The Untold Truth Of Matt Smith

Matt Smith is one of those actors who is beloved for being in a lot of franchises. He popped up in the "Terminator" franchise, was the 11th Doctor on "Doctor Who," played Prince Philip in "The Crown," and took on the role of Daemon Targaryen in HBO's "House of the Dragon." That's a lot of impressive credentials for any actor to accrue, and Smith is just getting started. 

Thanks to the many franchises he's headlined, Smith has garnered a significant following, though he's a relatively private person. Now, that's not to say he's entirely inaccessible. For starters, he appears at various conventions to show his love for the people who enjoy his work, but these visits are few and far between.

Smith may be hard to pin down, but he's not a total hermit. Like any popular actor, he gives interviews, discusses his projects, and shares details about his life. There's a lot to learn about the inimitable actor that his most ardent fans don't know. So let's hop in the TARDIS and take at trip through the untold truth of Matt Smith.

He wanted to be a professional footballer

There's an episode of "Doctor Who" where Matt Smith plays some football, and he quickly proves he's more than capable of handling the ball. There's a good reason for this: As Smith shared on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs, he wanted to play professionally before spondylosis, a condition resulting from the degeneration of the spine, pushed him to become an actor. He played for Leicester City, but was released by the club when he was 16.

In the aforementioned Radio 4's Desert Island Discs interview, Smith shared, "It was a tough time because I just felt unfulfilled. To be honest, I felt like I was so certain that that is what I was going to do. It was very difficult for me to tell people that I had been released because the vain part of me was like, I am that, and I am the footballer, you know, and at school, I was the footballer, and suddenly I wasn't that. Fortuitously there was a drama teacher, Terry Hardingham, who said, 'you were never meant to be a footballer; I always thought you were really great at acting.'"

Smith had his heart set on becoming a pro footballer and had played competitively since he was a tween. Fortunately, he had the talent and skill to fall back on a career in acting, which is more than most people can say.

His acting career began in the theater

Lucky for Matt Smith, a teacher evidently sensed his natural acting talent and recommended he try his hand at theater, according to the BBC. He joined the National Youth Theater, where he was cast in "Fresh Kills," which Michael Billington of The Guardian gave two stars, though he mentioned that he was fine with Smith's performance. 

Smith progressed in his theatrical acting career via the National Theater, where he starred in "History Boys, "On The Shore Of The Wide World," and many other productions. His success on the stage opened doors for a transition into the small screen, where he found a home in "The Ruby in the Smoke," his first film credit, and "The Shadow in the North." In "The Ruby in the Smoke," Smith met Billie Piper, the young woman who had just been cast opposite Christopher Eccleston in the rebooted "Doctor Who."

When Smith made the leap from the stage to the small screen, he didn't forget his roots. His career blossomed into feature films, but he always remained faithful to the theater. Since hitting it big, Smith has appeared in numerous stage shows, including the 2013 adaptation of "American Psycho," where he played the lead character, Patrick Bateman. In 2019, he reunited with his "The Crown" costar Claire Foy in 2019's "Lungs." By all accounts, he's likely to continue returning to the theater in the future.

He can be indecisive

"I used to blink a lot. I was quite twitchy," Matt Smith said of his younger self to Desert Island Discs. "I think now I'd be diagnosed with ADHD or something, but I was happy, you know because I had great parents and great friends." He also had a speech impediment, which he learned to work through.

There is one thing that he's never fully gotten a handle on, and that's his decision-making ability. Smith has spent a good chunk of his career making good choices, but according to the actor, he's been known to hem and haw. In an interview with Esquire, Smith explained, "I'd like to try to cut away the bulls**t. Become more acute. My dad used to tell me, 'There's no such thing as a bad decision. The only bad decision is no decision.' And that's true, I think."

Despite his decision-making skills — or lack thereof — Smith has managed to steer his career from one outstanding performance to another. A lot of pressure comes with playing someone like the 11th Doctor, and it's arguably one of his best roles. Upon accepting, Smith told The Guardian, "I'm flabbergasted. I haven't slept, really! ['Doctor Who'] is an iconic part of our culture, and now I'm taking that on. It's nerve-wracking. Exciting. Exciting."

