Eccleston wins damages for violence slur

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The Independent Online

The actor Christopher Eccleston, who is to play the new Dr Who, yesterday won substantial damages and a public apology over allegations in a book that he reacted violently and aggressively when he was asked to portray an impotent duke in a film.

The actor Christopher Eccleston, who is to play the new Dr Who, yesterday won substantial damages and a public apology over allegations in a book that he reacted violently and aggressively when he was asked to portray an impotent duke in a film.

The actor had been accused of saying he would never allow himself to appear sexually impotent and he would break the writer's head open for even mentioning the idea.

Mr Eccleston, who is due to start filming Dr Who within the next two weeks, had sued the top British film production company Working Title Films Ltd, after the allegations of his proposed part in the film Elizabeth appeared in a book.

The production company is behind several hit films, including Four Weddings and a Funeral, Billy Elliott and Bridget Jones's Diary. Mr Eccleston also sued the book publishers, Pan Macmillan Ltd and Michael Hirst, who wrote the section that prompted the complaint.

The 40-year-old star was yesterday at the High Court in London to hear his solicitor, Mike Brookes, tell Mr Justice Eady of his distress over the book, Laundrettes and Lovers, which is a tribute to Working Title Films Ltd.

Michael Hirst, who also wrote the screenplay for the film Elizabeth, in which Mr Eccleston played the Duke of Norfolk, alleged that the actor reacted violently and aggressively to his suggestion of how to play one scene. Mr Hirst alleged that the actor said he would never allow himself to appear sexually impotent and that he would break Mr Hirst's head open if he even mentioned the idea again.

Mr Brooke told the court that the actor was very concerned because the allegations were simply untrue. He was also very concerned about the impact they might have upon his professional career if they were read either by members of the public or, more crucially, figures of importance within the film and television industry.

The court heard a substantial number of copies of the book had been circulated to directors, producers and actors with whom Mr Eccleston would like to work in the future.

"He was naturally worried that if they were to read how he was alleged to have reacted violently and unreasonably towards a suggestion from a screenplay writer and director about the way in which he should portray a role, not only his personal integrity but also his professional career could suffer," Mr Brookes told the court.

He added that the writer, the film company and the publisher all accepted that the statements attributed to Mr Eccleston were untrue, and regretted that they had been published.

They agreed to pay substantial damages to the actor, who is to donate the money to the charity Sport Relief after his legal costs were met.

Mr Eccleston said outside court: "I am just very pleased it's been resolved in my favour and that the defendants have admitted that what they said was untrue. For me that's the matter closed."

He said he was glad the matter was resolved before he started filming Dr Who, adding: "I'm very much looking forward to it. It's very exciting."