Matthew Robert Smith (born 28 October 1982) is an English actor. He initially aspired to be a professional footballer, but spondylolysis forced him out of the sport. After joining the National Youth Theatre and attending the University of East Anglia, Smith became an actor in 2003, performing in London theatres. In the West End, he received critical acclaim for his role in That Face (2007).

Matt Smith
Smith in 2015
Born
Matthew Robert Smith

(1982-10-28) 28 October 1982 (age 41)
Northampton, England
Alma materUniversity of East Anglia
OccupationActor
Years active2003–present

Smith's first major role in television came in the BBC political drama series Party Animals (2007). He rose to prominence when he starred as the eleventh incarnation of the Doctor in the BBC science fiction series Doctor Who (2010–2014), becoming the youngest person to portray the role. Smith went on to star as Prince Philip in the Netflix historical series The Crown (2016–2017)—for which he received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination—and as Daemon Targaryen in the HBO fantasy drama series House of the Dragon (2022–present).

Early life and education edit

Matthew Robert Smith was born in Northampton, England on 28 October 1982,[1] the son of Lynne and David Smith.[2] He has an elder sister named Laura Jayne, who was one of the dancers featured in the music video for Eric Prydz's 2004 song "Call on Me".[3] Smith attended Northampton School for Boys. His grandfather had played football for Notts County and Smith had also planned to play football, having played for the youth teams of Northampton Town, Nottingham Forest, and Leicester City,[4] becoming captain of the latter's youth team.[5] A serious back injury resulted in spondylolysis; he was unable to continue with a footballing career.[5][6]

Smith's drama teacher introduced him to acting by signing him up for theatrical productions without his consent. After failing to participate on the first two occasions,[5] his teacher arranged for him to play the tenth juror in an adaptation of Twelve Angry Men. Although he took part, he refused to attend a drama festival for which his teacher had also signed him up, as he saw himself as a football player and believed acting would damage his social life.[7] His teacher persisted, eventually persuading him to join the National Youth Theatre in London. After leaving school, Smith studied Drama and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, graduating in 2005.[7][8] With the National Youth Theatre, he played Thomas Becket in Murder in the Cathedral and Bassoon in The Master and Margarita. His role in the latter earned him an agent and his first professional jobs, Fresh Kills and On the Shore of the Wide World, which led him to seek an agreement with his university so that he could graduate without attending lectures in his final year.[9]

Career edit

2006–2009: Rise to prominence edit

Smith's first television role was as Jim Taylor in the BBC adaptations of the Sally Lockhart quartet books The Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in the North.[10] His first major television role came in the television series Party Animals, a BBC drama series about fictional parliamentary advisors and researchers. Smith portrayed Danny Foster, a parliamentary researcher who was described as an intelligent but timid "politics geek" who should have moved on from researching at his age.[11] In an interview in 2007, Smith summarised the character as having a romantic outlook of the political world while being cynical elsewhere. He talked about his character's emotional and intellectual maturity; emotionally, he lacks confidence around women, though Smith portrays him as a caring and sensitive but "wry, sarcastic, [and] witty" romantic. Intellectually, Danny is portrayed as attentive and possessing a strong work ethic.[12]

During Smith's tenure in On the Shore of the Wide World, the play transferred to the Royal National Theatre in London. After finishing the play, he took on the role of Lockwood, a pupil in the Alan Bennett play The History Boys. After The History Boys, he acted in the teen play Burn/Chatroom/Citizenship and with Christian Slater in Swimming with Sharks,[13] the latter being his West End début.[7][9] In 2007, Smith appeared as Henry in the Polly Stenham play That Face at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs in Chelsea. The play transferred to the Duke of York's Theatre in the West End in 2008 and became Smith's second role there. That Face focuses primarily upon alcohol and drug addiction in an upper-middle-class family after the paternal figure in the family leaves. As Henry, Smith portrayed an aspiring artist who left school to take care of his mother. To prepare for the role, the cast interviewed alcoholics and their families. Smith discussed his character's relationship with his mother in a May 2008 interview with the Evening Standard, saying, "The thing I find tricky to get my head round is why doesn't he just leave? An awful lot of it is codependency. ... With Henry there's a real belief—or denial maybe—that he can change his mother. When she is finally pulled away from him to go to rehab, his identity collapses. His sacrifice has been for nothing."[7] The entire cast of the play was nominated for the 2008 Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre,[14] and Smith garnered an Evening Standard Theatre Award nomination for Best Newcomer for his role.[15] Upon its transfer to the West End, Smith's performance as Henry was highlighted as one of the positive aspects of the play by critics for the Evening Standard, Daily Express, The Guardian and The Times.[16]

