It’s been ten years since Matt Smith burst out of the TARDIS in his tweed jacket and into TV sets around the globe as the eleventh incarnation of The Doctor on the long-running British sci-fi series Doctor Who, a role that earned him instant status as a British icon. Since then, the tall, idiosyncratic actor has found steady, acclaimed work deconstructing other famed figures of British history and literature, from Prince Philip in the first two seasons of The Crown (for which he snagged an Emmy nomination) to a biopic of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.
His latest, Edgar Wright’s time-twisting psychological thriller Last Night in Soho, sees him taking on a broader school of British bloke: the kinds of domineering pimps who were chock-a-block in London’s Soho neighborhood in the 1960s.
As Jack, the boyfriend-turned-manager-turned-abuser of Anya Taylor-Joy’s starstruck hopeful Sandie — both ghostly apparitions the young 21-century fashion student Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) sees in her dreams every night — Smith cuts a menacing figure as icily as he cuts a rug on the dance floor of Soho’s pounding nightclubs. He’s an avatar of the kinds of manipulative gangsters who would prey on vulnerable women to get what they wanted, Smith modulating between snakelike charm and steely-eyed anger.
Like so many of Wright’s characters, Jack is an amalgam of a host of British cultural and cinematic references, swinging intensely between the giddy cultural nostalgia Wright traffics in and the darkness that lies underneath all the bright lights of Soho.
Consequence spoke to Smith the week after the film’s premiere to talk about the many cinematic and historical touchpoints that went into playing Jack, and how much the costumes and music (and Wright’s pop culture homework) helped him in the role. He also touches on the continued legacy of Doctor Who and his role in the upcoming Sony/Marvel film Morbius.
Check out the wide-ranging conversation below.