Bill Nighy on his position within the acclaimed ‘Living’

Regardless of being an actor for greater than 5 many years, Bill Nighy nonetheless has moments when he can’t imagine his personal life. The opposite day, as an example, Nighy went right into a London espresso store and the barista refused to simply accept his cash. It’s occurred to him often, significantly with taxi drivers, but it surely at all times takes him abruptly.

“They said, ‘No, no, no, you’re not paying for that,’” Nighy remembers, sitting within the Ham Yard Lodge in London. “I walked away and I caught myself and I was thinking, ‘God, that would be great if that was happening to you.’ Like, that would be a nice thing if it was happening to someone else. And I realized I’ve always made that disconnect where I don’t really accept it as my personal experience.”

Now, greater than ever, Nighy looks like he’s on the skin of his personal experiences.

His acclaimed new film, “Living,” has swept him into whirlwind of movie festivals, international promotion and, probably, a forthcoming Oscar nod for lead actor. He’s had a style of this type of consideration earlier than — Nighy gained a BAFTA for “Love Actually” and earned a SAG nomination for “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”

However “Living” is on one other degree.

“I thought at the time this was a significant movie, don’t get me wrong. I just didn’t think I was going to get phone calls from people saying, ‘I can’t get into the cinema,’” Nighy says.

“I’m not used to that. I mean, I make good films, but they’re not always the films people are drawn to.”

Primarily based on Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 movie “Ikiru,” “Living” was written by novelist Kazuo Ishiguro and directed by Oliver Hermanus, and has undeniably gifted Nighy among the finest roles of his profession. The actor, 73, performs a stoic English businessman named Mr. Williams, whose authorities job is to allow a lot paperwork that nothing will get achieved. When Mr. Williams learns he’s dying, uncomfortable self-reflection results in newfound boldness.

For Nighy, who was solid earlier than the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, “Living” was compelling due to who was concerned and, merely, as a result of it was an important position. An English-language model of the story was prompt to Nighy by Ishiguro at a cocktail party a number of years in the past, and producer Stephen Woolley finally persuaded Ishiguro to write down it. Ishiguro and Hermanus workshopped the screenplay all through the pandemic, and as soon as it was full, Nighy might sense it was particular.

“I knew that if I didn’t mess it up, it would be something,” Nighy says. “But I didn’t imagine this. The response has been marvelous. People — rational people, people who are not drunk or high — have said great stuff. Really big stuff where you’re standing there going, ‘Really?’”

“Living” was filmed primarily in London in summer season 2021, and it was the very first thing Nighy shot after a yr of pandemic closures. He had holed up in Suffolk, the place he principally watched TV or sat underneath bushes and browse (“I didn’t do anything useful”).

Bill Nighy performs a authorities bureaucrat within the Nineteen Fifties-London-set “Living.”

(Sundance Institute)

The actor was genuinely moved by the expertise of being again on a movie set, particularly in his dwelling base of London. He doesn’t really feel, nonetheless, that he did something significantly totally different on “Living.” It was his typical course of: be taught the strains backward and entrance, so he might be spontaneous on the day.

He brushes off questions on what he discovered compelling concerning the character as a result of he says he doesn’t know the way to reply them.

“I responded to the character, I suppose, because I do admire people who endure with dignity and don’t make a big song and dance about it,” Nighy shrugs. “There’s something about that I find heroic. We’re all heroic, you know. Mortality makes sure of that. I admire that kind of stoicism, although it can be unhealthy in extreme circumstances.”

Though Nighy claims he doesn’t must really feel empathy for his characters, and even to love them, his costars noticed simply how a lot he understood Mr. Williams. Aimee Lou Wooden, who performs a coworker whom Mr. Williams befriends, was always amazed by Nighy’s work on set.

“He’s heartbreaking and so transformative in the film,” she says. “It sounds a bit cheesy, but I genuinely would forget that it was Bill. His performance in itself is just stunning and beautiful. It does shatter your heart into a million pieces. But also watching an actor who I’ve always loved, whose thing is that they’re so full of sparkle and cheekiness and charm, be so turned down and him become a much more timid, lost person in this role was so moving.”