Smith auditioned for the role of Will McKenzie in the comedy series The Inbetweeners, with the part eventually being given to actor Simon Bird. This was revealed in an interview in 2009 by the show's writer Iain Morris, who said, "We auditioned literally 1,000 people... he was brilliant—down to the last two for Will, I think. I think he was a bit too dashing!"[citation needed] Smith was cast in Martin McDonagh's black comedy crime In Bruges (2008), as the younger version of Ralph Fiennes' character, but his scenes did not appear in the final cut of the film.[17] He starred in the 2009 short film Together and the film Womb (2010).[18]

2010–2013: Doctor Who and stardom edit

 
Smith and Karen Gillan promoting Doctor Who in March 2010

"The Doctor is a very special part, and it takes a very special actor to play him. You need to be old and young at the same time, a boffin and an action hero, a cheeky schoolboy and the wise old man of the universe. As soon as Matt walked through the door, and blew us away with a bold and brand new take on the Time Lord, we knew we had our man."

Executive producer Steven Moffat on Smith's casting.[19]

Smith was revealed as the Eleventh Doctor in the British science-fiction television series Doctor Who in January 2009[20][21][22] to follow David Tennant, who announced his departure in October 2008.[23] Smith was a relatively unknown actor compared to the actors then speculated about possibly taking on the role, who included Paterson Joseph, David Morrissey, Sean Pertwee, James Nesbitt, Russell Tovey, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Robert Carlyle, and Billie Piper.[24] Smith was first named as a possible successor less than a day before he was announced as the Eleventh Doctor, on the edition of 3 January 2009 of BBC Breakfast, among the names speculated about.[25] His obscurity prompted the news headline "Doctor Who?", a riff on the show's title.[26][27]

Smith was one of the earliest actors to audition for the role, performing on the first day. The production team, consisting of incoming producer Steven Moffat and BBC Wales Head of Drama and executive producer Piers Wenger, immediately singled him out based on his performance.[20] Smith additionally auditioned for the role of John Watson in the Moffat-created Sherlock, undergoing auditions at the same time; he was unsuccessful, as Moffat believed his eccentric acting style was closer to Holmes, a role that had already been given to Benedict Cumberbatch.[28] At 26 years old, Smith was three years younger than Peter Davison was at the time of his casting as the Doctor in 1981, making him the youngest Doctor and the youngest actor to be suggested for the role.[20][29] After three weeks of auditions, Moffat and Wenger agreed that it had "always been Matt" and approached him to accept the role.[20][30][31][32]

 
Smith in July 2012

Smith made his debut as the Doctor in the episode "The Eleventh Hour" in April 2010.[33] The BBC were cautious about casting Smith because they felt that a 26-year-old could not play the Doctor adequately; Wenger shared the same sentiment but thought Smith had proven his acting quality in Party Animals, which Wenger thought highlighted Smith's "mercurial qualities".[19][20] Some fans of the show believed that Smith was inexperienced and too young for the role, while others supported him by citing his demonstrated acting ability.[34] For his performance in his first series, he was nominated in the Outstanding Drama Performance Category of the National Television Awards.[35] Smith is the first actor in the role to garner a nomination for a British Academy Television Award for Best Actor.[36]

