Peter Dougan Capaldi (born 14 April 1958 in Glasgow, Scotland) is a Scottish actor from Glasgow. No, he's not a Violent Glaswegian, but he plays a lot of them on TV — and boy has he had an extensive TV career, as well as a somewhat less extensive film career. In 1995, he won a Best Live Action Short Film Oscar for writing and directing Franz Kafka's It's a Wonderful Life, and he also has two BAFTA Awards to his name. His acting work ranges from World War Z to Skins to Cardinal Richelieu in a 2014 BBC adaptation of The Three Musketeers to what was his most famous role until 2013: Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It.
In 2013 he was cast as the Twelfth Doctor in Doctor Who, succeeding Matt Smith. A fan since childhood, he wrote a letter to the BBC's Radio Times when he was 15, and later wrote articles and submitted art to the show's various fan magazines. He wasn't even new to appearing on the series, having made a previous appearance on the show as a different characternote ; he also appeared in the spinoff Torchwood as an Anti-Villain in the Children of Earth miniseries.
His first appearance as the Twelfth Doctor was a cameo in the 50th anniversary special "The Day of the Doctor", in which only his hand (pulling a lever on the TARDIS) and his eyes (apparently glaring) were seen. The latter shot gained its own fan club, and once Twelve took centre stage in the show, the legend only grew further. On January 30, 2017, he announced that his third series as the Doctor would be his last, with Jodie Whittaker announced as his successor on July 16, 2017. His final story (so far...) as the Twelfth Doctor, the Christmas Episode "Twice Upon a Time", aired December 25 of that year.
Being a massive Doctor Who nerd and briefly channelling the Doctor, on his first day on set someone told him how to operate the TARDIS. He corrected them with "[I said] I know how to work this. You don't have to tell me how to work this. I know."
Note: He has no relation with Dog with a Blog actress Francesca Capaldi — she's NOT his daughter! He is, however, distantly related to the Scottish singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi (second cousin once removed), and Peter played the central role in the first music video of Lewis's eventual Sleeper Hit single "Someone You Loved". Coincidentally, working in the video was the first time they met.
Second note: Yes, his eyebrows are actually that massive. And, yes, they're really his.
- Local Hero — as Danny Olsen (1983)
- John and Yoko: A Love Story — as George Harrison (1985)
- Dangerous Liaisons — as Azolan (1988)
- The Lair of the White Worm — as Angus (1988)
- Agatha Christie's Poirot — as Claude Langton in Wasps' Nest (1991)
- Neverwhere — as Islington (1996)
- Smilla's Sense of Snow — as Birgo Lander (1997)
- House of 9 — as Max Roy (2005)
- Fortysomething — as Dr. Pilfrey (2006)
- The Thick of It (2005-2012) and In the Loop (2009) — as Malcolm Tucker
- Skins — as Sid's dad, Mark (2007-8)
- Doctor Who:
- Torchwood: Children of Earth — as John Frobisher (2009)
- The Hour — as Randall Brown, director of news in season 2 (2012)
- World War Z — World Health Organization Doctor
- The Fifth Estate — as Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger (2013)
- The Musketeers — as Cardinal Richelieu (2014)
- Paddington and Paddington 2 — as Mr. Curry (2014-2017)
- Christopher Robin — as the voice of Rabbit (2018)
- Watership Down — as the voice of Kehaar (2018)
- The Personal History of David Copperfield — As Mr. Micawber (2020)
- The Suicide Squad — as Doctor Gaius Grieves / The Thinker (2021)
- The Devil's Hour — as Gideon Shepherd (2022)
Tropes associated with this actor's work include:
- Big Ol' Eyebrows: The aforementioned "The Day of the Doctor" close-up is currently the page image for the Live-Action TV subpage of this trope, and that says it all (see Death Glare below for more). The Doctor in Lego Dimensions (which Capaldi voiced) says "Basically the eyebrows say 'I'm in charge'".
