Published: 13/11/2008 00:00 - Updated: 18/11/2008 13:00

Is James the new Doctor Who?

Written byBy Web Reporter

A BOOKMAKER is taking bets on a Hollywood star from Bishop's Stortford becoming the next Doctor Who - and the Observer is backing him all the way!

James Frain's odds have shortened from 40-1 to 20-1 amid internet speculation that he has been approached to become the next Time Lord.

Intriguingly, an addition to the 40-year-old dark and brooding actor's Wikipedia page - made just after David Tennant's shock decision to quit the hit BBC show - indicated the star, who stole the show in a 1970s nativity play at St Joseph's Catholic Primary School in Great Hadham Road, Bishop's Stortford, had already accepted the part - but the entry has since been removed.

Former classmate and James's first leading lady, Observer chief reporter Sinead Holland, said: "James was so clever he skipped a school year and was still the smartest kid in the form.

"In our last year at St Joseph's we performed an alternative nativity called The Shepherd's Story and James was the lead. I played his nagging wife and at one point I had to chase him around the stage, threatening to beat him with a shillelagh, a traditional Irish club. I'd like to think the Cybermen and Daleks would hold no fears for him after that."

Mary Jackson, his A-level English teacher at Newport Free Grammar School, hoped a plum role and prime-time exposure in the UK would confirm the fame he has already secured in the United States.

She remembered the talented and artistic student, who was the eldest of eight children born to stockbroker dad Paul and teacher mum Geraldine, and has followed his career with interest.

The former Miss Muncie had just started teaching when she tutored James, who had been brought up in Stansted before the family moved briefly to Leeds and then back to Bishop's Stortford. She said: "James was a very good student, very intelligent and hard-working."

Mrs Jackson said James, who is now married to American dancer and writer Marta Cunningham, was greatly influenced by drama and English teacher Richard Kitchen and worked with him, researching, writing and performing a play about a Thaxted vicar.

He went on to study English and drama at the Univer-sity of East Anglia in Norwich before graduating from London's Central School of Speech and Drama, where he was discovered by Sir Richard Attenborough, who cast him in the film Shadowlands in 1993.

He has since starred in movies such as Elizabeth, Hilary and Jackie and Where the Heart Is, where he played opposite Natalie Portman, and secured roles in high-profile TV series 24, The Tudors and Law and Order: Criminal Intent, as well as giving acclaimed stage performances - including most recently The Homecoming on Broadway.

Mrs Jackson was intrigued by the idea that he could be the next Doctor: "I think it would be great. Although he has had a lot of very good parts, he has not yet had such a big role over here. It would be lovely to see him do something so much in the public eye - and have all his hard work rewarded."

Bookmaker Paddy Power has David Morrissey as 2-1 favourite for the role. An announcement is expected next year.
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