Bill Nighy – In Conversation Pt. 1

(Full credit to the Lancashire Evening Post’s article. Click to be taken there)

I planned for this article to be around 1500 words, it turned out to be 3600 so I have made the decision to put it into two separate parts, one now and tomorrow at the same time.

Below is part one.


So yesterday saw Bill Nighy attend the University of Central Lancashire to talk to us about his career and give us any advice that he may have. I took down many notes so I can write this article for you and share my experience on here.

I will say this, Bill Nighy went off on many a tangent, and ended up talking about something completely unrelated to the original question, as I write this I am going to try to edit it into relevant sections but it more than likely won’t read as a straight article, because it wasn’t a straight conversation. I will try my best to make it make sense though, don’t worry.
A bit of background for those who don’t know Bill Nighy, he is a British actor and has been in numerous films, those of which include;

  • Shaun of the Dead
  • Hot Fuzz
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Underworld
  • Love Actually
  • & More

Another piece of information before I move on, the University offered Bill Nighy a fee for coming, I mean come on, It’s Bill Nighy.

But he declined the fee, or instead he didn’t take it himself and asked for it to be donated to the student hardship fund. All he asked for was a slice of fresh lime in his water (which he got).

At the start of the evening the lecturers came out first, with Bill “waiting in the wings” as it were. We were plagued with technical issues at the start, the speakers going haywire because of the microphones. In the end, they had to shut off the mic’s and everyone basically had to yell. Well okay, not that bad, but speak up.

I will admit, I felt a little embarrassed for the University but after Bill Nighy came on, it was sorted so we could all relax and get into the evening.

The first revelation about himself was that he doesn’t watch anything he has been in. He says this is due to self-confidence and hating to see himself up on the big screen. But he put this to us, would WE like to sit and watch ourselves for two hours on the screen? I mean I hate the sound of my own voice, god knows what it’d be like if I was an actor.

He also mentions the awkwardness of first days, and how much he hates them. He made the comparison between normal workers and actors like this; we start a new job and then stay there for a while, whereas actors are starting new jobs like 7 or 8 times a year. So he is constantly feeling nervous on those first days. Nighy has an anecdote to punctuate this:

On the first day of Pirates of the Caribbean he came out of his trailer after going to make-up and he was working what he described as “bobbly computer pyjama’s” which is of course a motion capture suit, this was used so they could use the computers afterwards to make him look like Davy Jones. He said, first day on set he had to walk out in that suit and a pair of trainers (sneakers for american readers), and go and meet Johnny Depp. Someone whom he seemed quite starstruck by.

Back on subject, what he will watch of his however is the animation stuff, for example he has seen Arthur Christmas, Rango and Pirates of the Caribbean.

His explanation of why he had no qualms about watching Pirates of the Caribbean was because he was a squid and he didn’t have to worry about the acting as much because and I quote; “I’m a squid *puts middle finger in air*” and he’s right, no-one else could say “you’re not playing that squid correctly,” because how do we know what a squid acts like?

On the subject of animation works, he was asked what the process was like between animated and live films, and he said during animated films a lot of the time you don’t actually get to meet the other members of the cast, for example parts of Arthur Christmas were recorded solo in a different country to the main production etc, apart from a scene when the family get’s together for a meal, they actually all got together for this to make the scene more dynamic.

In comparison, Rango was filmed and recorded live like a play, the decision behind this was to make the acting more fluid, and people could react off each other better. This might make it a little more expensive and hard to do (getting the actors schedules to fit together) but I reckon this makes the film even better.

Bill Nighy in Rango

He also mentioned how he begun to get to the age where Animation (and Radio, another love of his) is all he can do, because it doesn’t matter what you look like in either of those formats, so there are a wider range of choices.

After the revelation of his confidence not being great and basically hating everything he does, the next question to be asked was how he got into acting? It just seemed a shock, that he could have all this self-doubt (because he’d always been like this) and yet pursue that path. And he answered honestly, in fact he answered everything honestly.

The reason he got into acting was because of a girl.

He met a girl who ended up being with someone else, then she went to drama school so he followed her there, and got in. When he first applied he received a letter telling him he had to go for an audition, and he took that to mean he had got in, so he took the letter to the girl, and she had to break it to him that he had to go audition first, before they let him in.

So audition he did, the goal was to perform two pieces, one modern and something older, along the lines of Shakespeare. He went to his library and instead of checking the books out like you or I would, he said he was starting to develop a “criminal mindset” (half jokingly) and he just stole the books he needed.

For his audition he figured he would do one female part and one male part, to show he had range, little did he know one of the parts he did pick (and here my reporting slipped, because I forget to note the name, enraptured by him as I was) was a woman, although he thought it was a man. So he went into the interview and performed two pieces of work, both of which were female parts, and afterwards as he was leaving, the people interviewing asked; “Why did you pick two female roles,” and thinking on his feet he said it was because he thought it would be something different. After he left though, it dawned on him that this could lead to TV and in TV you don’t need to play a woman’s role.

But it worked, he was invited back for another audition and got in…but then a little bit later, the girl he went there for got married. Damn her!

His acting career has led to him working with some of the best actors and writers out there, especially in the early days when he worked at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool. He worked with playwrights like Harold Pinter and actors like Pete Postlethwaite and Julie Walters.

He had many anecdotes about Julie Walters, the funniest being that they used to perform in pubs around the north of England and it would be him and other male performers and the people in the pub would be all angry because their pints had been disturbed, but then Julie Walters would come out in a green strapless dress, and suddenly all the men in the pub didn’t mind that their pints had been disrupted.

Another anecdote about Pinter was this; Nighy was chosen to play a role in Harold Pinter’s play Betrayal, a play which is famously known for going backwards. And Nighy remembers having not opened the first page of the script (he has a problem with opening the first page of scripts he notes) and the first time he looked at it he was sat next to Pinter and started to give a read through, and about a quarter of the way he remembers thinking; “fuck me, it goes backwards.” But he managed to get his head around it and carry on with it.


Click here for part two.


15 thoughts on “Bill Nighy – In Conversation Pt. 1

  1. This just makes Bill more adorable than ever. What a great night this must have been!

    1. He was a really nice guy, I wish I could have hung out with him afterwards, like some students got to (they helped out with the event), he stayed to sign autographs and have pictures but I figured it’d be too awkward, so many people would be clamouring for his attention aha. Hopefully I’ll work with him someday as a screenwriter aha.

  2. Dear Daniel,
    What an interesting way you have with words! I love how you told about Bill Nighy. You told it so clearly, I almost felt I was there. Thank you.

    Never Give Up
    Joan Y. Edwards

Let's Talk

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s