We've heard rumors before, but now it's actually happening: Doctor Who is returning to theaters for the first time since 1966. And like in 1966, it's won't be related to the long-running television series. You know what that means… a new Doctor. And every time there's going to be a new Doctor the internet goes wild with theories and rumors about who wants to play him. Harry Potter director David Yates' film won't be ready for a reported 2-3 years, so it's possible that some hitherto unknown will break out by 2014 and snatch up the coveted (and arguably unnecessary) role, but in the meantime here are the most likely candidates to be in the feature film. British? Mostly. Big stars? Not really. Sorry Johnny Depp, but a big name actor might dwarf the character's appeal. These guys, on the other hand, are more likely than you to get – or at least deserve – the role of a lifetime. These are our top ten picks for Who Will Be The Next Doctor Who?
10. SIMON PEGG
WHY HE’D GET THE PART: Because he’s Simon Pegg, people. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more beloved English actor around the world. The producers are going to have to consider him, at least briefly, and he’d probably be pretty damned funny in the part. He’s already shown his love of the series in the Doctor Who episode “The Long Game.” But…
WHY HE WOULDN’T GET THE PART: …if they gave Simon Pegg Doctor Who, there’s a serious risk that the film would become “just another Simon Pegg movie,” with the comedian doing his familiar shtick and failing to attract anyone but the small (but admittedly fervent) fans of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Also, we’re not convinced that Pegg has the dramatic intensity necessary to balance out all of The Doctor’s quirks. He’d probably be okay, but we’d be very surprised (and honestly a little disappointed) if he got the role.
9. RYAN KWANTEN
WHY HE’D GET THE PART: Ryan Kwanten is, and we’re pretty confident about this, a big star waiting to happen. Audiences know him as the bro-ish Jason Stackhouse on HBO’s True Blood, but this year’s release of Griff the Invisible proved the Australian-born actor to have a much wider range than that. In both roles, however, Kwanten has proved himself a lovable screen presence who is capable of handling quirky characters with skill and a sense of balance. Sure, he’s young… but then so is Matt Smith, and he’s doing quite well for himself as the Eleventh Doctor, isn’t he?
WHY HE WOULDN’T GET THE PART: Kwanten hasn’t appeared in a major theatrical release thus far, making him quite the underdog unless that changes in the next couple of years. He’s also Australian, which might earn him some demerits but we think that particular obstacle was already breached when George Lazenby took over the James Bond franchise in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, one of the best films in that long-running franchise. (Sure, Lazenby didn’t last, but it wasn’t because he was Australian.) He’s too untested to be a major contender, and yet we wouldn’t be surprised if Kwanten whips out an impressive enough screen test that the producers are forced to seriously consider him for the part.
8. PAUL BETTANY
WHY HE’D GET THE PART: English actor Paul Bettany first proved he had what it takes to fill The Doctor’s shoes with his memorable role in the otherwise forgettable A Knight’s Tale, playing the extroverted literary genius Geoffrey Chaucer with the right kind of firebrand aplomb. Since then he’s proven himself a formidable screen presence with more subdued, thoughtful roles in A Beautiful Mind and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. American audiences would feel safe with a familiar face like Bettany’s, and The Doctor would be just the role he needs to break out of his recent career doldrums, which found him in forgettable genre fare like Legion and Priest.
WHY HE WOULDN’T GET THE PART: Yeah, about Legion and Priest? Nobody saw them, and fewer still actually liked them. We haven’t heard anyone actually blame Paul Bettany for that, but there’s a difference between not looking for a big star and casting someone the producers might perceive as box office poison. We don’t doubt that he could handle the role, but we suspect the makers of Doctor Who might think otherwise.
7. CILLIAN MURPHY
WHY HE’D GET THE PART: Gaunt Irish-born actor Cillian Murphy is a highly respected young thespian with memorable roles in genre hits like Batman Begins and 28 Days Later. He’s got a distinctive look and an enormous potential for the kind of esoteric performance we’ve come to expect from our Doctors, exuding the smarts and outsider mentality that helps define the character.
WHY HE WOULDN’T GET THE PART: Murphy is fairly untested as a leading man in mainstream Hollywood, but beyond that he’s never really shown that he has much of a sense of humor as an actor. His roles in In Time and Sunshine prove him a master of quiet intensity, but The Doctor needs to bit more of a gleeful spark than Cillian Murphy has so far muster on screen. His creepy deadpan in Batman Begins was a step in the right direction, but he’s going to have to nail his screen test to be seriously considered for the part. Then again, you could have said the same thing about Christopher Eccleston…
6. TOM HIDDLESTON
WHY HE’D GET THE PART: English actor Tom Hiddleston came out of nowhere to dominate this summer’s blockbuster Thor, and seems headed to further greatness with next summer’s hotly anticipated The Avengers. There’s an otherworldly quality to the actor, who in only one mainstream role has demonstrated the kind of canniness, humor and, yes, occasional bouts of rage that come with playing The Doctor. His visibility is high, even though his credits are small in number. The producers might be wise to get in on the ground floor with Tom Hiddleston.
