Is Hugh Grant going to be the new Doctor Who? If you ask the star of Notting Hill, you will be told absolutely not and (given his legendary grumpiness) probably told firmly to go away and never speak to him again. But part of the fun of being a Doctor Who fan is unrelenting speculation, and now that Jodie Whittaker has finished her turn as the 13th incarnation of the time-traveling yet benevolent alien, the biggest subject in Who fandom is who’s next? Given that there is (we assume) a UK law that all British actors must take at least one term of national service portraying the Doctor, it stands to reason that Hugh Grant might be up next. But surprisingly, Grant has actually played the Doctor once before. Check it out here:
Let’s give this a little context. The above video is actually a parody of Doctor Who, although it can often be difficult to tell the difference between the actual thing and satire. It was produced in 1999 as part of Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day, an annual telethon in which comedians, pop stars, and British celebrities of all stripes raise money for various charities worldwide. It is an enormous cultural event in the United Kingdom, and every year, dozens of famous names participate (and to its credit, each and every pound raised is actually donated, unlike many other famous charity events). In this particular year, one of the features was a 20-minute episode of Doctor Who, written by future showrunner Stephen Moffat, starring a slew of famous Brits as various incarnations of the ever-regenerating Time Lord. In this case, Rowan Atkinson, Richard E. Grant, Jim Broadbent, Joanna Lumley, and of course, Hugh Grant all show up to act as the easily confused, yet omnipotent alien.
In 1999, Hugh Grant was at the tail end of the second act of his career (first being in Merchant Ivory dramas as a befuddled love interest, followed by being in Richard Curtis comedies as a befuddled love interest), and probably at the perfect stage in his career to play Doctor Who. Within a few years, a combination of personal scandal and dissatisfaction with his career would cause Grant to pivot to a sleazier, more louche take on being a romantic lead (typified by Bridget Jones’ Diary and Two Weeks Notice), and if there’s one thing we have not had yet, it’s a sleazy Doctor. Recently, Grant has begun to go even darker with his roles, playing a post-apocalyptic cannibal (among other things) in Cloud Atlas and a possibly murderous, definitely charming doctor in the HBO series The Undoing.
If Hugh Grant is to be believed and actually is not being cast as The Doctor, he would actually be pretty ideal to play The Doctor’s longtime nemesis, The Master (as played by Jonathan Pryce in the Comic Relief video). Of course, Grant might be devoting more time in his career to exposing wire-tapping scandals by FOX affiliates, or better yet, preparing for a role in Paddington 3. Either would be fine with us.