Smith said of his character: "The Doctor is excited and fascinated by the tiniest of things. By everything. By every single thing. That's what's wonderful about him as a character. It's why children like him, I think. Because he doesn't dismiss anything. He's not cynical. He's open to every single facet of the universe."[37] In June 2010, Smith appeared on stage with Orbital, and performed with them a version of the Doctor Who theme, at the Glastonbury Festival.[38] Smith hosted the Doctor Who Prom at the Royal Albert Hall on 24–25 July 2010.[39] On the morning of 26 May 2012, Smith carried the Olympic torch in Cardiff, an activity which was noted by Doctor Who fans for its resemblance to a 2006 episode of the show in which the Doctor carried the torch.[40] On 1 June 2013, the BBC announced that Smith would be leaving Doctor Who at the end of the 2013 Christmas special.[41] He was succeeded by Peter Capaldi.[42] Reflecting upon his decision to leave in a 2016 interview, he expressed regret for not staying longer, stating that he wanted to work longer with co-star Jenna Coleman.[43] In 2018, while appearing on Desert Island Discs, he revealed that he nearly turned down the role of the Doctor.[5] Smith's directorial debut, the short film Cargese, was aired on Sky Arts in May 2013.[44][45]

2014–present: The Crown and other roles edit

Smith portayed Patrick Bateman in the musical adaptation of American Psycho at London's Almeida Theatre from 2013 to 2014.[46] Smith was cast in Ryan Gosling's directorial debut Lost River, which was released in 2014.[47][48] Smith had a supporting role as the embodiment of Skynet in Terminator Genisys (2015).[49][50][51] He was set to have more screen time in the sixth and seventh films in the series, but these proposed films were cancelled in the wake of Terminator Genisys' commercial and critical failure.[52] On 20 November 2014, it was announced that Smith would star in the action-thriller film Patient Zero.[53] It was released in 2018, and received negative reviews.[54] In June 2015, Smith was cast as Prince Philip in the Netflix royal drama The Crown.[55] He played the role for the series' first two seasons,[56] garnering a nomination for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in 2018.[57] Smith reunited with his The Crown co-star Claire Foy in a production of the Duncan Macmillan play Lungs at The Old Vic beginning in October 2019.[58]

In 2020, he was cast as Daemon Targaryen in the HBO fantasy series House of the Dragon, a prequel to the fantasy drama series Game of Thrones.[59][60] The series premiered on 21 August 2022.[61] For his performance he received a nomination for the Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in 2023.[62] Smith joined the cast of Edgar Wright's psychological horror-mystery Last Night in Soho starring opposite Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy.[63][64] The film was released in 2021.[65] In 2021, Smith appeared in the music videos for the songs "We're On Our Way Now" and "Flying on the Ground" by Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds.[66]

He joined the Sony's Spider-Man Universe spin-off film Morbius (2022) as Lucien / Milo, a living vampire, although he was initially announced to be portraying the supervillain Loxias Crown / Hunger.[67][68] It received negative reviews, although Smith's performance garnered some praise from critics.[69][70] In 2024 Smith returned to the West End to star in a modern retelling of the Henrik Ibsen play An Enemy of the People.[71] He portrayed Dr. Thomas Stockmann acting opposite Jessica Brown Findlay portraying his daughter, Petra Stockmann.[72] Time Out wrote, "In a fine cast, it often feels like Smith is happy to keep it low-key, a largely charming stage presence who doesn’t attempt to upstage [the cast]".[73] Nick Curtis of The Evening Standard gave the mixed review writing, "The casually charismatic Smith and a fine supporting cast can’t stop it falling apart in the second half."[74]

Personal life edit

Smith was in a relationship with Brazilian actress and singer Mayana Moura from 2008 to 2009.[75] He also had an on-off relationship with model Daisy Lowe from 2010 to 2014.[76][77] From 2014 to 2019, he was in a relationship with actress Lily James.[78][79]

Smith is an atheist.[80] He is an avid supporter of Blackburn Rovers.[81][82] He has cited his favourite band Radiohead as an inspiration,[83] and referred to Oasis as "the greatest rock-and-roll band in the world".[5] In 2015, he was named one of GQ's 50 Best-Dressed British Men.[84]

