The Seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy is to tell his life story in a brand new feature film from Film Stories.
This exciting news comes on the back of the actor’s 80th birthday celebrations, and is titled Sylvester: Who’s the Real McCoy? It’s the feature film debut for the production company Film Stories, and the movie will take the form of a conversational interview interspersed with pieces from Sylvester McCoy’s personal archive.
It certainly promises to be an interesting yarn. For many actors, even starring in Doctor Who would produce enough material to pack an entire film, but Sylvester McCoy has led such a fascinating life. For a start, even Sylvester McCoy is not his real name; the actor was born Percy James Patrick Kent-Smith, but changed it after a reviewer believed that he was really called “Sylveste McCoy.” The actor later added an ‘r’ as he believed that a name with 13 letters was unlucky.
But so much happened to him before he became an actor. Sylvester McCoy originally trained for the priesthood in Aberdeen, and later worked in insurance. It wasn’t until he was discovered by the artist Ken Campbell that the performer we know today really came into his own. Sylvester McCoy joined The Ken Campbell Roadshow and became known for such outlandish stunts as stuffing live ferrets down his trousers, jamming nails up his nose and setting fire to his head.
After numerous TV appearances in such popular TV shows as Jigsaw and Tiswas, Sylvester McCoy eventually caught the eye of the Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner, who was frantically searching for a replacement Time Lord after the sudden sacking of Colin Baker. Nathan-Turner always wanted McCoy for the role of the Seventh Doctor, but the BBC was insistent on holding a rigorous audition process. The producer therefore devised a scheme where he auditioned actors who weren’t right for the part, meaning that Sylvester McCoy’s performance was the only one that shone through.
That being said, Sylvester McCoy gave an excellent audition, acting alongside former Doctor Who companion Janet Fielding who played a sort of science fiction version of Margaret Thatcher, dubbed the Iron Woman, and also stood-in for the Doctor’s companion Mel. McCoy donned a clownish costume and wacky tie which gave a tantalising glimpse as to the kind of outfit the Seventh Doctor would eventually wear. (Incidentally, if you fancy watching the full version of Sylvester McCoy’s audition, it is available on the Season 24 Blu-ray box set.)
And even though the actor played the eponymous Time Lord at a time when the programme was out of favour at the BBC, his era has gone on to be highly-regarded among Doctor Who fans, not least for the darkness and mystery Sylvester McCoy brought to the role. This was all part of the so-called ‘Cartmel Masterplan’ which had been devised by the series’ script editor Andrew Cartmel, who was looking to find ways to re-establish the Time Lord’s enigma.
Sylvester McCoy, of course, would return to Doctor Who in the 1996 TV movie where he would hand over the reins to the Eighth Doctor Paul McGann, but that was not the end of his film career. He would later appear in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy as the wizard Radagast.
But over the years, he has remained in close contact with the world of Doctor Who, starring alongside fellow Time Lords Peter Davison and Colin Baker in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot in 2013, and he even made an appearance in the BBC’s centenary special ‘The Power of the Doctor,’ where he was reunited with his companion Ace.
It remains to be seen just how much detail the upcoming movie will feature but, regardless, it will be a must-see for Doctor Who fans. The film is currently in post production and more details will be announced soon. It’s also worth noting that this is the first memoir that Sylvester McCoy has released of any kind, so there are sure to be a number of exclusive tidbits.
In the meantime, which aspect of Sylvester McCoy’s life are you most excited to hear about? And will you be watching this film when it’s released? Let me know in the comments below.