peter is a patron of The Association For International Cancer Research and the Scottish children's charity, The Aberlour Child Care Trust. He currently lives in Crouch End with his wife, Elaine Collins, and their daughter, Cecily.
Writing in the Gruniad Morning Star, Mark Lawson noted: 'His primary quality as an actor is danger; during his most vicious riffs as the sewer-mouthed Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It, there frequently seemed a threat that his pulsing facial veins might burst. He was also memorably menacing as the new boss in the second series of the TV newsroom drama The Hour. In that sense, Capaldi might have seemed more natural casting for the Time Lord's nemesis, The Master. So the main interest in his portrayal of The Doctor will be whether show-runner Steven Moffat – who has previously cast the actor in supporting roles in both Doctor Who and the spin-off Torchwood – encourages him to maintain his signature screen-bursting energy or explore a gentler part of his range. As Capaldi is not only in demand as an actor but also writes and directs, he is giving up a significant amount to fulfil the show's brutal shooting schedules in Cardiff. His casting confirms that, like James Bond, The Doctor has become a role serious actors are happy to take on.'

Doctor Who Live: The Next Doctor was watched by an audience of 6.27 million viewers in the UK, according to overnight figures. The audience peaked at 6.9 million viewers at the moment Peter Capaldi was unveiled as the twelfth Doctor. The live broadcast was the highest rated show of Sunday night across all channels, achieving a share of just a smidgen under thirty per cent of the total television audience. Second for the day was Countryfile with 5.6 2 million watching, while the evening BBC News, including reaction to Capaldi's casting as The Doctor had 4.8 million. ITV's highest rated show of the day was Law and Order: UK with 3.91 million viewers. Against the Doctor Who reveal, Tipping Point: Lucky Stars had 3.82 million viewers. On BBC2, the final Top Gear of the current series was watched by 4.68 million. The full figures for Sunday will appear in the next blog update. As well as revealing a new Doctor live on-air, presenter Zoë Ball also announced that this year's Doctor Who Prom will be broadcast on television on Monday 26 August. The programme had previously been reported for a BBC1 outing, though the time of broadcast has yet to be announced for the summer Bank Holiday broadcast. The Prom was performed twice over the weekend of 13 to 14 July, and was presented by Matt Smith, Jenna Coleman, Neve McIntosh and Dan Starkey.
Finally, one would have thought that yesterday, of all days, it would have been almost impossible for anyone to put a negative spin on the casting of Peter Capaldi (a few naysayers among The Special People aside, perhaps). But, as usual, whenever there are good things in life, you can always rely on some odious, risible pond-scum louse with a thoroughly sick anti-BBC agenda at the Daily Scum Mail to provide something to make people unhappy. They're really very good at it.
Welcome to the strange madness that is the world of Doctor Who, Peter. You seem - as a fan - to have a fair idea of how things work but, if in any doubt, ask Moffat, he knows the ropes better than anyone.

1 comment:

Catherine Cranston said...

Brilliant piece on the new Doctor