Bill Nighy is a ‘self-absorbed, pompous actor’ in ‘Their Finest’ and he’s ‘grateful’ for it

That was [director] Lone Scherfig’s idea. Oh, no. Nighy, most famous to American audiences for Love Actually, impresses upon me what a blissful time he experienced working for Scherfig. Nighy plays the hammy   1940s film actor Ambrose Hilliard, who takes on the role of “Uncle Frank” in the silly, sentimental movie-within-the-movie, which depicts the evacuation of Dunkirk. And it’s a lovely idea, given the brutal time, one of the worst periods in British history. It has nothing to do with the movies. Are you aware that it comes across? Yeah. My friend James D’Arcy is in that movie. What I mean is, when I used to shave in the morning without my glasses, I was 46. It does. Nobody else knows about it and that’s fine. And, yes, there are similarities. It’s only me that knows: those little compromises, those dreadful tics, that default thing I reach for when I can’t really figure the scene out. I’m very happy to have that word put in the same sentence as my name, but I could feel less charismatic. Check it out. And they came to me. I don’t watch the movies I’m in if I can help it. And some days are easier than others, but I always have to kind of persuade myself into it each day. “I’ve been looking so much forward to seeing you,” she tells him after a kiss on both cheeks. That’s why everybody always acts weirdly around me.”
Oh, come on. Obviously, they were looking for someone to play a chronically self-absorbed, pompous actor in his declining years. I couldn’t have been more blessed. Honestly, I was worried about manufacturing a glint for this film. They’re both a bit washed up. You mentioned to me that you’ve recently had your “eyes done.”
Oh, God. I read that part and I thought, “How do you do a glint?”
You’re not aware that you have a glint? I’ve been 46 for years. It’s coming soon, I’m afraid, when I’ll be asked to play a dead body. I really don’t mind, of course. Most of the time it’s half-good. Then I had my eyes fixed and suddenly I knew how old I was. So this was   the case even when you were a younger actor? I think you’re one of the only British actors who’s not in Christopher Nolan’s upcoming movie Dunkirk. But as you are singing, Scherfig cuts away to the younger couple and we only hear your voice in the background. I do tend to die more often in recent times. There is a wonderful moment in Their Finest when you sing “Wild Mountain Thyme.” It’s really beautifully done. Watching the actor Bill Nighy   stroll across a   swanky hotel lobby in midtown Manhattan, you’re struck immediately by one inarguable fact: The guy   is irresistible. And by the way, that song, if anyone wants to check out how it   can really be sung, listen to Van Morrison’s gorgeous version. Oh, yeah. Of your character, someone says, “Unless you’ve given him a review or had intercourse, he won’t remember you.”
Oh, I’d forgotten about that one. Conversation with Nighy flows easily from one topic to the next, during when he enjoys talking about his career — while also applying a self-deprecating touch while   looking inward that’s nothing if not dashing. Three of them are asleep. ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We were just speaking about Love Actually   and Red Nose Day. Definitely. “Lovely. But I stopped watching myself very early on because it was too upsetting. Too uncomfortable-making. But we all fantasize and improvise our lives to a certain degree, don’t we? But now and again I feel like, “Yeah, I know exactly how to do this.”
Does that happen more in theater, where you’re maybe a bit more in control? He’s a major fan of Christopher Nolan, like myself and most people. On stage, very occasionally, I’ve thought, “If anybody has a problem with this performance, it will have to remain their problem.” That’s quite a big thing for me to think. I’m fortunate to get these parts at my age. Well, I didn’t know she cut away until you told me right now. I made the mistake of watching myself then because I thought, “Well, I’m on TV so I should watch!” And then I did   and I wanted to kill myself, so I said, “How about I never do that again?”

What was the problem? Did you feel any actorly jealousy when you saw the movie and noticed that? And I’ve also been a grandfather onscreen. And that film you’re making in   Their Finest is about Dunkirk. In the end, I keep going on being an actor. My first movie grandchild was born to the lovely Rachel McAdams [in About Time]. There’s a bigger story to tell. I frequently   joke, but it’s not really a joke, that I’m completely temperamentally unsuited for my job. Yeah. Show Full Article I’m not even sure what they did because I didn’t want to ask. Did you see things that you wish you’d done differently? I don’t live in a world where I’m charismatic. Generally, every morning, I have to start from scratch. I go to work and I hope for the best. The Luftwaffe shoots the wine bottle out of your hand and he   screams up at the plane, “Hitler, who does he bloody think he is?”
