Two Doctor Who alumni, Olivia Colman and Richard E. Grant, are nominated at the Oscars this year. Who else has been up for an Academy Award?
Doctor Who is a show that not only produces great sci-fi entertainment, but also produces great stars! This weekend marks the 91st Academy Awards ceremony, where two former Doctor Who cast members, Olivia Colman and Richard E. Grant, are in contention for a prize this year. But they aren’t the only alumni from our much-loved show to have made it to the Oscars!
In celebration of this grand occasion, join us as we take a look back at the history of Doctor Who at the Academy Awards…
John Hurt – Best Actor, 1980 (nominated)
The late, great War Doctor himself is the first nominee on our list. Best known to Doctor Who fans from the show’s 50th anniversary special, The Day of the Doctor, Hurt is an actor that needs no introduction. He was an actor of such gravitas, and you could always rely on him giving a poignant, emotional performance. That’s why it seems almost cruel that Hurt didn’t actually win Best Actor at the Oscars in 1980, for his memorable performance as Joseph Merrick in The Elephant Man. If it’s any consolation, he was up against winner Robert De Niro for Raging Bull.
John Cleese – Best Original Screenplay, 1988 (nominated)
Yes, that’s right – Monty Python and Fawlty Towers star John Cleese was once in Doctor Who! Although, admittedly, if you blinked you probably would have missed him. Cleese appeared towards the end of Fourth Doctor serial City of Death, briefly discussing the Mona Lisa in the Louvre. This was thanks to his pre-existing relationship with writer Douglas Adams, who managed to convince him to make a cameo. Viewers weren’t made aware of the casting before the episode aired, so it came as quite a surprise on first broadcast.
At the Oscars, Cleese was recognised for his writing talents instead. His film A Fish Called Wanda was nominated for Best Original Screenplay.
Pauline Collins – Best Actress, 1989 (nominated)
Pauline Collins is one of the few actors who has appeared in Doctor Who more than once. In 1969, she played Samantha Briggs in Second Doctor serial The Faceless Ones. Unfortunately, only a couple of episodes from the six-part serial still exist. All was not lost though, as almost forty years later, Collins returned as Queen Victoria in 2006 episode Tooth and Claw. She certainly made an impact on the audience – and the Tenth Doctor – so her Oscar nomination for Shirley Valentine should come as no surprise.
Peter Capaldi – Best Live Action Short Film, 1995 (winner)
For anyone who’s seen his acting talents, it’s probably no surprise to hear that Peter Capaldi once won an Oscar. However, it may shock you to learn that he didn’t actually win it for his acting at all! Rather, Capaldi took home the gong for directing short film Franz Kafka’s It’s A Wonderful Life. Coincidentally, this starred 2019 Oscar nominee and fellow Doctor Who alumnus, Richard E. Grant.
Capaldi would later go on to become a household name as sweary Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It, before taking on the role of the Twelfth Doctor from 2013-2017. Fans will also know this wasn’t his first foray into the world of Doctor Who, having previously appeared in The Fires of Pompeii and Torchwood: Children of Earth.
Jim Broadbent – Best Supporting Actor, 2001 (winner)
Alright, it’s a bit of a stretch to call Jim Broadbent a “proper” Doctor Who actor – but technically he did once play the Time Lord! He made a brief but brilliant appearance as a shy, awkward regeneration of the Doctor in Steven Moffat’s 1999 Comic Relief special, The Curse of Fatal Death. He was in good company too – Rowan Atkinson, Hugh Grant, Joanna Lumley, and even Oscars 2019 nominee Richard E. Grant played different regenerations in the episode as well.
After Peter Capaldi, Broadbent is the only other Doctor Who alumnus to win an Academy Award. He took home Best Actor for Iris, famously beating Sir Ian McKellen (who voiced the Great Intelligence in The Snowmen) to the prize.
Sophie Okonedo – Best Supporting Actress, 2004 (nominated)
Like Pauline Collins before her, Sophie Okonedo is another actor to have made multiple appearances in Doctor Who – and on the second occasion playing royalty! In 2003, she voiced companion Alison Cheney in the Scream of the Shalka animated series. She would return for a full role in 2010, this time playing Liz Ten in Eleventh Doctor stories The Beast Below and The Pandorica Opens. In short: she’s the bloody Queen, mate. Basically, she rules.
Okonedo received an Oscar nomination for her role in Hotel Rwanda, but lost out to Renee Zellwegger.
Carey Mulligan – Best Actress, 2009 (nominated)
It’s fair to say that Carey Mulligan really went on to hit the big time after appearing in Doctor Who. She may now be a Hollywood star, but we of course all remember her as Sally Sparrow from 2007 episode Blink. This Steven Moffat classic has gone down in history, not only for introducing the terrifying Weeping Angels, but also for Mulligan’s incredibly iconic performance. The episode did actually win a number of awards (including a Constellation Award for Mulligan herself). Sadly though, she couldn’t quite scoop an Oscar in 2009 for An Education. Controversially, she lost out to Sandra Bullock instead.
Olivia Colman – Best Actress, 2019 (to be announced)
Rather like Carey Mulligan, Olivia Colman is an actor who just keeps on rising and rising to stardom. In her early career she is arguably best known from Peep Show and That Mitchell and Webb Look, alongside comedy duo David Mitchell and Robert Webb (who voiced the two robots in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship). Then, in 2013, Colman starred as DS Ellie Miller in crime-drama phenomenon Broadchurch, written by incumbent Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall. Huge role after huge role would follow, and now she’s well on her way to Oscar success for playing Queen Anne in The Favourite.
For Doctor Who fans though, she’ll forever be remembered as Prisoner Zero from Matt Smith’s debut episode, The Eleventh Hour. All together now: “The Pandorica will open. Silence will fall…”
Richard E. Grant – Best Supporting Actor, 2019 (to be announced)
Also up for an Oscar this year is Richard E. Grant, who (as you’ll have already gathered!) has quite a long history with Doctor Who. His first appearance in the Whoniverse was as a conceited regeneration of the Doctor in 1999’s The Curse of Fatal Death by Steven Moffat. He would (sort of) reprise the title role in 2003’s Scream of the Shalka animated series, effectively playing the Ninth Doctor until Christopher Eccleston came along. That wasn’t to be the end though, as in 2012-2013 he returned as the villainous Dr Simeon (or should we say the Great Intelligence?) in The Snowmen and The Name of the Doctor. If that’s not enough, he starred in Peter Capaldi’s 1995 Academy Award winning short film, too!
This year, Grant received an Oscar nomination for his role as Jack Hock in film Can You Ever Forgive Me?