Nighy, who rose by the ranks in regional theater round England in his 20s and at London’s Nationwide Theatre in his 30s, is definitely finest remembered for his extra boisterous roles. His efficiency as washed-up pop star Billy Mack in “Love Actually” is maybe his most well-known, however the actor has equally stolen the display in such films as “Shaun of the Dead,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” “About Time” and Autumn de Wilde’s current adaptation of “Emma.”

For somebody who didn’t break into movie till his 40s, Nighy has acquired a remarkably huge IMDb web page. And every new success has, sincerely, been a whole shock.

“I didn’t expect to be on television,” he says. “I certainly didn’t expect to be in a film.”

Within the Sixties as he was arising, movie alternatives for actors from the U.Ok. had been sparse, as Nighy explains it — until you had been a Sean Connery or a Michael Caine.

“There wasn’t a lot of traffic out of here,” he says. “As a young actor, I never expected to go to Los Angeles.”

His first huge movie position got here in 1998’s “Still Crazy.” “I think it was because everyone else turned it down,” Nighy says. “I always assumed that my whole career was based on six other people turning it down before me.”

Nighy landed a couple of extra film roles after “Still Crazy,” primarily in British movies. However 2003 modified all the pieces. That yr, Nighy starred in three tasks: “Love Actually,” “Underworld” and “State of Play.”

Immediately, he turned an increasing number of wanted, significantly for roles that required a little bit of “fizz,” as Wooden describes it.

Regardless of showing in quite a few tasks since, Nighy is aware of that “Love Actually” might be within the headline of his obituary. Individuals quote Billy Mack to him day by day, together with on the day of this interview whereas Nighy was at lunch. An American immigration officer even as soon as intoned Billy’s well-known line — “Don’t buy drugs. Become a pop star and they give you them for free!” — at 4 a.m. within the customs queue.

“A lot of people do that,” Nighy says with a smile. “Or they do air guitaring.”

As a result of Nighy commonly strolls the streets of London and takes the Tube, he really is the professional on Bill Nighy fandom. (He refuses to get a automobile as a result of he hates carrying issues and having a automobile is “like carrying this really big thing, which you then have to put somewhere.”)

When followers method him with anecdotes or questions, he fortunately indulges.

“Everyone in London has a story about seeing Bill,” confirms Wooden, who encountered Nighy as soon as whereas in drama college, years earlier than they met. “Everyone that you ever speak to goes, ‘Oh, I saw Bill once in Piccadilly’ or ‘Oh, I saw Bill once in a bookshop.’ Every single person. It is actually like a weird phenomenon.”

The encounters act as a barometer for the present notion of his profession. Typically folks assume he’s taken a protracted break as a result of they haven’t seen him in something these days. Or they marvel when he’ll name it quits. Not too long ago, a younger lady immediately requested Nighy, “Why don’t you stop?”

“Because of ‘Living,’ there’s a section of the community that thinks I’ve come back to work,” he laughs.

He clearly doesn’t thoughts the questions. “And I’ve heard about retirement, but I don’t like the sound of it. Why would you do that? And there’s no need. Fortunately, I’m in a job where I don’t have to retire as long as I can remain upright. And, actually, I could also play sitting-down roles.”

The apparent follow-up question is: So you continue to get pleasure from performing in spite of everything these years? However Nighy isn’t keen on the phrase “enjoy.” In truth, it appears to make him uncomfortable. “I should just say yes,” he acknowledges. “‘Yes’ and smile.”

However he doesn’t.

Nighy is drawn to performing as a result of it’s difficult and anxiety-inducing and typically, though hardly ever, it’s fully transformative, because it was whereas making “Living.”

“There are certain jobs where I really think I know what I’m doing, and there aren’t many of them,” Nighy says. “The others, I just have to get through it as best I can. A lot of people wouldn’t know the difference. But in terms of how I feel about it: Sometimes you think you really own it and sometimes you think you’re half on it. Or maybe you’re on it and you’re not sure. With ‘Living,’ I sort of did [feel like I was on it]. I did. Once we got going, I thought, ‘I’m going to be OK.’”


Rated: PG-13, for some suggestive materials and smoking

Operating time: 1 hour, 42 minutes

Taking part in: Begins Dec. 23 at Laemmle Royal, West Los Angeles