As a child, Eccleston's ambition was to play football for his beloved Manchester United, but he found himself to be a much better actor than a footballer, and, inspired by television dramas such as Boys from the Blackstuff, he took to acting as his profession.
He trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama (the same school attended by Doctor Who predecessor Peter Davison) and first came to public attention as Derek Bentley in the 1991 film Let Him Have It, based on true events. However, it was a regular role in the TV series Cracker (1993–94) — culminating in his character's dramatic death in the second series — that made him a recognisable figure in the UK.
He appeared in the low-budget Danny Boyle film Shallow Grave in 1994, in which he co-starred with the up-and-coming Ewan McGregor. The same year, he won the part of Nicky Hutchinson in the epic BBC drama serial Our Friends in the North, and it was the transmission of this production on BBC Two in 1996 that perhaps really made him into a household name in the UK.
His film career has since taken off with a variety of high-profile but rarely major roles, including parts in Jude (1996), Elizabeth (1998), eXistenZ (1999), Gone in Sixty Seconds (2000), The Others (2001), Rat Race (2001) 24 Hour Party People (2002) and another Danny Boyle film, the horror movie 28 Days Later (2002). He has starred alongside major Hollywood actresses in smaller independent movies, playing opposite Renée Zellweger in A Price Above Rubies (1998) and Cameron Diaz in The Invisible Circus (2001). Despite starring in the car-heist movie Gone in 60 Seconds, he did not actually take his driving test until January 2004 and is only licenced to drive automatic transmission cars.
Despite his successful film career, he has continued to appear in a variety of meaty television roles, racking up credits in some of the most challenging and thought-provoking British television dramas of recent years. These have included Clocking Off (2000) and Flesh and Blood (2002) for the BBC and Hillsborough (1996), a modern version of Othello (2002), playing "Ben Jago", (the Iago character) and the religious telefantasy epic The Second Coming (2003), written by Russell T Davies, for ITV, playing Steve Baxter, the son of God (Eccleston was an atheist at the time, but is currently agnostic). He also finds time for the occasional light-hearted role, as his guest appearances in episodes of the comedy drama Linda Green (2001) and macabre sketch show The League of Gentlemen (2002) have shown.
On stage, his highest-profile production has been his starring role in Hamlet at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds in 2002. The West Yorkshire Playhouse is a favourite venue of his, and he most recently returned there in the new play Electricity, which ran in March and April 2004.
A very highly-regarded actor, he has twice been nominated in the Best Actor category at the British Academy Television Awards, the UK's premier TV awards ceremony. His first nomination came in 1997 for Our Friends in the North, when he lost out to Nigel Hawthorne (for The Fragile Heart), and he was nominated again in 2004 for The Second Coming, this time being beaten by Bill Nighy (for State of Play). He did, however, triumph in the Best Actor categories at the 1997 Broadcasting Press Guild Awards and the Royal Television Society Awards, winning for Our Friends in the North. He won the RTS Best Actor award for a second time in 2003, this time for his performance in Flesh and Blood. In 2005 he received the Most Popular Actor award in the National Television Awards for Doctor Who.
In July 2004, a poll of industry experts, conducted by Radio Times magazine, voted Eccleston the 19th Most Powerful Person in Television Drama.
I think it's more important to be your own man than be successful, so I left. But the most important thing is that I did it, not that I left. I really feel that, because it kind of broke the mould and it helped to reinvent it.
It was announced that Eccleston was to play the ninth incarnation of the Doctor in the revival of the legendary BBC science fiction television series, which started airing in March 2005. The series executive producer and writer Russell T Davies has said that Eccleston was always the first choice for the part. Despite this, the tabloid press ran reports that Bill Nighy had been offered the role first, but declined. In the 2005 documentary series Doctor Who Confidential, Davies said that he "wouldn't have thought Chris [Eccleston] would be interested".
Eccleston has the distinction of being the first actor to play the Doctor who was actually born after the start of the original television series; he was born two weeks after the famous first Dalek story was originally broadcast in the UK.
On 30 March 2005, the BBC released a statement, ostensibly from Eccleston, saying that he had decided to leave the role after just one series, owing to fears that he would become typecast. On 4 April, the BBC revealed that Eccleston's "statement" had been falsely attributed and released without his consent. The BBC admitted that they had broken an agreement made in January not to disclose publicly the fact that he only intended to do one season. The statement had been made after journalists made queries to the press office.
