As he finally achieves his ambition of playing Macbeth at the ‘posh’ RSC, Eccleston talks about how Doctor Who almost destroyed his career, his debt to his parents and why he ‘put self-hatred to bed’
Within minutes of meeting the man, it becomes clear that Christopher Eccleston is the sort of person who would be very good in a crisis. He has an air of soothing security about him – an ardent calm, if you will – that encourages other people to pause, take a breath, and become mellower. By other people, obviously, I mostly mean me. But he has a similar salving effect on the staff in the bar where we meet, and on the photographer, too. We are all seduced.
For Eccleston is quite the charmer. But as much as he is a great actor – from his debut as Derek Bentley in Let Him Have It through playing Steve Baxter, son of God, in Russell T Davies’s The Second Coming to his role in HBO’s acclaimed The Leftovers – his turn today is no performance. Overused a word it may be, but Eccleston seems authentic. When he says, “I think when you’re working at your best you’re constantly humble,” you believe it. And you believe him when he says: “Because I grew up with not much, I’ve always been a rainy day person. I’ve always put money away. And I know that doesn’t make me rock’n’roll, but I never imagined really that I’d get another job.” It’s different for him now, he admits. “I’ve got to the point where I believe I will work. But for the first 15, 20 years, I saved. I saved because I thought: ‘This is all going to fall through. And when it falls through, I want something to show for it.’”