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Why Hugh Grant Turned Down the Chance to Play Everyone’s Favorite Doctor

Why Hugh Grant Turned Down the Chance to Play Everyone's Favorite Doctor


  • Despite being offered the iconic role of The Doctor, Hugh Grant turned it down in 2005, a decision he later admitted to regretting.
  • Hugh Grant actually did play The Doctor in a special charity segment of Doctor Who in 1999, alongside other actors portraying different versions.
  • Grant’s link to Doctor Who continues to make headlines, with rumors circulating about his involvement in the series, although he has denied any current role.

Hugh Grant was one of the most famous actors in the 1990s and early 2000s. With star-making roles in Four Weddings and a Funeral, Sense and Sensibility, and Notting Hill, he became known as a leading man in romances that he would carry over into Bridget Jones’s Diary and About a Boy before playing against type in Cloud Atlas, Paddington 2, and the recent hit Wonka. Hugh Grant has been a star for years, and because of that, he has been offered many roles that he turned down, one of them being the iconic role of The Doctor from Doctor Who.

Doctor Who is one of the most iconic pieces of pop culture to emerge from the United Kingdom, with Doctor Who, James Bond, and The Beatles being part of the British invasion of popular culture in the 1960s. The story of an alien who travels through time and space in a blue box that is bigger on the inside has delighted audiences for generations.

The concept of regeneration in Doctor Who allows The Doctor to change faces and, therefore, actors with ease. Many iconic faces have been the Doctor, with recent years seeing the likes of David Tennant, Matt Smith, Peter Capaldi, Jodie Whittaker, and now Ncuti Gatwa playing the role. Yet, at one point, Hugh Grant was offered the role of The Doctor. Here is why he turned it down.

doctor who

Doctor Who

Release Date
March 26, 2005


BBC America

Why Hugh Grant Turned Down Doctor Who Back in 2005

David Tennant as the Doctor and Ncuti Gatwa as the Doctor in Doctor Who

Doctor Who originally aired from 1963 to 1989 before being taken off the air by the BBC after seven different actors had played the role of the Doctor. In 1996, a television movie was made in collaboration with the BBC and Fox to relaunch the franchise that had failed to take off. Then, in 2003, it was announced that Doctor Who would return to air with Russell T. Davies acting as showrunner.

Just like James Bond, the media immediately speculated on who would play The Doctor. Many names were linked to the part, including Billy Nighy, Anthony Stewart Head, and Richard E. Grant, to name a few. Eventually, Christopher Eccleston would win the part before departing the series after one season due to conflicts behind the scenes with showrunner Russell T. Davies.

One name that was reportedly considered was Hugh Grant. Grant actually was offered the part of the Doctor, but he turned it down in a decision he later admitted he regretted. In 2007, during an interview with Digital Spy, he said:

“I was offered the role of the Doctor a few years back and was highly flattered. The danger with those things is that it’s only when you see it on screen that you think, ‘Damn, that was good, why did I say no?’ But then, knowing me, I’d probably make a mess of it.”

There were likely a number of factors that contributed to Grant turning down the part. The biggest being at the time, Grant was still a major movie star, having just appeared in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. While it is now commonplace for actors to take part in television series, back in 2005, it was seen as a big step down in someone’s career, particularly a star like Grant. There was also the matter of the huge time commitment that a series like Doctor Who would have required, and Grant likely wanted to keep his schedule open.


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Grant and Doctor Who once again came up in the media in 2022 when rumors began circulating about who would take over the role from Jodie Whitaker. With the announcement that Russell T. Davies would once again return to shepherd the series, rumors began speculating that Grant was once again on Davies’s radar. The rumor was first circulated on March 19, 2022, by The Daily Mail, a notorious British tabloid. The story was then picked up by The Guardian which Grant then responded to on Twitter saying “Nothing against Dr W but I’m not. No idea where the story came from.”.

Two months later, Ncuti Gatwa announced his casting as The Doctor, with fans then shocked to see Jodie Whitaker regenerate into David Tennant, who previously played the Tenth Doctor, now being the Fourteenth Doctor, with Gatwa now being the Fifteenth Doctor.

Grant Has Already Played The Doctor (For Charity)

With all the rumors about whether Hugh Grant would play the Doctor, it is important to note that they actually did already play the role before, just not in the way most fans think. Red Nose Day is a telethon held every year to help raise money for charity, in which it is often a tradition for popular British television programs to produce short, light-hearted specials for such telethon events. Even though Doctor Who was off the air in 1999, the character and iconography still had a great deal of appeal, so a special 23-minute segment (spread across four episodes) was produced.

Airing on March 12, 1999, the special was titled The Curse of Fatal Death. In it, the Doctor (played by Rowan Atkinson) is forced to regenerate multiple times. First to The Quiet Handsome Doctor (Richard E. Grant), then to The Shy Doctor (Jim Broadbent) before turning into The Handsome Doctor, played by none other than Hugh Grant. It might be a brief scene, but it counts. The final form of the Doctor is Absolutely Fabolous star Joanna Lumley as The Woman Doctor, which marks the first time that a woman would be cast as the Doctor, years before Jodie Whittaker became the first female Doctor.


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The Curse of the Fatal Death is an interesting bridge between the old and new Doctor Who that would start in the 21st century. The special was written by Steven Moffatt, who later wrote about Russell T. Davies’s Doctor Who revival before taking over as showrunner from 2011 to 2017, which was the era of Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor and Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor. Richard E. Grant, who would later be considered for The Doctor alongside Hugh Grant for the revival in 2005, would later play the Great Intelligence during Steven Moffatt’s tenure as showrunner.

Now, in an interesting turn of fate, Grant and Doctor Who find themselves in the headlines once more. Grant has a role in Unfrosted, a Netflix Original comedy directed by Jerry Seinfeld about the creation of Pop-Tarts, which will debut on May 3, 2024. The following week, the new season of Doctor Who will debut on Disney+ on May 10, 2024, with Ncuti Gatwa in the lead role. While Grant has only ever played The Doctor in a non-canon charity special, he is very much linked to the franchise.

Check out our exclusive interview with Hugh Grant for Unfrosted.

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