Matt Smith isn't just the Doctor

Despite being relatively unknown before being cast as the 11th Doctor, Matt Smith built up a significant body of work. The actor didn't walk in off the street and become the star of "Doctor Who" — he worked for seven years on television before he got the keys to the TARDIS. Smith's first notable role came via "Party Animals," where he played Danny Foster. Before and after this, he appeared in a couple of TV movies before landing the role of Dan Twentyman on "Moses Jones" in 2009.

His career got a massive adrenaline boost when he got the call to play the Doctor, and he continued in that role for nearly four years. Upon leaving, he debated whether or not he wanted to return to television as he'd set his sights on a film career. The year after leaving "Doctor Who," he played Alex/Skynet/T-5000 in "Terminator: Genisys." Still, that film failed to garner the desired financial outcome, killing all chances of a franchise for Smith.

Undeterred, Smith turned his attention back to the small screen, taking on the role of Prince Philip for the first two seasons of "The Crown." He received significant acclaim (and an Emmy nomination) for that performance, which he followed with appearances in several films, including "Morbius," which didn't do well critically or financially. Despite this misstep, Smith's casting as Prince Daemon Targaryen in "House of the Dragon" cemented the actor in a top-rated franchise on HBO.

He surprised everyone as the Doctor

Before he was cast as the 11th Doctor, Matt Smith was a busy actor, but he wasn't yet a household name. He'd played some excellent roles in the theater and on television before his casting, but there's a significant elevation of status when an actor goes from playing Danny Foster on "Party Animals" to becoming the 11th Doctor on "Doctor Who." When he was first chosen for the role of a lifetime, the fans were vociferously divided.

It seems that whenever a new actor is cast to play the Doctor, naysayers come out against them. Smith wasn't immune to this, and the biggest complaint at the time was his age. Smith was 26 when he was cast as the 11th Doctor, and the character was over 900 years old. Granted, that doesn't matter, but nobody who played the Doctor before him was under 29. During an appearance on "The Graham Norton Show" (via Digital Spy), Smith said strangers would yell, "Don't break 'Doctor Who'!"

After 46 episodes and many tears, Smith ended his time in the TARDIS in 2013. When he left, he told the BBC, "It's been an honor to play this part, to follow the legacy of brilliant actors, and helm the TARDIS for a spell with 'the ginger, the nose, and the impossible one.' But when ya gotta go, ya gotta go." Smith's performance as the 11th Doctor was extraordinary, proving all the naysayers wrong with his thoughtful take on the character.

He found his way to Doctor Who via Sherlock

When he was cast to play the 11th Doctor, Matt Smith wasn't widely known outside the BBC. He found his way to that role via Steven Moffat while casting another successful series, "Sherlock." When Benedict Cumberbatch was cast to play the lead in "Sherlock," the part of John Watson was left unfilled. And so, Smith gave it a go. "I nearly became Sherlock Holmes's sidekick instead," he recalled to the Daily Mail. Alas, it didn't happen, but Moffat, the creator of "Sherlock," liked what he saw and remembered Smith when it was time to cast the 11th Doctor.

In an interview with Doctor Who Magazine (via Digital Spy), Moffat explained, "He was auditioning — bizarrely enough, if you can picture this — for the role of Dr. Watson in Sherlock. ... But he didn't have a chance in hell of getting it 'cos he was clearly more of a Sherlock Holmes than a Dr. Watson. There was also something a bit barmy about him – and you don't actually want that for Dr Watson, you want someone a bit straighter."

Though he wasn't casting a new Doctor at that moment, Moffat sent an email noting that Smith was a name being considered for the role once David Tennant vacated it. He admitted to having the Doctor on his mind at the time, and a short time later, he made it happen.

He's been linked to fellow actors

Though he makes a point to keep his personal life relatively under wraps, we do know that Matt Smith has dated a few fellow public figures, including Mayana Moura, Daisy Lowe, and Lily James. Rumors arose during Smith's time on "Doctor Who" that he was dating co-star Karen Gillan, but the two consistently denied this. Despite not hooking up with Gillan, he has a penchant for meeting and wooing women he works with on other projects.

