ABOVE: Matt Smith has announced that he will leave Doctor Who and head for Hollywood
It’s been an honour to play this part, to follow the legacy of brilliant actors and helm the TARDIS for a spell.
MATT SMITH has quit his role as Doctor Who and is heading for Hollywood.
The actor announced he would bow out playing the Time Lord in this year’s Christmas special after four years in the iconic role.
BBC bosses are now searching for a new Doctor with Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch, 36, and Broadchurch actress Olivia Colman top of the hit list.
Announcing his departure, Smith said: “Doctor Who has been the most brilliant experience for me as an actor and a bloke and that largely is down to the cast, crew and fans of the show.
“I’m grateful to all the cast and crew who work tirelessly every day. Many of them have become good friends and I’m proud of what we have achieved over the last four years.
“It’s been an honour to play this part, to follow the legacy of brilliant actors and helm the TARDIS for a spell.”
Smith, 30, made history by becoming the youngest Doctor when he replaced David Tennant, 42, in 2010, aged just 26.
The then little-known actor’s casting received a mixed response from the show’s loyal fan base.
But he quickly shone, becoming the first Doctor to be nominated for a BAFTA.
Smith will next be seen in the cult show’s 50th anniversary special in November.
He will also star in an hour-long Christmas special before regenerating into the 12th Time Lord.
The ambitious star decided to quit to try to crack America after landing his first big Tinseltown film How To Catch A Monster, with Ryan Gosling, 32.
Details of his Christmas exit are a closely- guarded secret with only writer Steven Moffat and a handful of people privy to the script.
Our insider said: “Matt has made it clear he wants to pursue a film career. His role as Doctor Who has made him well known on both sides of the Atlantic.
“He’s hot property right now and has already had to turn down big movie offers due to filming commitments so now feels it’s time to do something different.”
His exit leaves the door open for a new Doctor, with BBC insiders warning fans to expect the unexpected.
Many believe a black or female Doctor is long overdue – with Colman, 39, already being touted alongside Homeland’s David Harewood, 47.
Other names being considered include Gavin and Stacey star James Corden, 34, and Ben Whishaw, 32, who played Q in James Bond hit Skyfall.
Jenna-Louise Coleman, 27, seems sure to continue her role as Clara Oswald when the next Doctor takes over.
Our insider said: “Matt pushed the boundaries a little bit by being so young and he has opened the door to endless possibilities. Producers want to surprise fans and have a long list of names drawn up.
“Olivia is a hugely talented actress and has the quirky personality to be a big hit.
“David has been linked to the role before while James, Ben and Benedict would all be great.
“No one has been cast yet so it’s just a case of who is available and who best fits the role.
“Details of the next series are so far unknown but the new Doctor will definitely be on screens in 2014.”
Thanking fans for all their love and support, Smith added: “The fans of Doctor Who around the world are unlike any other – they dress up, shout louder, know more about the history of the show and speculate more about the future of it in a way that I’ve never seen before.”
Paying tribute yesterday, lead writer and executive producer Moffat, 51, said: “Matt is one of the nicest and hardest-working people I have had the privilege of knowing. Whatever we threw at him, his behaviour was always worthy of the Doctor.”
A video message from Smith on his departure can be found at bbc.co.uk/blogs/doctor who.