The rise of 'sexiest ever' Doctor Who assistant Karen Gillan from former party animal to Hollywood A-lister

IT is a regeneration as startling as any that a Time Lord could muster.

Former party animal and “sexiest ever” Doctor Who companion Karen Gillan has put her wild ways aside to become a serious, bona fide Hollywood star.

The transformation has made her the most successful Tardis traveller ever.

Her latest movie, Guardians Of The Galaxy 2, has made more than £80million in just three days of its limited release.

And when it opens in the US on Friday, pundits are confident it will top the box office and become one of the year’s biggest earners — which will turn Inverness-born Karen into a genuine Los Angeles A-lister.

It is an astonishing feat for a 29-year-old who was known for her chaotic partying while playing Amy Pond on the BBC1 show, which she joined in 2010.

Back then, she was often snapped slumped in the back of taxis or tumbling out of trendy London nightspots like The Box.

On a trip to New York in 2011, after a night of partying with co-stars including then-Doctor Matt Smith, she was famously found naked and mumbling at 7am in the corridor of a New York hotel.

It was, perhaps, the final embarrassment.

A few months afterwards, Karen announced she would be leaving the top-rated show the following year.

In 2013 the Scot, who had been rumoured to have dated Matt, 34, quietly moved to Los Angeles.

There, the healthy-living ethos — together with her own determination — has catapulted her into the movie big league, playing cut-throat space pirate Nebula in the Marvel movie franchise.

An insider said: “Karen used to be quite a party-girl back in London.

But in LA she has had a rethink and stayed well clear of that scene.

“Instead she has a tight-knit group of well-connected friends and spends her time buried in scripts or swotting up on indie and classic movies.”

“Her strategy has paid off.

“Karen has this bubbly, ditzy image in public which hides her inner toughness and ambition.

“After all, you don’t go from being a relative unknown in America to headlining a blockbuster superhero movie without having a hell of a lot of drive — and a plan.”

A recent early-morning tweet pointed to her dedication.

She wrote: “Got my coffee and it’s Saturday! Ready to read some scripts!!”

Having initially mocked Californian fads like wheatgrass shots, Karen is now a firm convert to juicing.

Her gym-honed 5ft 11in figure is thanks to fashionable “SoulCycle” spinning sessions at her local gym.

Karen, whose Scottish burr now bears an American twang, said of her new lifestyle: “It’s funny — some British people get angry because I’m not out drinking and I’m being really proactive with my downtime.

“They’re like, ‘What have you become?’. But I’m like, ‘How is this a bad thing?’.”

In America, she has regained the sort of ambition that saw her take acting classes seven days a week while at secondary school.



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She recalled: “I dreamed of being an actor every night.

“It’s all I wanted to do.

“It requires a huge amount of want to achieve this.”

After years in local theatre productions — including The Sound Of Music — she moved to London aged 17 to attend the Italia Conti stage school.

But her same drive saw her abandon her studies that same year when she was offered a part in an episode of telly crime drama Rebus.

And most recently, it led her to America in search of new challenges.

She declared on arriving: “I’m not here on holiday.

“I’m here because there are lots of opportunities career-wise.

“Parts here are amazing for girls my age.

“There are parts in the UK too, but they’re mostly period dramas.”

Instead of getting typecast she took her dad Ray’s advice to shun the glamorous parts and sought out gritty, sinister roles — like Marvel’s blue-skinned Nebula.

She explained: “She’s the female villain of the film. She’s very sadistic and evil. So that’s fun, too.

“My dad used to tell me when I was younger, ‘You don’t want to be a Bond girl — you want to be a villain’. That stuck with me.” Karen, who also modelled in the past, grew up in a council house with supermarket worker mum Marie, now 54, and care-home manager Ray, 61.

Her character Nebula was originally supposed to be killed off in the first instalment of the movie, a surprise £600million box office hit in 2014.

But director James Gunn was so impressed with Karen — who shaved off her auburn locks to play the bald-headed cyborg — that he not only saved her but gave her the lead role in volume two.

One insider told The Sun: “Karen’s not known as a party person and certainly not by LA standards, where most young actors and actresses use after-hours parties as a way of meeting producers and directors.

“She may have been into that years ago but now she’s a complete homebody. Karen’s attitude impressed James Gunn and he was really keen to give her a bigger role.”

