Just ‘Who’ is Peter Capaldi anyway?

A guide to help catch up on the Scottish actor’s filmography before he debuts as the new Doctor later this year.


In Europe, many folks thought that Peter Capaldi had a fairly good shot of being the next star of the British sci-fi show Doctor Who.

When the news was announced in a BBC America special on Sunday afternoon, the response for many in the USA probably was , “Who?”

Capaldi, the Scottish-born actor who will become the 12th Doctor later this year, has had a busy career in his native U.K., both on TV and in movies — plus in some films that you don’t have to be an Anglophile to know.

Before Matt Smith “regenerates” into the 55-year-old Scotsman in the Doctor Who Christmas Special, here’s a guide to catch up on all things Capaldi:

The Thick of It. Let’s hope there is a “No swearing” sign somewhere in the TARDIS — Capaldi shows a true talent for hurling four-letter curses in the political comedy, which can now be streamed on Hulu. He won the British Comedy Award for best TV actor twice (in 2010 and 2012) as his acerbic and volatile government PR man Malcolm Tucker. (His R-rated encapsulation of Star Warsis a thing of brilliant, NSFW beauty.)

In the Loop. Capaldi reprised his role as Tucker in a Thick of It spinoff movie in 2009 that parodied the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq by taking a tongue-in-cheek look at all the behind-the-scenes machinations. Also noteworthy for those who stream it on Netflix: the late James Gandolfini as a military assistant to the U.S. Secretary of defense.

Prime Suspect. The third season of the British cop drama in 1993 — which starred Helen Mirren as Scotland Yard detective Jane Tennison — revolved around a child pornography and prostitution ring, and Capaldi had a dramatic supporting role as a transsexual. (Episodes can be streamed on Amazon Prime, or just wait for the Prime Suspect: The Complete Collection to arrive on Blu-ray Aug. 27.)

Dangerous Liasions. Come for John Malkovich’s over-the-top and scheming Sebastien de Valmont in Stephen Frears’ 1988 period drama, stay for Capaldi as Valmont’s loyal-to-a-fault valet Azolan.

The Lair of the White Worm. Hugh Grant, Catherine Oxenberg and Capaldi vs. a giant dragon/snake/worm hybrid in 1988. ‘Nuff said, really.

The Hour. Before The Newsroom, there was The Hour, a British series about an English current-affairs program during the Cold War. Capaldi played Randall Brown, the eccentric 1950s-era head of news that garnered him a BAFTA nomination for supporting actor.

Doctor Who. Yep, Capaldi’s turn as the Doctor won’t be his first time on the series. In the 2008 episode “The Fires of Pompeii” opposite the 10th Doctor, David Tennant, Capaldi starred as a Pompeii merchant who has bought the Doctor’s time-traveling TARDIS and is found by the Time Lord one day before Mount Vesuvius erupts.

Torchwood: Children of Earth. Set in the same sci-fi universe as Doctor Who, the third Torchwood series in 2009 featured Capaldi as John Frobisher, a government type who was — unfortunately for him, as the whole thing turned out — picked to be a liaison between the prime minister and a race of malevolent aliens known as the 456.

World War Z. If you can’t find it at your local multiplex, check out the Brad Pitt zombie movie when it comes out on Blu-ray Sept. 17 to see Capaldi as a World Health Organization doctor who helps Pitt’s Gerry Lane find a cure before the whole world is zombified.

Strictly Sinatra. Capaldi has had success behind the camera, too — he won a best live-action short Oscar in 1995 for Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life, which can be streamed at Amazon. Head on over to Netflix, though, to check out Strictly Sinatra, Capaldi’s 2001 film about a singer who gets in trouble with the Mob when a gangster’s wife falls for him. The actor also is slated to direct the comedy Born to Be King, scheduled for release next year and starring Ewan McGregor and Kate Hudson.

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