[Laughs] I enjoyed doing that. Kind of funny considering you’ve played the undead in a few Underworld movies and Shaun of the Dead. BILL NIGHY: I’m quite good at washed up. In the film-within-the-film, there’s a hilarious moment where Uncle Frank is on his   boat. I should just shut up, not ask too many questions, and be grateful. Those things are within my grasp. Or nearly knew. It takes me too long to recover. I was middle-aged before I ever felt that. Near the end of Their Finest, your character says, “I was very good.” Can you connect to that feeling? He returns a few glances as well, including, once we’ve taken our seats in a bar adorned with 40 translucent lit-from-within vases, a   beautiful brunette sitting two tables away. Fortunate? It wasn’t in the script originally, if I remember correctly. STX Entertainment, which is releasing the film in theaters, would be wise to sock away   some money for later on an awards   campaign for the actor. I should be so lucky. I’m comfortable now with the idea that, thank God, there is a disparity between what I think and what other people think. Not yet. But how do you handle fame? Tall, blond, blue-eyed, and bespeckled,   elegant in his perfectly fitted jacket, and maybe   more wirey-handsome now at 67 than he’s ever been, Nighy — the “y” is silent, folks — catches the eye of everyone enjoying their afternoon tea. (There is a tabloid rumor, too good to not be just a little bit true,   that Nighy is the “very close friend” of Vogue commander-in-chief Anna Wintour.)
“Could I bother you for a   club soda with ice and fresh lime?” Nighy asks the waiter. You mean you haven’t seen the film yet? And the whole media swarm? Why don’t I just unplug everything and move to the country and buy a dog? You’re too kind.”   We’re here to talk about his movie now in theaters   Their Finest, starring Gemma Arterton   (Quantum of Solace) and Sam Claflin (The Hunger Games) as screenwriters of a World War II propaganda flick designed to raise the spirits of the bombed and demoralized population. Not at all. But what about when you’re acting? I’m not sustained by precedent. That’s great. There are so many elements that have to come together for the conditions to be right. RELATED:   Gemma Arterton talks Their Finest and the movie that almost made her quit acting
When Their Finest   director Lone Scherfig (An Education) approaches Nighy’s table, he jumps from his seat to embrace her. I’m not being cute   but I’m fundamentally unaware of that. I had lens replacement surgery. I often look jealously at other people in their jobs and think, “They’re happy, they’re fine, why not me?” I would look at the crossing guard lady while I was on my way to be totally humiliated once again during rehearsals for a play, and I’d think, “It’s half past eleven in the morning and she’s all done, she’s laughing in the sunshine, she’s got shelter and food.”
And you think about yourself? There are eight people in the audience. In the beginning of the film, someone calls you “the man with the glint.”
Yeah, that was tough. Well, your character also complains about being offered corpse roles. And I think, “Oh, man, it’s just the same old blues.”
But conversely, can you feel it when everything is clicking? I think so, though I may be crazy and utterly deluding myself. And suddenly everything flows out of me perfectly. There is some connective DNA   between Billy Mack and Ambrose Hilliard, don’t you think? And faded as well. And now whenever it happens on stage, it’s a wet Wednesday matinée. So that’s why everybody calls me “Sir.” I realized that I’m one of those old guys. That’s not your natural state of mind? Yeah. All I see are my mistakes. Why was this ever a problem? Whenever the doctor got technical, I stopped listening. They’re older guys who rally even when things should be over for them. Lone knows exactly what she’s doing and honestly, you don’t want to watch me singing that song all the way through. Anyway, when I took the bandages off, I looked in the mirror and I said, “Oh, I see now. But I think I know when it’s any good. I enjoy   playing undead. A sort of charismatic wink? No, I’m not. But you’re not yourself offered corpse roles, are you? All I know is, it wasn’t painful and it took 14 minutes on each   eye.