At 63, dapper journeyman English actor Bill Nighy is in more demand than ever with 11 films in two years including About Time, which features his latest scenestealing performance for Richard Curtis.
At 63, dapper journeyman English actor Bill Nighy is in more demand than ever with 11 films in two years including About Time, which features his latest scenestealing performance for Richard Curtis. “It seems that way,” Nighy comments on being in more demand than ever. “I’ve been incredibly fortunate throughout my working life that I’ve mostly had a gig. I’ve been accused of being a workaholic, which I always get very defensive about, which almost certainly means they’re right. My defence, not that I need a defence, is that most people go to work every day. Love Actually did change everything. It changed the whole nature of my career. I owe Richard Curtis [Love Actually’s writer and director] an enormous debt but prior to that I generally did go to work all the time.” Watch: Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) from Love Actually performing ‘Christmas Is All Around‘ (parody of ‘Love Is All Around‘) Before starring as the aging rocker in Curtis’ Love Actually, Nighy was best known to international audiences for a similar role in Still Crazy, a comedy about ex-rockers who decide to get the band back together. His career in theatre and English television stretches back to the late 70s. A good friend of playwright Sir David Hare, Nighy was a Hare regular, as well as generating acclaim for his National Theatre and West End performances and for his role in BBC’s The Men’s Room. Since Love Actually, Nighy has made a career out of playing the most memorable character in a film no matter how small the role, whether it’s comedy (Shaun of the Dead, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), drama (Valkyrie, Notes on a Scandal) as well as television (State of Play). About Time is Nighy’s third cinematic collaboration with Curtis, the writer of Blackadder, Notting Hill and The Boat That Rocked. It is another very Curtis English romantic comedy in the Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill vein. The early-revealed twist that separates it from the rom com norm is that all the men in Nighy’s family can time travel. About Time, which also stars Rachel McAdams and Domhnall Gleeson, celebrates the simple joy of spending time productively with family and loved ones. “I liked the simplicity of the basic suggestion, which is something we all struggle with, which is how to get the most out of your day without regretting yesterday or worrying about tomorrow,” Nighy says. “It sounds like a simple thing but it’s actually incredibly hard to pull off. As I’ve been getting older, I think I’m more aware of time and you want to make the most out of every day.” Nighy connected with his character, a man who retired at 50 to spend more time with his family, and who used his time travelling power for seemingly humdrum activities: to read books and hang out with his son. “I love books. It’s my major hobby, well not hobby; it’s my reward for everything else. It’s what I do. It’s my great pleasure. “I think it’s a radical thing, my character retiring at 50, to play more table tennis with his son. You don’t get prizes for it. You don’tget paid for it obviously and there’s no award ceremony for that. I think it’s radical and admirable. So I was drawn to that.” Even though Nighy has been accused of being a workaholic, he admits he is good at “loafing”. “I’m quite good at just hanging around being unproductive. I don’t get guilty anymore if I get up late or if I do nothing but go to the bookshop or the coffee shop, I call that a day well spent. I’m not one of those people who have to paint the garage. Not that I’ve ever painted the garage to be honest with you. I actually haven’t got a garage. But if I had a garage I wouldn’t paint it. I would get someone else to paint it.” Hare said that Nighy has a nose for great writing, which means that even though the actor is in a lot of films, he is quite selective about the roles he chooses. “I think most actors are picky if they are in a position to be. I’m incredibly fortunate that I get to work with David Hare, Richard Curtis, Stephen Poliakoff and Tom Stoppard, what more do you want? They are some of the greatest writers currently working. I’ve been very fortunate. But I try and keep a certain level of quality control in place.” Given Nighy’s appreciation for quality writing, is there a book in him? “I procrastinate at an Olympic level. Nobody does it better than me. I have arranged not to put pen to paper for the whole of my life. That’s pretty good going – every day I get up and don’t write. It’s because it’s [writing] so dear to me. “You get to a certain point where you are encouraged by people to write a so-called story of your life. I’m not particularly interested in that kind of book really, if I could remember it, which I can’t. I wouldn’t feel quite comfortable, talking about myself to that degree. If you could make it funny, then that’s the only excuse you’ve got. I have no plans.” Would he collaborate with a writer on an authorised biography of his life? “No. I don’t see the point of that. I know the point of that, which is to make some money. If there’s going to be a book it’s going to have to be as written by me, I think. I don’t know whether I’ve got it in me to sit down for that long and concentrate my mind. Who knows? When I get very old I might do that. I don’t want to write a book which starts, ‘I was born under the sign of Sagittarius on December the 12th…’ those books always make me want to lie down and you skip to chapter five to when they start work. The book I admired and really enjoyed was Bob Dylan’s book [Chronicles], which sort of starts nowhere. There are three episodes of his life, with no attempt at chronology and I dug it. It was like being caught on the train with someone very interesting.” About Time opens on Thursday, October 17