❚ WHAT’S THE CULTIEST ROLE in all of television, the one that’s just been given to the cultiest madman in all of TV comedy? Yes the new Doctor Who is announced as Peter Capaldi, aka Malcolm Tucker, foul-mouthed spin-doctor from the multi-award-winning political satire, The Thick of It. The part won him the 2010 BAFTA Award for Best Performance in a Comedy Role.
The 55-year-old Scot will be the 12th actor to play the Doctor, a new hero for a new generation. It is not the first time Capaldi has appeared on the show – he played a Roman merchant in the 2008 Doctor Who adventure The Fires of Pompeii.
But few people seem to know how he got his big acting break in Bill Forsyth’s 1983 movie Local Hero. As a student at the Glasgow School of Art, Capaldi had been the vocalist in a post-punk band called The Dreamboys. He also took to stand-up comedy and was invited to support Spandau Ballet on their first UK tour in 1982. The famously anti-rock clubland band did not want the usual rock support act and decided a comedian would add piquancy to the uniqueness of their own approach to new music.
Spandau songwriter Gary Kemp is reluctant to take any credit as talent scout, but it just so happened that he spent quite some time in Scotland that year romantically smitten by Clare Grogan, the cute 20-year-old singer in the Glasgow pop group Altered Images.
WHAT’S ALL THE FUSS ABOUT?
Kemp, himself then 22, recalls vaguely how Capaldi came to his attention at the age of 23: “It was through Gerry McElhone who managed Altered Images. Maybe he played me a tape, or something.” Clearly he had other more important things on his mind at the time. Gig archives tell us that in May 1981 The Dreamboys played on the same bill as Altered Images at Edinburgh’s Nite Club, and in September Capaldi gave his stand-up routine, so there’s every chance Kemp met him at the bar.
The point was Grogan had starred in Forsyth’s 1981 cinema smash, Gregory’s Girl, and Spandau’s Diamond tour launched in March 1982 with three dates in Scotland and Capaldi live onstage as the warm-up.
Spandau’s brief tour ended at the Winter Gardens Bournemouth [my pix are previously unpublished] but a year later, when Local Hero was released, Capaldi told me that he got the part only because Bill Forsyth had seen him at the Spandau show in Glasgow. The rest is history: a brilliantly versatile career as an actor of comedy and drama has included a cameo dad in the 2007 series of Skins, and the repressed head of news in last year’s electric BBC series, The Hour.
Steven Moffat, executive producer of Doctor Who, described casting Capaldi as an incendiary combination: “One of the most talented actors of his generation is about to play the best part on television.”
Capaldi said yesterday: “Being asked to play the Doctor is an amazing privilege. Like the Doctor himself I find myself in a state of utter terror and delight. I can’t wait to get started.” Filming begins in the autumn.
The Thick of It writer Armando Ianucci tweeted: “There can’t be a funnier, wiser, more exciting Time Lord than Peter Capaldi. The universe is in great hands.”
REVISIT DOCTOR WHO’S 13 REGENERATIONS
➢ Update 2020: Peter Capaldi has been voted third in a TV viewer’s poll of favourite Doctor Who actors … David Tennant topped the poll organised by the programme guide, RadioTimes, with the current Doctor Jodie Whittaker (the first female to play the Time Lord) in second place. Since its launch in 1963, 13 actors have played the intergalactic traveller.
LISTEN TO THE WOULD-BE BAUHAUS VOCALIST
❏ PETER CAPALDI DELIVERS Bela Lugosi’s Birthday, the A-side song from the 7-inch single by Scottish rockers, The Dreamboys, on the St Vitus label about 1980 – before Craig Ferguson joined as drummer. YouTuber Ashley Harrison writes: “A little post-punk, goth and power pop, it is reminiscent at times of Bauhaus, Joy Division, Wire, The Fall, The Damned.” Scotland had a fierce underground music scene in the early 80s and I’ve often said a weekend in Glasgow felt as if you were in the trendiest city in the UK, and at least on a par with London.