Christopher Eccleston was born in the Langworthy area of Pendleton, Salford, Lancashire, the youngest of three boys. He attended Joseph Eastham's High School, Little Hulton, Eccleston completed a two-year Performance Foundation Course at Salford Tech, before going on to train at the Hampstead-based Central School of Speech and Drama.
Eccleston first came to public attention as Derek Bentley in the 1991 film Let Him Have It and an episode of Inspector Morse, "Second Time Around", also in 1991. He had a regular role in the television series Cracker (1993-94) and around the same time he appeared in Agatha Christie's Poirot. He appeared in the low-budget Danny Boyle 1994 film Shallow Grave, and won the part of Nicky Hutchinson in the epic BBC drama serial Our Friends in the North.
His film career includes Jude (1996), Elizabeth (1998), eXistenZ(1999), Gone in 60 Seconds (2000), The Others (2001), 24 Hour Party People (2002) and another Danny Boyle film, the horror movie 28 Days Later (2002). He played a major role as the protagonist of Alex Cox's 2002 Revengers Tragedy, adapted from Thomas Middleton's play of the same name.
He has appeared in a variety of television roles including Hearts and Minds (1995) for Channel 4, Clocking Off(2000) and Flesh and Blood (2002) for the BBC and Hillsborough (1996), a modern version of Othello (2002), playing 'Ben Jago'and the religious telefantasy epic The Second Coming (2003) for ITV, which was written by Russell T Davies.
He has had guest appearances in episodes of the comedy drama Linda Green (2001) and macabre sketch show The League of Gentlemen (2002).
When Doctor Who was relaunched in 2005, Eccleston was cast as the ninth incarnation of the Doctor by producers Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner. He was the first actor to play the role who was born after the series began. Although he stayed for just one series his portrayal of the Doctor was highly regarded, and a key reason behind the success of the revived series. The role earned him "Most Popular Actor" at the 2005 National Television Awards .
Eccleston has not talked much about the role since he departed the series, however in a 2010 interview, he revealed that he left because he "didn't enjoy the environment and the culture that the cast and crew, had to work in", but he said that he was proud of having played the role.
After Doctor Who Eccleston appeared on stage at the Old Vic theatre in London in the one-night play Night Sky. He appeared in the ITV documentary special, Best Ever Muppet Moments as a commentator and in May 2006, he appeared as the narrator in a production of Romeo and Juliet at The Lowry theatre in his home city of Salford. In 2006, Eccleston filmed New Orleans, Mon Amour and starred in Perfect Parents, an ITV drama.
He joined the cast of the NBC TV series Heroes in the episode "Godsend", and appeared as The Rider in a film adaptation of Susan Cooper's novel The Dark Is Rising. In 2010 he played John Lennon in a BBC production called Lennon Naked and starred in the first episode of BBC One anthology drama Accused written by Cracker creator Jimmy McGovern. Eccleston is an avid charity worker and became a Mencap charity ambassador on 28 April 2005. He is also a celebrity supporter of the British Red Cross.