On 11 June 2005 during a BBC radio interview, when asked if he had enjoyed working on Doctor Who, Eccleston responded by saying, "Mixed, but that's a long story." Eccleston's reasons for leaving the part continued to be a subject of discussion in Britain's newspapers: on 4 October 2005, Alan Davies told The Daily Telegraph that Eccleston had been "overworked" by the BBC, and had left the role because he was "exhausted. " Ten days later, Eccleston told The Daily Mirror this was not true and expressed some irritation at Davies for his comments.  He later indicated in an interview about another TV show he worked on, Lennon Naked, that he didn't enjoy the working environment. 
In 2005, Eccelston won National Television Award for most popular actor and TV Quick and TV Choice award for best actor for his role in Doctor Who.
After Doctor Who
In June 2005 it was announced at the Cannes Film Festival that Eccleston had signed to appear in a British-made sci-fi romantic comedy called Double Life, about a man who thinks he loves twin sisters. It was billed as "a tale of love and obsession" and would be set in Budapest. The film was to be directed by Joe Ahearne (who directed Eccleston in Doctor Who) and was being produced by author Lynda La Plante's company Cougar Films. As of 2020, this film has not been released.
On 30 October 2005, Eccleston appeared on stage at the Old Vic theatre in London in the one-night play Night Sky alongside Navin Chowdhry, Bruno Langley, David Warner, Saffron Burrows and David Baddiel.
In December 2005, Eccleston travelled to Indonesia's Aceh province for the BBC Breakfast news programme, examining how survivors of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami were rebuilding their lives. 
On 20 December 2005, it was announced that Eccleston would lead the cast as playwright, poet and spy Christopher Marlowe in Peter Whelan's The School of Night. Directed by Bill Alexander, The School of Night was due to preview from 16 February but on 6 January 2006, the production was cancelled without a full explanation.
In 2009, Eccleston made arguably the highest-profile media appearances by a former Doctor actor to date by playing the villain Destro in the 2009 G.I. Joe feature film, which was followed a few months later by his appearance as navigator Fred Noonan opposite Hilary Swank in Amelia, a biographical film about Amelia Earhart.
In 2010, Christopher Eccleston played John Lennon in the BBC4 biopic Lennon Naked where he was reunited with Doctor Who (and Torchwood) actress Naoko Mori, who made her first appearance in the episode Aliens of London, alongside Eccleston.
In 2013, though approached with a chance to reprise his role in The Day of the Doctor, Christopher Eccleston turned down the offer to return for the fiftieth anniversary. For this reason, the regeneration of John Hurt's War Doctor into the Ninth Doctor is not shown to completion. The original plan was for the Ninth Doctor to have been the one fighting the Time War, but since Eccleston turned down the offer showrunner Steven Moffat created the War Doctor character to take his place. However, much like every other Doctor actor before David Tennant, he appeared in archive footage in the special, in the "saving Gallifrey" and ending scenes.
In 2022, Eccleston starred as Fagin in the CBBC series Dodger, a prequel series to Charles Dickens' novel, Oliver Twist. Eccleston shares this role with Ron Moody, who portrayed the character in the 1960 musical, Oliver!, as well as its 1968 film adaptation.
List of appearances as the Ninth Doctor
- The End of the World
- The Unquiet Dead
- Aliens of London / World War Three
- The Long Game
- Father's Day
- The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances
- Boom Town
- Bad Wolf / The Parting of the Ways
The Ninth Doctor Adventures
- Sphere of Freedom
- Food Fight
- Girl, Deconstructed
- Fright Motif
- Planet of the End
- The Hunting Season
- The Curse of Lady Macbeth
- Monsters in Metropolis
- Fond Farewell
- Way of the Burryman / The Forth Generation
- Internet Movie Database at the
- Hidden Shallows : A Christopher Eccleston Fansite
- Underground Ecclescakes Listing
- Christopher Eccleston Message Board
- Christopher Eccleston: "An American Fansite"
- ChristopherEccleston.com (Fansite)
- BBC Drama Faces: Christopher Eccleston
- Beyond The Blue Box: A Christopher Eccleston Fansite
- christopher-eccleston.co.uk (Fansite)
- ChristopherEccleston.net (fansite)
- Virginia's Christopher Eccleston Website
- REF: Who-ology: The Official Miscellany
- Yahoo! TV UK - Eccleston reveals why he quit 'Doctor Who' accessed 16th June 2010