Smith and James' relationship began in 2014 when they met while filming "Pride & Prejudice & Zombies." As recapped by Bustle, they dated, off and on, for several years before calling it quits in 2019. As reported by The Sun, the couple tried to rekindle their romance through the coronavirus pandemic, but by 2020, they were no longer together. Once that relationship was over, there were whispers about Smith possibly dating Emilia Clarke.

Smith first met Clarke on the set of 2015's "Terminator Genisys," but he was dating James then, so they didn't link up romantically. While they haven't confirmed whether or not they were dating, Smith and Clarke began appearing in public in September 2020, sparking all kinds of speculation. (Perhaps they were simply talking about being Targaryens, nothing more?) Whatever did or didn't happen, things moved right along: According to the Mirror, Smith reportedly began dating financier Caroline Brady six months after breaking up with James.

He spoke with Prince William about his role on The Crown

While Matt Smith didn't have an opportunity to sit down with Prince Philip before playing him on "The Crown," he got to speak to his grandson about the role. Meeting a royal family member is a rare opportunity, and while you might think Smith got some advice on how to play Prince Philip, that's not how things played out. Instead, the whole affair was somewhat awkward for Smith, who detailed his meeting with Prince William during an appearance on "The Graham Norton Show." 

The two interacted briefly while Smith attended a polo match, and the person who introduced them asked if the prince had any tips for Smith regarding playing his grandfather. According to Smith, Prince William looked at him and said, "Legend. He's an absolute legend." That isn't exactly the most specific acting note to go on, but it's likely something Smith agrees with.

While appearing on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!," Smith explained that he had a lot of respect for Prince Philip. While he wanted to meet the royal, he never got an opportunity to do so. Smith said, "He's too cool, he's too cool for school. He's an enigma, Philip." Unfortunately, it seems Philip wasn't a fan of "The Crown," which Smith learned when a friend asked the prince if he watched it. According to the friend, the prince replied, "Don't be ridiculous."

Matt Smith is an atheist

In 2011, Matt Smith sat down for an interview with The Guardian's Euan Ferguson. The two discussed his upcoming "Doctor Who" season, his recent breakup with Daisy Lowe, the fact that he doesn't have much of a social life, and more. While Ferguson didn't specifically ask Smith about his religious views, he did ask him about the concept of time travel and wanted to know if Smith would prefer to go forward or backward in time. The actor took a circuitous path of dialogue and ultimately landed on his relationship to spirituality.

"I think there's something more frightening about going to the future," Smith began. "And how can you not want to go back and see a pack of velociraptors, or hide in a tree that doesn't exist anymore, or go and swim in a lake where there's a shark the size of the... moon? ... I've always been into history, and then recently, probably by being the Doctor — he is, isn't he, a kind of one-man historical and scientific education? — much more into physics. I recently read 'The God Delusion' by Richard Dawkins, which ignited my interest in a scientific, mathematical version of the world. No, I'm not religious. At all. I'm an atheist."

Smith isn't the kind of person to discuss his personal views in great detail, so there's no other mention of his atheism outside of this interview. In a chat with The Times (via Yahoo! Movies), he mentioned his Catholic upbringing, but it didn't stick.

He's clumsier than he looks

The 11th Doctor is much clumsier than his other incarnations, and that character trait may have come directly from Matt Smith. The "Doctor Who" star can be a bit of a conversational bumbler, which also comes through in his performance, but the clumsiness of the actor is arguably his most interesting feature. In a BBC blog post, Steven Moffatt explained a moment that made it into the series that wasn't in the script.

"[T]here's a really nice accidental moment where The Doctor hangs from the strap on the ceiling, and it breaks," Moffatt wrote. "The very first time Matt did it, it was an accident — he wasn't supposed to do that, it's just typical Matt, breaking everything — but the director liked it, so he kept it in." That moment was re-filmed on purpose, and it's one example of many. "[W]hile Matt certainly isn't short on cool, he has an amazing clumsiness. He's halfway between Indiana Jones and Stan Laurel," Moffatt said.

