Eccleston was a celebrity and successful film/TV actor well before Doctor Who. See Shallow Grave, 28 Days Later, Second Coming. Probably the most famous a Doctor Who actor has been before taking the role.
I've always respected Eccleston for not playing the fame game. He isn't a media whore like John Barrowman and does have principles.
Yeah - Photoman has it back to front, Eccleston was cast *because* he was a well established well respected actor and they wanted to show how seriously they were taking the revamp:
In the UK. If not for DW, the US would not know who he was (except as bit parts in movies, possibly). Probably for the rest of the world too.
Utter horseshit. Just because you weren't sufficiently observant to know who he was prior to DW, don't assume the rest of us were just as unaware.
I'm American, live in the Midwest, and I was well aware of who Christopher Eccleston was, starting roughly 10 years prior to his stint as the Doctor, from his appearance in Danny Boyle's "Shallow Grave" (where he was one of the leads), his role as one of the leads (DCI Bilborough) in series 1 of the popular Robbie Coltrane series "Cracker", and later as the main baddy in "Gone in 60 Seconds". All major parts BTW and not a "bit part" in the bunch.
Truth be told, I was NOT much of a classic Who fan, and tuned in to watch the 2005 revival when it premiered on SciFi (now SyFy) based almost entirely
on the fact that Eccleston was starring in it.