Loose Cannon's Hall Of Fame:
Sylvester McCoy was born James Kent-Smith on 20 August 1943 in Dunoon, Scotland. Between the ages of twelve and sixteen he actually trained to become a priest. Then subsequently decided to become a monk and applied to join a Dominican order, but his application was rejected, as he was too young. He went instead to Dunoon grammar school and quickly decided that he didn't want to be a priest or a monk after all. On finishing his education he took a holiday down to London, from which he never returned. Whilst in London Sylvester approached a youth employment centre looking for a job. Impressed by the fact that he had attended a grammar school, they instantly found him a job in the City working for an insurance company. He trained in this job and stayed there until he was twenty-seven before deciding that it wasn't really for him. The pop music and theatre industries were booming at this time, and Sylvester decided that entertainment was an area he wanted to get into.
Sylvester got a job keeping the books and selling tickets at London's Roundhouse Theatre. It was here that he became friends with actor Brian Murphy (now well known for his starring role in the seventies sitcom George and Mildred). A director named Ken Campbell who was working at the Roundhouse asked Murphy if there were any actors who might be interested in joining him in a new venture called the Ken Campbell Roadshow, and Murphy suggested that he talk to Sylvester. Sylvester readily agreed to join Campbell's show even though he had no acting experience and knew nothing about the business. Campbell subsequently devised a show about a fictitious stuntman called Sylvester McCoy and thought it would be amusing if the programme stated that this character was played by `Sylvester McCoy'. When they staged the show at the Royal Court Theatre, one of the critics missed the joke and assumed that Sylvester McCoy was a real person. Sylvester liked the irony of this, and adopted the name as his stage identity. The stunts Sylvester undertook in the Royal Court Theatre show included setting light to his head, shoving ferrets down his trousers, exploding bombs on his chest, mentally combusting cotton wool and hammering nails up his nose. The show was a great success and went on to tour all over Europe.
A series of theatrical and minor TV appearances followed. Sylvester soon became a familiar face on children's television and was probably most associated with programmes such as 'Vision On' and 'Tizwas'. More theatre followed and it was while starring at the National Theatre in The Pied Piper that Sylvester heard that the BBC were looking for a new lead actor to replace Colin Baker in Doctor Who. He had applied for the job once before, when Peter Davison had relinquished the role, but had discovered that Baker had already been cast. Undaunted, he telephoned John Nathan-Turner to put himself forward once more. By an incredible coincidence, moments after they had finished speaking, a BBC producer named Clive Doig, with whom Sylvester had once worked, also telephoned Nathan-Turner to suggest that he would make a good Doctor. Nathan-Turner, although initially suspecting collusion, was sufficiently intrigued to go and see Sylvester in The Pied Piper on 6 January 1987.
Sylvester's performance in the play greatly impressed Nathan-Turner, and eventually led to him being offered the role of the Doctor. As his three seasons in the role progressed, Sylvester gradually toned down the more humorous elements of his portrayal and brought in a darker and more sinister image. To emphasise this shift in the character, the Doctor's costume was changed for Sylvester's final season. This reflected the desire of the production team as a whole to inject more mystery into the Doctor's origins and motivations. If Sylvester had played the Doctor for a fourth season, as had been planned, the darkness of the character would have become ever more evident.
Since leaving Doctor Who, Sylvester has worked extensively in theatre and on television. To maintain continuity of the show fans where very pleased that Sylvester agreed to officially hand over the role of the Doctor to Paul McGann by appearing in the 1996 TV movie.
Sylvester very kindly spent some time with the Loose Cannon team to record an introduction for the Moonbase reconstruction.
Sylvester McCoy was interviewed in DWM issues 130, 142, 154, 216, 217, 218, 303.
McCoy can be seen in the introduction to:
To see other celebrities in our Hall of Fame select a name from below:
George A. Cooper
Edward de Souza
Carole Ann Ford