The eccentric British actor was highly touted for the role of the science fiction hero in the 2005 BBC series before Christopher Eccleston landed the part.
Nighy has now revealed that he had previously been approached to play the enduring character, but thought the job would invite intense media attention and eventually turned it down.
He tells Britain's The People newspaper, "I was offered the role once, I won't tell you when because the rule is that you're not allowed to say you turned that job down because it's disrespectful to whoever did it. I will say that I was approached. But I didn't want to be the Doctor. No disrespect to Doctor Who or anything. I just think that it comes with too much baggage."
David Tennant and Matt Smith have played Doctor Who since Eccleston left the BBC series after one season.