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It’s the end of three recording blocks for 12 new audio adventures of the War Doctor for Big Finish Productions. DWM has tasked writer/producer/director Nicholas Briggs to ask John Hurt about returning to a role he created on screen for The Day of the Doctor...

To be perfectly honest, I was quite nervous about meeting Sir John Hurt. I don’t think I really believed that the War Doctor audio series was ever going to happen. But when my boss and co-executive producer at Big Finish, Jason Haigh-Ellery, phoned me and said, “John Hurt wants your telephone number,” I had to face up to the reality... As it turned out, John was delightful and positive throughout the whole recording process. Cynics might sneer that of course I’d say that. It’s a sort of showbiz cliché that everybody says everybody was ‘marvellous and so lovely, darling!’; but to be blunt, I don’t have to bother.

I could have just made comments about him being a great actor, and left it at that.

But the fact is that I think he’s a nice man. I like him. He’s a remarkable actor and every day I worked with him I gained more respect for him. The schedule was hard, particularly towards the end, because of John’s limited availability…

“This is a bit ridiculous, this week,” John Hurt admits. “That was my call. We’ve had to do six episodes in one week, because I start filming next week.”

Even though one of John’s most famous roles is in an iconic science-fiction film – the seminal 1979 movie Alien – he admits that science-fiction isn’t natural or easy territory for him. But such is his experience, talent and determination to do a good job, that he finds his own, unique way through it.

From time to time, he would ponder the ‘impenetrable’ nature of a scene relying heavily on the ‘pseudo-science’ which permeates so much of Doctor Who. He’d say, “Hang on!” and then I’d hear him mumble his way through the scene to himself. “Right, got it!” he’d say, “I know what this is about now!”

So, has he ever had an interest in science-fiction, perhaps when he was a boy?

“This Doctor fulfils the role that the other Doctors are not prepared to face. He comes out of the imagination and arrives rather like Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia.”

“It’s a very interesting question, because I never did,” he says. “I don’t really have a particular interest in it now.

But then I’ve never been the sort of actor who’s had ambitions. So, things come out of the blue. I call myself now the victim of other people’s imagination,” he chuckles. “Because I think actors are pretty bad at choosing their own parts anyway. They tend to choose things which portray them in a light that they see themselves in, but actually nobody else does. I think that’s a very dangerous area to be in. By operating the way that I’ve operated it’s meant I’ve been able to do all sorts of different things, because people see you differently. And I cease to ask any more, ‘Why me?’

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About Doctor Who Magazine

Contents include: John Hurt interview; the War Doctor on audio; Steven Moffat answers readers' questions; Feature – The story of Doctor Who videogames; Comic Strip – Theatre of the Mind written and illustrated by Roger Langridge; A tribute to Anthony Read; The Fact of Fiction – The King's Demons; Time Team – The Beast Below; Missing in Action – The Myth Makers; Relative Dimensions; Wotcha; Reviews and Previews; Crossword