When Bill Nighy walked on stage in Sydney this week to have a chat before an early screening of his latest film, Their Finest, he was in fine form. He had the packed theatre laughing out loud, enjoying his wonderfully British, self-deprecating sense of humour.
Nighy plays a pompous, self-absorbed actor in his new film
When asked how he came to play the role of Ambrose Hilliard, a past-his-prime yet totally conceited actor in Their Finest, he joked: “They were looking for someone to play an incredibly pompous, self-absorbed actor – so they came to me! As you can imagine, it was a bit of a stretch – I had to do a lot of intensive research!”
Their Finest is a film about a British army propaganda unit making a film during the London blitz in the Second World War. It focuses on the romance between screenwriter Catrin, played by Gemma Arterton, and Buckley, played by Sam Claflin from The Hunger Games.
But many early reviews of the film say it’s Nighy who steals the show with comments such as, ‘… gives audiences another reason to love Bill Nighy’ (The Guardian) and ‘Bill Nighy is an international treasure…’ (IndieWire).
And it’s all true. Nighy plays his role to perfection, lighting up the screen with his presence and wit every time he appears. At 67, that’s no mean feat.
Known as one of the UK’s hardest-working actors, Nighy’s enjoyed a long and prolific career. He’s starred in films such as Love Actually, Notes on a Scandal, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and its sequel, Valkyrie and Pirates of the Caribbean.
He’s won many awards including a BAFTA for Best Actor in a Supporting role for Love Actually and a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a television film for Gideon’s Daughter.
When asked if he always wanted to be an actor, Nighy said: “No, not really. It wasn’t a thing that anyone wanted to be as a kid when I was growing up. I did a bit of it at school because I was tall so that meant I wasn’t given girl’s parts. I had a reasonable memory so I got quite good parts.”
Nighy has had enduring success after playing a beloved rock and roll star in the holiday classic Love Actually
“Around that time, I met a girl and you know that thing where you render yourself completely unattractive by being way too keen? Well that happened and she said – you could be an actor!
“She could have said you could be an astronaut and I’d have given it a shot!” he laughed. “But I think that had a lot to do with it. I kept auditioning for parts and persevering.”
Nighy said it was hard at times when he was auditioning for roles as he didn’t have a great sense of self-belief: “I’ve read that as an actor you must have 100 per cent confidence or a very strong self-belief. But my trick was I didn’t have any at all. I used to just keep quiet and hope for the best. I flunked school so I just persevered because I had nothing else to do.”
When, in 2003, Love Actually was released, this was a huge milestone in Nighy’s career. “Love Actually changed everything for me,” he said. “More people saw me in Love Actually than in anything else I’d done combined.
“It meant I didn’t have to audition anymore, which is a big thing for an actor. It meant I didn’t have to go in and pretend to be on horseback in front of some bored director ever again!” he laughed.
When asked if there’s anything else he’d like to do, he said he’d love to make a country music album and “I want a really good hat. I’m not kidding,” he laughed.
Their Finest will be released in cinemas here on April 20, with sneak previews over the Easter long weekend. Watch the trailer below:
What’s your favourite Bill Nighy movie?
The giveaway to win double passes to the film has ended.
Photography: © Nicola Dove / Their Finest; Peter Mountain / Love Actually © 2003 Universal Studios.