Filmography edit

Film edit

Year Title Role Notes
2008 In Bruges Young Harry Waters Deleted scene
2010 Womb Thomas
2014 Lost River Bully
2015 Terminator Genisys Alex / Skynet / The T-5000[85] Credited as Matthew Smith
2016 Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Mr. Parson William Collins
2018 Mapplethorpe Robert Mapplethorpe
Patient Zero Morgan
Charlie Says Charles Manson
2019 Official Secrets Martin Bright
2020 His House Mark Essworth
2021 Last Night in Soho Jack
The Forgiven Richard Galloway
2022 Morbius Lucien / Milo
2023 Starve Acre Richard

Television edit

Year Title Role Notes
2006 The Ruby in the Smoke Jim Taylor Television film
2007 The Shadow in the North
Party Animals Danny Foster Main role, 8 episodes
Secret Diary of a Call Girl Tim 1 episode
The Street Ian Hanley
2009 Moses Jones DS Dan Twentyman Miniseries, 3 episodes
2010–2014 Doctor Who Eleventh Doctor Main role (Series 5, 6 and 7, 2013 specials);
Guest role (Series 8)
46 episodes
2010 The Sarah Jane Adventures Guest role, 2 episodes (Death of the Doctor)
2011 Christopher and His Kind Christopher Isherwood Television film
2012 Bert and Dickie Bert Bushnell
2013 An Adventure in Space and Time Himself[86]
The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot Himself
2016–2017 The Crown Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh Main role (Seasons 12), 20 episodes
2021 This Time with Alan Partridge Dan Milner 1 episode
Superworm Superworm Voice
2022–present House of the Dragon Daemon Targaryen Main role, 9 episodes
TBA The Death of Bunny Munro Bunny Munro Main role, 6 episodes, Executive Producer

Stage edit

Year Title Role Notes
2003 Murder in the Cathedral Thomas Becket National Youth Theatre
2004 The Master and Margarita Basoon Lyric Hammersmith
Fresh Kills Arnold Royal Court Theatre Upstairs
2005 On the Shore of the Wide World Paul Danzinger Royal Exchange
Royal National Theatre
2005–2006 The History Boys Lockwood Royal National Theatre
2006 Burn/Chatroom/Citizenship Tom/William/Gary
2007 That Face Henry Royal Court Theatre Upstairs
2007–2008 Swimming with Sharks Guy Vaudeville Theatre
2008 That Face Henry Duke of York's Theatre
2013–2014 American Psycho Patrick Bateman Almeida Theatre
2016 Unreachable Maxim[87] Royal Court Theatre
2019 Lungs M The Old Vic
2024 An Enemy of the People Thomas Stockmann Duke of York's Theatre

Video games edit

Year Title Role Notes
2010 Doctor Who: The Adventure Games Eleventh Doctor
Doctor Who: Return to Earth
Doctor Who: Evacuation Earth
2012 Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock
2015 Lego Dimensions Archive audio

Short film edit

Year Title Role Notes
2009 Together Rob
2013 Cargese Director
2021 "We're On Our Way Now" by Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds Music video
"Flying on the Ground" by Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds Music video

Audio edit

Year Title Role Notes Ref.
2010 Doctor Who: The Runaway Train Narrator BBC Audio
2011 Doctor Who: The Jade Pyramid
Doctor Who: The Hounds of Artemis

Awards and nominations edit

Year Award Category Work Result
2010 TV Quick Awards Best Actor Doctor Who Nominated
2011 SFX Awards Won
National Television Awards Outstanding Drama Performance: Male Nominated
BAFTA TV Awards Best Actor Nominated
TV Quick Awards Best Actor Nominated
2012 Nominated
SFX Awards[88] Won
National Television Awards Outstanding Drama Performance: Male Won
2013 Nominated
2014 Won
2016 BloodGuts UK Horror Awards Best Supporting Actor Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Nominated
2017 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series The Crown Nominated
Broadcasting Press Guild Awards[89][90] Best Actor Nominated
Online Film & Television Association Awards Best Actor in a Drama Series Nominated
2018 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series Nominated
2023 Critics' Choice Awards[91] Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series House of the Dragon Nominated
2023 Gold Derby TV Awards [92] Best Drama Supporting Actor House of the Dragon Nominated

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Further reading edit

  • Smith, Oli (2010). Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor: Matt Smith. London: BBC Children's Books. ISBN 978-1-4059-0687-6.

External links edit