CHRISTOPHER ECCLESTON: A Ogrumpy old sodO who canOt cope with fame; He quit Doctor Who to head for Hollywood I but is Christopher Eccleston too miserable to be famous?

Byline: Words: Deirdre OOBrien.

When the BBC announced Christopher Eccleston was quitting Doctor Who after just one series, it caused shock waves. Only one episode of the new series had been screened, to huge ratings and critical acclaim, and his departure took the gloss off the success for the BBC. It also means all the merchandise planned for Christmas will be saddled with a previous incarnation of the Time Lord I by then, Casanova star David Tennant will be the man accompanying Billie Piper through space and time.

Chris is rumoured to have rejected huge cash offers I a large advance on his pounds 1 million salary I but his decision to leave may have been a smart move after all. The actor has signed up to star as evil monk Silas, in the film version of Dan BrownOs smash hit best-seller, The Da Vinci Code. Tom Hanks will play US academic hero Robert Langdon. Other names attached to the project include Sir Michael Caine, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Sir Ian McKellen, Alfred Molina and French beauty Audrey Tautou.

And with 23 million people having read the book, the movieOs sure to be a blockbuster.

But how will Christopher, 41, cope with being one of the biggest stars in one of the hottest films of the year? ItOs not his first film role, but itOll be the biggest by far. Is the publicity-shy actor prepared for the attention it will bring him?

OThe idea of being a celebrity makes me sick. IOd be ashamed and embarrassed if you called me one,O he once said. But when The Da Vinci Code hits cinema screens, Chris will become world-famous. For a man who described the role of the Doctor as a Opoisoned chaliceO, it could be a shock to his system.

The actor lives alone in Manchester and is known to be a private person. He has described interest in his private life as OobsceneO, and was rumoured to be furious when he was falsely linked to Billie Piper, and implicated in the collapse of her marriage to Chris Evans.

He has been linked to several actresses over the years, including Clocking Off star Emma Cunniffe and HeartbeatOs Clare Calbraith. HeOs said to have recently split from Welsh actress Siwan Morris, 28, who he dated for a few months while filming Doctor Who in Cardiff, after reportedly getting cold feet when the relationship got too serious.

The Da Vinci Code has now started shooting in Paris and London, and for the film-makersO sakes, letOs hope Chris is happy with the end result I he isnOt always tactful about the projects he works on.

He described the film The Invisible Circus, in which he starred with Cameron Diaz, as OtrashO and his role in Gone In Sixty Seconds as a Oterrible performance in a terrible filmO.

He could simply be being honest, or maybe heOs just being awkward. Christopher did once admit, OI am not known for my charm... I think IOm seen as a grumpy old sod.O Born in Salford, Christopher went to the prestigious Central School of Speech and Drama in London, but after leaving, worked on building sites, in between periods of signing on the dole and working as an artistOs model. A few years ago, he moved back to Manchester from London, saying, OThe beerOs better up here, the women are better looking I and the football is better. United is in my blood.O

Christopher has always passionately professed his loathing of the showbiz establishment and associated actor-type pretensions. OIOm not into the celebrity circus I IOm close to my family and prefer time with them,O he says.

A friend says, OChris takes his work seriously, but he also takes his roots seriously.O Or could it be he just takes himself very seriously? After all, this is the man who spoke of bringing a Oweight and ambiguityO to the role of the Doctor, and said, OEverything about the daleks tells you about the duality of peopleO. Rather OluvvieO comments for this most non-OactorishO of actors. As for how the star will cope with the gaze of the world on his Salford retreat, only time will tell.

CHEER UP CHRIS, IT MIGHT NEVER HAPPEN Christopher says people think heOs a Ogrumpy old sodO I wonder why...








COMING (2003)

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Pictures: Dragon News. Christopher is set to play evil albino monk Silas in the film version of Dan BrownOs hit book; Above: Christopher was falsely linked to Doctor Who co-star Billie Piper, but recently broke up with Welsh actress Siwan Morris (left)

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