- In what is perhaps the best instance of Irony with him, Capaldi was once snubbed a role on account of the fact someone thought his eyebrows were too big.
- The Cast Showoff: A skilled electric guitar player from his years as a rock musician; the Doctor was often seen playing during Series 9.
- He studied at the Glasgow School of Art, and appears in an educational video about surrealism for the Tate and this video for Doctor Who The Fan Show in which he draws the first three Doctors and talks about his memories of them. In A Portrait Of Scotland he visits art galleries to discuss and sketch historical portraits.
- Cast the Expert: More than just a fan of Doctor Who, Capaldi attempted to become the head of its national fan club, wrote a letter to the Radio Times praising its coverage of the 10th anniversary (see Creator Backlash, below), and even combined his art-school education with his fandom to write a detailed article for a fanzine about the show's opening sequences. There have been numerous cases of Capaldi making public appearances in character as the Doctor in which he accurately answers audience questions about the character's past, or ad-libs based on Capaldi's knowledge of the show. Co-star Jenna Coleman often mentions in convention Q&As about how Capaldi jokingly frowned at her when she decided to push random buttons on the TARDIS console. Similarly, Capaldi himself has joked that when he joined the series he had to tell a props person that he didn't need to be shown what buttons do what on the TARDIS console.
- Cool Old Guy: Third-oldest actor to play the Doctor (after William Hartnell and John Hurt)note and indications are that he had a great deal of fun with it.
- In Series 8, "Robot of Sherwood" has him swordfighting Robin Hood... with a spoon. The glee is palpable.
- The opening episode of Series 9, "The Magician's Apprentice", sees the Doctor in the midst of The Last Dance, living it up a bit more than usual in a castle in Essex in 1138. On the last night before he's set to meet his destiny, before a cheering crowd of medieval folk he rides a tank into an arena, while wearing Cool Shades and playing an electric guitar! Even better? That's really Capaldi playing the guitar!
- "Before the Flood", just three episodes later, has a special arrangement of the main theme featuring a Capaldi guitar solo!
- In Husbands of River Song, he does an incredibly hammy, Chewing the Scenery, Milking the Giant Cow Bigger on the Inside speech...then looks right at the camera and says, "Sorry. I've always wanted to see that done properly."
- Creator Backlash:
- Seems to have this attitude towards his Radio Times letter, seeing as how he admitted to keeping it a secret from his wife during the live announcement of his casting and, during his Sydney interview, sheepishly facepalms himself when his interviewer starts reading it to the audience. When the letter is brought up during his appearance on The Graham Norton Show, among other things, his facepalms become very hammy.
- Mention The Dreamboys (a punk-rock band he sang for in his youth, with Craig Ferguson as the drummer) and watch him turn completely red and make embarrassed noises. Though this didn't stop him from agreeing to give the Doctor an electric guitar hobby in Series 9. (And he was genuinely touched when, during a convention appearance in June 2016, a fan sang a little bit of one of his old songs.) He is, however, quite happy to remind folks that Ferguson was also in the band.
- Graham Norton also brought up his modelling work from the early '80s, where he was quick to mock his awkward posing.
- Although he does not view his profanity-laced work as Malcolm Tucker on The Thick of It and In the Loop as something to be ashamed of, during his time in Doctor Who, Capaldi downplayed discussion of his previous role and refused to indulge in some of the "fan rituals" - such as swearing at fans when requested to - as he felt it was inappropriate for his current image. Since leaving Doctor Who, he hasn't been downplaying it quite as much.
- Death Glare: Steven Moffat even went as far as to call it "pure evilness" in an April Fools' Day joke. The script for "Deep Breath," Capaldi's first full-length episode as the Doctor, lampshaded this, and gave a name to the character's most powerful attack in Doctor Who Legacy: "Attack Eyebrows". At the Doctor Who Festival in November 2015, during a cast Q&A some unfortunate soul in the audience, apparently not a fan of Clara Oswald, heckled Jenna Coleman and received a full-out death glare in return. He is often asked to recreate the glare in selfies and fan photos, which is why he so often looks grumpy!