As Smith shared at Comic-Con, his clumsiness led the crew to scramble over what the actor would break while working on "Doctor Who." He'd pick up a prop, drop it, destroy it, and need another. His clumsiness has also been noted in his private life, including when the Daily Mail shared some snapshots where he's accidentally dropped his phone on the ground. A quote attributed to Smith reads, "I am terribly clumsy, so there is a plethora of walking into lamp-posts, falling over, dropping things, and ruining sofas."

He loves music and can play instruments

Everyone is passionate about one form of music or another, and Matt Smith is no exception. During an interview with Rolling Stone UK, Smith described his record collection. He took the best of his parents' records and built up a sizeable collection he continues adding to as he finds new albums. Smith also worked as a DJ as a teenager, adding various genres to the pile. In an interview with The Times (via Gigwise), he also revealed that he's a big fan of Nas, Pink Floyd, and Radiohead.

Smith shared, "I can muddle through 'High and Dry' on the guitar, although I'm actually better on the piano." He then joked that he tried to convince the producers of "Doctor Who" to put a piano in the TARDIS, but his request never came to fruition. "I'd love to see the Doctor rock up and play, but it'd have to be done in an inventive and silly way," he said.

In 2018, Smith portrayed Charlie Manson in "Charlie Says," a biographical feature based on Karlene Faith's "The Long Prison Journey of Leslie Van Houten" and "The Family" by Ed Sanders. In the film, Smith plays the titular cult leader/criminal as he passes edicts and directs the people of his so-called "Family" to commit acts of violence. In more than one scene, he picks up a guitar and begins to play to the delight/frustration of his followers.

You won't find him on social media

Most entertainers have social media pages on just about every platform, but Matt Smith isn't one of them. This is an unusual tactic for a famous actor, as social media allows an actor to engage directly with their fans. Of course, if someone like Smith abhors that idea, they'll stay off Twitter, Facebook, and all the rest. Smith is no fan of social media, which he clarified in an interview with The Guardian.

"I'm not on Facebook, not on Twitter, not on Instagram," he said. "I just don't really care. I don't care where you are. I don't care what you're doing. I don't really expect you to be interested in where I am or what I'm doing. Also, I don't really want you to know where I am or what I'm doing. That is probably a reaction to "Doctor Who," if I'm honest, in some way. But it's one that I'm quite pleased that I had."

It's not surprising that "Doctor Who" led him to become digitally isolated. Fandoms can be cruel, and "Doctor Who" is no exception. In another interview with TechWeekEurope (via Silicon), Smith was asked about his thoughts on younger generations who have never known a world without the internet. He said, "It's like you're quantified by the number [of followers]. Both Twitter and Facebook can be very useful and practical. I see their value, but it's just not for me."

He's made a decent living

Matt Smith's career has kept him busy for nearly 20 years, and he's earned a lot of money in all that time. Arguably his most significant role, "Doctor Who," netted him a sizeable chunk of change, though it's likely less than most fans realize. According to a report from Evening Standard, Peter Capaldi earned between £200,000 and £249,999 ($236,000 and $295,000) per year as the 12th Doctor. The Wrap expanded this to say that Matt Smith made about the same amount, taking home around £600,000 (around $710,000) in total for traveling in the TARDIS.

According to unconfirmed online reports, Smith apparently took home $700,000 for playing Loxias Crown in "Morbius," which wouldn't be a huge salary for someone of his stature. Regardless, it's a drop in the bucket of what has amounted to a significant net worth over the years. Smith's salary for each episode of "The Crown" hasn't been revealed, though it was made public that Smith made more than Claire Foy, the star of the series. Metro reported Smith's per-episode salary was £10,000 ($11,800) more than his costar, though the total amount remains unknown.

Over the course of a decades-long career with many high-profile roles, Matt Smith has acquired a sizeable amount of money. According to Celebrity Net Worth, the actor has around $9 million to his name.