Bill Nighy wants to win his first Oscar ever

I don’t really think I’m going to die,” says Bill Nighy. “I kind of know it’s going to happen, but not with all my sanity.” In his latest film LifeSet in 1950s London, Nighy plays a middle-ranked civil servant – bowler hat, soft-spoken, seldom smiling, taunted behind his back by his subordinates – who is shocked by a cancer diagnosis that leaves him with just months to live and suddenly wants for decades make up for lost time. In contrast, the actor is 73 and doesn’t seem to have reached Peak Night yet. This new role earned him his first Oscar nomination. He’s on a roll.

Lifeby South African director Oliver Hermanus, is an adaptation of the 1952 film by the great Akira Kurosawa ikiru, about a Japanese employee who realizes his life is slipping away. like the original, Life is a small, quiet film. Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro wrote the screenplay, which is also an Oscar nominee, specifically for Nighy, whose official response to the nomination had the self-deprecating, slightly tongue-in-cheek tone his fans have come to expect and love.

“Anyone associated with Life honored to be nominated by the Academy and grateful for the spotlight she is bringing to the film,” he said. “We hope it encourages people to see it. I was surrounded by assassins and this belongs to all of them.”

Even before the nomination was confirmed, he readily admitted that he was excited to be considered a contender, even at the endless dinners, receptions and roundtables with his rivals that are part of every Oscar campaign. There’s a thrill in that. “It’s a strange situation to operate as a competitive sport,” he said vanity fair after an interview in which he shared a table with Adam Sandler (whom a possible contender for his performance in Hurry). “It’s kind of bizarre. But everyone knows the score.”

Clockwise from Main Street: Bill Nighy in LA in January; with Judi Dench in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel; in actually in love; as Minister Rufus Scrimgeour in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; in Shaun of the Dead.

Clockwise from Main Street: Bill Nighy in LA in January; with Judi Dench in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel; in actually in love; as Minister Rufus Scrimgeour in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; in Shaun of the Dead.Credit:

Nighy left school early, after the equivalent of 11th grade, and worked as a messenger boy for the local newspaper before finding a place at drama school. He worked at the National Theater in London in his 20s and did some television comedy, but acting has never been “dead certificate”, as he once put it.

His breakout role came in 2003 love actually, in which he played a beat-up rock star cornered to make a Christmas record. The film earned him a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actor; he was 54. “That film changed the way I work,” he later said. “It changed everything. I can never be thankful enough for that [director] Richard Curtis.”

The following year he did Shaun of the Dead; He then had roles in the Pirates of the Caribbean And Harry Potter franchises, along with a number of British dramas, including the hugely successful ones Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. He could bring a comic twist to an otherwise sugary romance; likewise, his weatherbeaten face and command of silence would enhance a mischievous-looking comedy with a melancholy note.

But the most important thing was really that he was going to be Bill Nighy. Today its pulling power is not underestimated. Life is a film in which the main character is dying: hardly any blockbuster material. Despite this, it topped the box office across the UK.

Nighy’s character is head of public works at London County Hall, one of many small offices that seemingly work largely in opposition, burying every proposed project in minutes and paper long enough to ensure it never happens. “Never mind,” he murmurs as he shoves the last of the annoying correspondence down one of the lower levels of his in-tray. At home he moves like a ghost and avoids getting in the way of his son and daughter-in-law. Widowed decades earlier, he still seems caught in patterns of grief.

Nighty’s performance has been hailed as his finest. It is certainly his most recessive and gives him no opportunity for emotion; his fear and regret must be read in a jiffy. When Williams speaks, he does so with a formality that’s barely a step away from a business letter. A lesser actor would sound forced; Nighy uses this stiffness to his advantage.

Bill Nighy received his first Oscar nomination for his performance in Living.

Bill Nighy received his first Oscar nomination for his performance in Living.

“I love the way Mr. Ishiguro writes, in a very orderly and reserved way,” he says. “From a performance perspective, it was the same as having to be so physically restrained. Having to say a lot with little while speaking in some kind of code. But hopefully it was going to be very strong in terms of acting because of the tension between the two of them.”

He was a kid in the 1950s when the film is set – his formative years were the ’60s, and all that entails – but he remembers the atmosphere of that time. “I would have been one of the kids on the playground in those horrible shorts,” he says. His character has something of his father, a workshop mechanic, whose impeccable sense of dress appropriateness is something Nighy came to appreciate, especially after the ’60s.

“He would have had the same obligation of a kind of modesty. He would never make much noise, my father; he was a very reserved man and he admired these things, he was a very principled man and I think he would be appalled at the current state of affairs. So much would offend him.”

Even so, Nighy Williams never considered a relic of the past. “I didn’t want it to be a reprise of anything, or nostalgia for anything, or even a homage of any kind,” he says. “Sometimes when I’m making a period film, I write in the script, ‘This isn’t a period film.’ It’s semantics, but it helps me because the movie is happening now. I don’t want any idea of ​​a time long past. I don’t want that to get into my head. In fact, it’s contemporary.”

Bill Nighy and Aimee Lou Wood in Living.

Bill Nighy and Aimee Lou Wood in Living.

Williams doesn’t have the courage to tell his son he’s dying. Instead, he heads to the seaside town of Brighton, with the stated intention of “livening a little” before he falls. He has no idea how to do this.

“I suppose Brighton would have been a very risqué place back then to have what you would call a ‘good time’,” says Nighy. “Which basically meant drinking too much and maybe having some sort of — I don’t know — short, rough, professional, cruel sex.” A local (Tom Burke) tries to teach him the ropes.

“And then – you know what? – he realized a few hours later that it doesn’t touch the pages in any way,” says Nighy. “It’s a discovery that many, many millions of people around the world have made, that the drugs don’t work.” Nighy is one of those people. He hasn’t been near a mind-altering substance since he was in his early 40s. Quitting drinking, he said many years later, was the most important thing that ever happened to him. “I’m very grateful that I don’t have to do all that anymore.”

A day spent with a young employee (Aimee Lou Wood) who strikes him as “full of life” inspires Nighy’s character to pull out one of those overlooked projects, a much-needed children’s playground in one of London’s poorest areas, and go through with it.


“He realizes that concern for the well-being of other people seems to be part of the antidote to morbidity,” says Nighy. Sloshing through the sewage of a street lined with workers’ terraces, Williams peeks through the rain at a humble vision of swings, slides, and carousels, and finally feels happy.

And what about Nighy herself? Does he have ideas for projects that he would like to implement? Roll? “I try to be active in my professional life, yes,” he says vaguely. “I have plans. And I look at the clock and I’m like, ‘what now?’ But I don’t run around trying to fit things in. I’m very good at lounging around and I like the parts in between. I like being left alone with a book. I like to sit by the fire. I like walking in the park. I like going to the bookstore and drinking coffee afterwards. Those are the things that give my life meaning.

“But you know, I’ve been lucky — more than lucky — and I can help other people in some ways,” he continues. He has an adult daughter from his 27-year partnership with actress Diana Quick and, according to the tabloids, a more recent alliance with Anna Wintour, the global editor of Fashion. He goes everywhere and is known to be willing to talk to fans, especially fans who walk dogs. In other words, he’s out there and reliably Bill Nighy.

“I think there’s a balance in my life and I feel OK, I feel pretty good,” he says. “I don’t think I’m going to change the world, but I don’t want anything to stand in my way either. I just want to grease the wheels.” Bill Nighy wants to win his first Oscar ever

Jaclyn Diaz

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