Bill Nighy on style, social media and holy socks: ‘I can’t operate in the wrong kind of trousers’ | Ents & Arts News

March 29, 2024

Bill Nighy is a man of many talents – but he knows his limitations – most specifically in the trouser department.

The 74-year-old actor tells Sky News he has very clear sartorial demands when it comes to his acting rider.

“It’s odd, people used to say: ‘There’s a significant lack of classical work on your CV’. And I would say something like: ‘The reason is, I can’t operate in those kind of trousers,’ which is a joke, but it’s also kind of true.

“If you want me at my best, put me in a decent lounge suit. It’s a stupid thing for an actor to say, but art does reflect life.”

And he’s not afraid to bring his own life quite literally into his films, adding: “If it’s a contemporary film and it’s an independent film and they haven’t got a lot of money, I just say, ‘Come to my flat,’ and I open the wardrobe and they can take out whatever they want for that movie. So, the two things do blend.”

He’s currently starring in underdog sports drama The Beautiful Game, playing a retired football talent scout coaching England’s team in the Homeless World Cup.

Founded in 2001, the real-life international tournament that inspired the movie now involves over 70 countries and has transformed the lives of more than one million homeless people.

Former Homeless World Cup players – who are no longer homeless – feature in the film, playing team members from other countries, which Nighy calls “a wonderful piece of symmetry”.

He of course wore a suit and tie for the majority of the film, despite it being shot in Rome during a heatwave. Scorching weather aside, he says: “It was quite fun to stand on the touchline and scream.”

Pic: Netflix
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Nighy as football talent scout Mal in The Beautiful Game. Pic: Netflix

While Nighy may not necessarily look the part of a stereotypical football coach, he does work on his fitness, training three times a week. It’s something he insists he won’t be “winning any prizes for”, and he certainly won’t be sharing snaps of his workouts on Instagram.

‘My iPhone doesn’t see a lot of action’

He explains: “I’ve never been on social media. I’m lucky in that regard because I’m of an age where I can just about get away with it.

“I nearly went on it. I got very close to, I think it was Instagram, but I didn’t in the end make that jump.

“I don’t have a laptop. I mean, I’m carrying a computer in my pocket, obviously, like everybody else, but I’ve never had a computer. I’ve never owned one, again because I’m fortunate. I don’t need one for anything. I’ve got an iPhone, but there’s not a lot of action on it apart from, you know, the obvious.”

I can only guess ‘the obvious’ is phoning his nearest and dearest, including his daughter and friends. Nighy keeps his romantic dealings close to his chest, and since splitting with his partner of 26 years, he hasn’t been publicly linked to anyone new – either in the public eye or out.

Nighy and Anna Wintour at the Met Gala last year. Pic: Reuters
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Nighy with friend Anna Wintour at the Met Gala last year. Pic: Reuters

As one of Britain’s most recognisable actors, he’s humble in his appraisal of his five decade career spanning theatre, TV and film – reaching to Hollywood and back.

‘I didn’t expect acting to last’

“I don’t know what I’m cut out to be, but it probably isn’t an actor, although I don’t know if anybody is. I think we all have to bend ourselves out of shape to do whatever it is we do.

“I didn’t expect to be an actor. I didn’t expect when I became an actor that it would last very long. I didn’t have a Plan B, it was all basically out of necessity.

“I flunked school, so I didn’t have any qualifications for anything, and I didn’t have a Plan B, so I had no safety net. But, you know, it gradually worked out.”

With two BAFTAs, a Golden Globe and Teen Choice Award (yes really) to name but a few of his accolades, he’s being modest.

And his acting career is about to take a step into the unknown, with his first big horror role in First Omen coming to the screen next month.

Nighy as Cardinal Lawrence in The First Omen. Pic: 20th Century Studios
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Nighy as Cardinal Lawrence in The First Omen. Pic: Disney/20th Century Studios

A prequel to the 1976 original, it returns to the very beginning of the story, with Nighy warning it’s not a film for the feint hearted: “The early signs suggest that it is truly horrible.”

Red satin and holy socks

He does have a wide experience of otherworldly roles, if not out and out horror. Nighy lists a few. “In Shaun Of The Dead I was a werewolf. Yeah, I was a werewolf.”

(Nighy was actually a zombie, but the movie was filmed 20 years ago, and who’s splitting hairs?)

He goes on: “And I’ve been a vampire several times. And I’ve been a squid. If you count animations, I’ve been a rattle snake with a machine gun in its tail. But they’re not straight horror. [First Omen] is really my first horror movie, like what you’d call straight horror. So, it is a departure.”

It goes without saying he was well suited and booted for the role.

“I was dressed by the Vatican tailor. So, you can see I look my best if you’re going to be a priest. And I’m drenched in red satin”.

Rumour has it he was given holy socks from the Vatican shop as part of his costume. Blessed beyond doubt.

Nighy ‘can’t stand’ his own films

He says it “will frighten the life” out of its viewers, adding “a few people I’ve met who’ve seen it and who are horror freaks were stunned. One journalist actually said [they were] traumatised.”

But he doesn’t have to worry about nightmares himself. “I’ve never seen it and I’m never going to see it because I don’t watch films I’m in because I can’t stand it.”

Pic: Netflix
Image:
Pic: Netflix

Meanwhile, his latest offering, The Beautiful Game, is a very different prospect, crafted to leave the viewer uplifted rather than in pieces.

Nighy says it’s a feelgood nostalgia that takes him right back to his childhood. “The deal was when I was a kid, you went, you paid some money, you went to the cinema, and you came out feeling a bit better than you did when you went in. This is what [The Beautiful Game] is.”

The Beautiful Game is streaming now on Netflix, and The First Omen will be in cinemas from 5 April.

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