Living star Bill Nighy has always had big dreams. He just hasn’t always followed through with them.
“I wanted to be in a band when I was a kid. I threw shapes in front of the wardrobe mirror to suggest that I might be good in bed. I was too nervous to do that. It was too self-conscious,” he told MovieMaker following this week’s Sundance premiere of the Oliver Hermanus-directed feature. “I tried to be in a band, but I was overcome by self-consciousness and I couldn’t take myself seriously in that way. And guess what? I wasn’t any good in bed. I’d never been in bed, so I didn’t even know. But I wanted to be in a band, and it didn’t work out.”
Then, he tried on another dream for size.
“I was supposed to be a writer. And that didn’t work out. Well, it didn’t work out because I procrastinated,” he said.
Of course, we all know that Nighy was meant for a different calling. The BAFTA and Golden Globe-winning actor has had a prolific career starring in films like About Time, Love Actually (in which he at least got to pretend to be in a band), Emma., Sometimes Always Never, Their Finest, and in both the Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean franchises, to name a few.
“Then somebody said, you could be an actor,” Nighy recalled. “So I did that, and my whole career could be seen as a very lengthy displacement activity campaign — just, like, not to do the other things. That’s how it started out. It just gave me an excuse not to do the things I was supposed to be doing.”
Most people would agree that Nighy procrastinated his way to the right career path. And all that experience avoiding things gave him the perfect window into the mind of his character in Living, which features a screenplay adapted by Never Let Me Go novelist Kazuo Ishiguro from the original 1952 Akira Kurosawa film Ikiru.
Also Read: Evan Rachel Wood Speaks Out About Relationship With Marilyn Manson in Phoenix Rising: ‘It’s Time for Me to Tell the Truth’
In Living, he plays Mr. Williams, a man who has spent his life working in a government office plagued by the lazier tendencies of bureaucracy. But when Williams is given only six months to live, he decides to use what little time he has left to finally make a difference.
“I’m interested in that kind of Englishness whereby, when you’re rehearsing to tell someone that you’re going to die, you preface all your remarks with, ‘It’s a bit of a bore.’ It’s like, who does that? Well, we do that in England. I’m sure they do it in other countries too, in various ways. As if you die apologetic. You don’t want to be too much. ‘I don’t want to make too much fuss, but I’m about to expire,'” he joked.
Nighy’s own dry English wit was on full display during our interview.
“I’m of an age where, if you asked me how much research [I did] — which I was hoping you would, but you didn’t — only because I could then say that I don’t have to research the being near death thing, because I’ve got that part covered,” he quipped.
This reporter laughed.
“Thank God you laughed,” Nighy replied, “because I tried that earlier and nobody laughed.”
After Living, Nighy is still taking cues from Williams’ state of mind.
“Philosophically, I am inclined to think, hang on, what are you going to do today? You wake up in the morning and think, wow, okay. Let’s rock. Let’s do something that’s pleasant,” he said. “I look at the clock and I think, get on with it. My doctor says I have 14 more springs, and I’m going for 17, obviously, and maybe more.”
Oh, and never mind that the band thing never worked out — he’s got another idea.
“I’m going to learn to tap dance. That’s my response to being my age,” joked the 72-year-old. “Of course, I’m procrastinating.”
Main Image: Bill Nighy appears in Living by Oliver Hermanus, an official selection of the Premieres section at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Number 9 Films/Ross Ferguson.