- Girly Run: Does this quite a bit with his characters. It's especially amusing watching Tucker doing this. The writers openly stated that they tended to add scenes of Tucker running because of how funny Capaldi looks doing so. Is occasionally on display as the Doctor, too; twice in Series 10, Bill Potts describes it as a "penguin with his arse on fire".
- I Am Not Shazam: Averted with Doctor Who. As seen in the Series 9 Extra interviews, he frequently (and deliberately) calls the Doctor "Doctor Who". Apparently, it's because he's referring to the "mythical" character known out-of-universe by the general public.
- Promoted Fanboy: A young Capaldi wrote to the Radio Times about his favourite show, hoping it would release a special episode to celebrate 25 years on air. Three-and-a-half decades later, in the 50th anniversary special, Capaldi made his debut as the Twelfth Doctor.
- Sir Swears-a-Lot: Before his role on Doctor Who, his Star-Making Role was playing foul-mouthed Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It and In the Loop, often considered the character who redefined the swear word. In a public service announcement he made about cancer, he noted that he was not talking about "my usual big C". In the days when he was playing Malcolm Tucker, Capaldi encountered people who would stop him in the street and ask him to swear at them. Before the start of Doctor Who series 8 it was a common fanon to have Capaldi's Doctor swearing all the time, (see this video, for example) and the showrunners alluded to this as much as possible in a family show, with the reference to the psychic paper containing a large amount of swearing and the PG-rated version of "Fuckity-bye!" with "Shuttity-up". After taking on the role of the Doctor, Capaldi adjusted his public persona accordingly and no longer swore in character as he might occasionally do. An exception occurred in the fall of 2014 when he received GQ's Man of the Year Award for TV Personality, which was presented to him by his co-star Jenna Coleman. In what was seen as a "last kick at the can", Capaldi uttered Malcolm Tucker's iconic "Come the fuck in or fuck the fuck off" catchphrase. Not that he became Mother Teresa in the language department; he did use the word "shit" a few times during his 2015 San Diego Comic Con panel. Hilariously, the Blu-ray release of Series 9 has a mastering error on its subtitles which results in the Doctor unexpectedly subtitled as saying "Oh shit!" during the episode "The Woman Who Lived."
- Star-Making Role: While he'd had a successful decades-long career beforehand, it was his sweary, raging performance as Malcolm Tucker that really made him a household name - to the point that at least two newspapers reported his casting as the Doctor by saying Malcolm Tucker was taking over the TARDIS. According to Capaldi, he was cast as Tucker around the time he was seriously considering abandoning acting. Doctor Who is this for people outside of the UK.
- What Could Have Been:
- Eighth Doctor in the 1996 TV movie, because he felt that he wouldn't get the role and he "didn't want to just be part of a big cull of actors" for no reason. Even showrunner Steven Moffat was stumped! Leads into a Hilarious in Hindsight moment: At the Series 8 DVD launch, Capaldi admitted to turning down an audition for the
- He was approached to reprise his role as the Twelfth Doctor for Series 11 of Doctor Who, which would've been Chris Chibnall's first series as showrunner. However, he turned down the offer as he worried the franchise and his work would suffer if he stayed on.
- He auditioned for the part of Commander Sisko in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine before the casting of Avery Brooks.
- You Look Familiar: He played a one-shot role in the Tenth Doctor episode "The Fires of Pompeii" before being cast as the Twelfth Doctor himself. Come "The Girl Who Died" this becomes a plot point, which "Deep Breath" foreshadowed. He regenerated into a doppelgänger of Caecilius to remind himself of what it means to be The Doctor now that he no longer needs the shackles of the Time War to "hold [him] to the mark" as he himself put it.