WHY HE WOULDN’T GET THE PART: Talk about untested… Hiddleston’s only been in one major theatrical release to date, and while he certainly proved himself in Thor, there’s no reason yet to assume that he has the ability to attract audiences all on his own. Still, Doctor Who is a few years down the line still, so he might be able to maximize his new star power and prove himself the kind of leading man who can carry a film series all on his own.
5. GEOFFREY RUSH
WHY HE’D GET THE PART: After coming out of nowhere to win the Best Actor Oscar for Shine, everyone thought that’s the last we’d hear from the Australian star but boy oh boy, were we wrong. Rush quickly defined himself as one of the most versatile actors around, appearing in dramatic and comedic roles to great critical acclaim, and raising his star wattage considerably with his beloved appearances in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. And he does it all with an obvious, canny intelligence… just what The Doctor ordered.
WHY HE WOULDN’T GET THE PART: Because he’s sixty years old now, that’s why. Everyone loves him but it would be difficult to build a franchise around the guy. Also, we imagine the producers would want someone a little sexier than the grizzled Rush to headline their potential franchise. We wouldn’t be surprised to find Rush, or someone quite like him, to open the film before promptly regenerating into some of the other, handsomer entries on our list, not unlike the TV movie which found the Seventh Doctor, Sylvester McCoy, turning into short-lived Eighth Doctor Paul McGann in the prologue. And yes, he’s Australian, but we’ve already covered that haven’t we…?
4. TOM HARDY
WHY HE’D GET THE PART: After a string of acclaimed performances in the likes of Bronson, Inception and Warrior, English actor Tom Hardy quickly established himself as a powerful cinematic presence capable of outsized but complex characters, and a smoldering fury quite befitting the Time Lord with a god complex. Plus, he’s hunky as hell, and has a little film called The Dark Knight Rises ready to raise his visibility a hundredfold.
WHY HE WOULDN’T GET THE PART: A lot can happen in 2-3 years, particularly for a young up-and-comer like Tom Hardy. He’s critically acclaimed right now, and while we can’t imagine that ever quite going away, his last film, Warrior, was a box office dud and his upcoming foray into mainstream comedy, This Means War (from troublesome director McG), looks like a train wreck waiting to happen. As with Bettany, if he doesn’t latch onto a big – and more importantly successful – starring vehicle soon, without the aid of Christopher Nolan, the producers of Doctor Who might not be willing to put him on a short list.
3. RHYS IFANS
WHY HE’D GET THE PART: Rhys Ifans became the face of British wackiness after his breakthrough role in Notting Hill, playing Hugh Grant’s comedy relief roommate. Ifans has been threatening to enter the spotlight for a while now after major roles in Anonymous and the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man, but as the new Doctor Who he’d be able to channel his comedic and dramatic chops into a single role that’s practically designed for him.
WHY HE WOULDN’T GET THE PART: It’s a little on the nose, isn’t it? Rhys Ifans doesn’t have a particularly huge following in the states, but the potential wackiness of Doctor Who might read to the uninitiated as another Human Nature, which isn’t what the producers would want. He has time to fix his image though. After all, Spider-Man is only a few months away…
2. HUGH LAURIE
WHY HE’D BE GET THE PART: Hugh Laurie’s character on House is, frankly, already the American Doctor Who. He’s got an outsized personality, rubs a lot of people the wrong way, but is always, always right… even when he’s wrong. The only differences – beyond genre, at least – are that he’s defined by his distaste for humanity, not his hopefulness for their future, and his supporting cast doesn’t exalt him the way The Doctor’s does. And Hugh Laurie nails it. We have no doubt that he could do wonders for the Doctor as well. Besides, Laurie got his start on the BBC with great shows like Jeeves & Wooster and Black Adder.
WHY HE WOULDN’T GET THE PART: Our only concern is that by the time David Yates’ Doctor Who comes out in 2-3 years (assuming it even does, since gives the production a long time to go wrong) the already 52-year-old star might be looking a little too old for the producers to consider him to star in a potentially long-running franchise. Of course, the magic of Doctor Who is that they have an easy out for that sort of thing…
AND OUR #1 PICK TO PLAY DOCTOR WHO IS…
1. MICHAEL SHEEN
WHY HE’D GET THE PART: Since breaking out in 2006 with his starring role in The Queen, Welsh actor Michael Sheen has proven himself to be a diversely talented actor in films ranging from Frost/Nixon to TRON Legacy. He knows when to play it serious, and he knows when to cut loose and have fun, often in the same film. Plus, he’s obviously comfortable with the Whoniverse: He already appeared in the instant classic Doctor Who episode “The Doctor’s Wife,” written by fantasy legend Neil Gaiman. Well, his voice did anyway.
WHY HE WOULDN’T GET THE PART: Can’t think of a single reason. That’s why he’s our #1.