Her dedication has meant Karen has no time for men. She previously dated Stanley Weber, her co-star in 2013 Brit flick Not Another Happy Ending, and photographer Patrick Green, but now says:: “I am completely single, 100 per cent single.

“It’s actually really exciting, because I feel really free.

“I am working every day.

“Sustaining a relationship while you are working this intensely is not possible.”

But the road to Hollywood success has been a rocky one.

Her first role was a bit part in a horror called Oculus, followed by sitcom Selfie, in which she played a social media-obsessed airhead who even went naked in one scene.

The show was panned and axed.

A pilot for a series based on the Salem witch trials failed to be picked up and a gun-slinging Western with John Travolta, In a Valley of Violence, went straight to DVD.

Next up though she will appear alongside Tom Hanks and Emma Watson in the thriller The Circle.

Then she will be seen as the female lead in a big-budget reboot of 1995 Robin Williams hit Jumanji, due out this Christmas.

She was ridiculed last year after posing in the jungle for promotional pictures for Jumanji in a skimpy crop-top and mini-skirt while her male co-stars were more suitably dressed for the film’s wild setting.

But Karen — whose sexiness in Doctor Who was criticised by some parents — insists there is a reason in the script for her tiny jungle clothes.

And she added in an interview: “I’d never take on a role that was truly gratuitous.”

In any case, Karen is very much in demand — and loving it.

Ant-Man actor David Dastmalchian, 32, who stars with her in another upcoming film, All Creatures Here Below, said: “Karen is really enjoying Hollywood and she’s thriving personally and professionally.

“She shies away from the party scene and is very focused, which is one reason she’s so in demand.

“Karen is at the top of most casting agents’ lists.

“Every person I’ve met who knows her raves about what an impressive individual she is.”

Her popularity on-screen has helped a career behind the camera.

In 2015 she wrote, directed and starred in a nine-minute horror film called Conventional, which won rave reviews.

It helped her land a multi-million deal to write and direct comedy The Party’s Just Beginning, set in her home city and due out next year.

Her success has also let the only child help her parents — buying Ray, a keen amateur jazz singer, his own recording studio.

She is a regular visitor back to her childhood home.

Donna Milligan, 29, Karen’s best friend since their schooldays and for whom Karen acted as a bridesmaid in 2012, said: “Fame has not gone to her head at all.

“She is the most successful of all the Doctor Who assistants, making it across the Atlantic, but she’s still the same old Karen she was in school with me.”

Who done what since

HERE’S what some other former Who companions have got up to after their time-travelling days . . .

PETER PURVES (1965-1966): Sidekick to the first Doctor, played by William Hartnell.

In 1967 the actor who is now 78, joined Blue Peter and stayed until 1978.

FRAZER HINES (1966-1969): Spent 117 episodes as Jamie McCrimmon, pal of the second Time Lord, portrayed by Patrick Troughton.

He then played farmer Joe Sugden in Emmerdale from the very first episode in 1972 until 1994.

He is now aged 72.

ELISABETH SLADEN (1973-1976): As Sarah Jane Smith, Elisabeth was sidekick to both third Doctor Jon Pertwee and fourth Tom Baker.

In 2006 she returned for one episode and was such a hit she got her own spin-off series called The Sarah Jane Adventures.

She died of cancer in 2011 aged 65.

LALLA WARD (1979-1981): Accompanied Tom Baker who she married in real life in 1980.

They split after 16 months.

In 1992 Lalla, who is now 65, wed scientist Richard Dawkins but the couple split last year.

BONNIE LANGFORD (1986-1987): Played IT ace Mel, companion to both Colin Baker’s sixth Doctor and Sylvester McCoy’s seventh.

Since 2015 Bonnie, now 52, has starred in EastEnders.

BILLIE PIPER (2005-2006): Played Rose Tyler with ninth Doctor Chris Eccleston and tenth, David Tennant.

Then starred in ITV2’s Secret Diary Of A Call Girl.

This month Billie, 34 won an Olivier award as best actress for play Yerma.

JENNA COLEMAN (2012-2015):Travelled with both Matt Smith and current Time Lord Peter Capaldi.

Now 31, she went on to star as the young queen in ITV smash hit Victoria.

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