Hugh Grant rules himself out as next Doctor Who as show plans 'Marvel-style makeover'

Hugh Grant in Paddington 2
(Image credit: StudioCanal)

Hugh Grant has ruled himself out of the running to become the next Doctor Who, after reports linked him to taking the key role in the long-running sci-fi franchise.

According to the Daily Mirror, the star, whose films include Paddington 2, Four Weddings and a Funeral and Love, Actually, had been targeted by the BBC to take over the role from Jodie Whittaker, who will step down later this year. 

But Grant took to Twitter last night (March 21) to deny the reports and has ruled himself out the running to take over from Whittaker.

Grant's potential casting had been mentioned along with reports that producers (and specifically showrunner Russell T Davies, who will be returning to take over the sci-fi megahit in 2023) are planning big changes, were pushing for a "Marvel-style makeover" for the show. 

What does The Daily Mirror's source say?

The source, who was simply billed as a "TV Insider", had waxed lyrical about Grant, saying that he would "bring a fresh feel” to the role, and also added of the Paddington 2 star: "He offers many attributes – great actor, British, award-winning, Hollywood A-lister and excellent at comedy. Conversations are in progress."

That last part clearly wasn't true. 

They went on to say that the BBC's ambitions for the show have been scaled up and is even targeting the Marvel Cinematic Universe

The source added: "The vision is that the show can be a Marvel-like product, building franchises around the Doctor and other key characters in his many lives. With the utmost respect to the BBC, in the past attempts like Torchwood were made on a very limited budget in locations around Wales. Now the world is Russell’s oyster.”

The comment on the show's budget comes as it has been revealed that Sony Pictures TV division has acquired a majority stake in Wolf Studios, which makes the show for the BBC. 

Jodie Whittaker in Doctor Who

Jodie Whittaker in Doctor Who (Image credit: BBC)

When is Jodie Whittaker stepping down?

Whittaker and showrunner Chris Chibnall will leave their roles at the end of 2022, having filmed two more episodes in their respective roles, one of which is feature-length. 

Whittaker took over the role from Peter Capaldi in 2017 and became the first woman to become the Doctor. She filmed three series in the role and will depart with a total of 31 episodes to her name. 

Broadchurch creator Chibnall took the show's reins from long-time showrunner Steven Moffat in 2016 after previously working on spin-off series Torchwood. 

Davies, who served as showrunner when the BBC revived Doctor Who in 2005, stayed until 2010 when he left to pursue other projects. He will return in 2023. 

Analysis: Can Doctor Who really compete with Marvel Studios?

Unless Sony Pictures are really prepared to put their hands in their pockets, then not in any meaningful sense, no. 

Reports vary, but the budget for an entire series of Doctor Who is put around the £10 million ($13.2 million) mark, while Marvel will spend more than double that on a single episode of their standalone dramas

Stars like Peter Capaldi have opined at length about the show's limited resources, with the Thick Of It man going as far as to say "everything on Doctor Who falls to pieces, all of the props fall to pieces and the costumes have to be stuck together with duct tape and Velcro and stuff.”

But, in terms of following Marvel's blueprint of making fantastical dramas that hook everyone from pre-teens to pensioners, then absolutely it can. It boasts a devoted fanbase and a rich back catalogue. Given a star like Hugh Grant's ilk (though, obviously not Hugh himself), a budget in the tens of millions and a team-up with a streaming heavyweight, it could easily win over a whole new generation. 

Russell T. Davies has worked with HBO on his last projects, Years & Years and It's A Sin, and has real clout. His return should prove significant. And why not try and compete with Marvel Studios? They're at the heights where everybody with an interest in family entertainment should aspire to be.

Tom Goodwyn
Freelance Entertainment Writer

Tom Goodwyn was formerly TechRadar's Senior Entertainment Editor. He's now a freelancer writing about TV shows, documentaries and movies across streaming services, theaters and beyond. Based in East London, he loves nothing more than spending all day in a movie theater, well, he did before he had two small children…