When Matt Smith was announced as the Eleventh Doctor in early 2009, he became the youngest actor to take on the iconic Doctor Who role at age 26. But following in the footsteps of his predecessor David Tennant proved a bit daunting for Smith who recently revealed he almost turned down the role as soon as he was chosen for the part.
In a lengthy interview with BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, Smith admitted he had a bit of a “wobble” about stepping into the TARDIS, and explained how it all went down.
“My agent rang me,” Smith said. “And it’s so cloak and dagger, the whole thing. Before they could accept it, and I could accept it, there was this meal that had to happen at Steven Moffat’s house and there were plates with David Tennant’s face on. They picked it up and they were like ‘just so you know, this is what it’s like.’ And they’re like ‘are there any skeletons in your closet?’” To which Smith replied he didn’t have any.
“When you take on that part, you’re taking on a sort of Head Boy-ness,” Smith continued during the interview. “That’s where the Head Boy-ness came in and it was quite handy, actually. But then I did wobble. I was like, ‘I don’t think I’m gonna do it.’ And my agent was like, ‘You’re gonna do it.’”
Thankfully, Smith followed his agent’s advice. The actor went on to play the Mad Man in the Big Blue Police Box for three seasons, not only calling it “the greatest part of my life,” but also “one of the greatest experiences of my life. I loved every minute of it.”
The actor, who portrayed the role of Queen Elizabeth II’s husband Prince Philip on the first two seasons of Netflix’s The Crown, also opened up about the challenges of playing the character on the BBC series (a challenge Jodie Whittaker is now facing as the 13th Doctor). Smith said playing the beloved Time Lord is “the hardest thing you ever do in your life because he’s the central… he is the narrative. So the line learning, you’ve got a minimum of seven to 20 pages a night. It’s just such a gargantuan amount of lines.”
Having been a staple of the BBC series for more than three years, it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role of the "bow-ties are cool" and "fezzes are cool" Eleventh Doctor. What do you think about Matt Smith’s revelation that he almost turned down Doctor Who?