By Lorie Kleiner Eckert
Bill Nighy, the British actor guy, is ubiquitous in his career. We can find him on the big screen, on TV, on stage, and on radio. We can hear his voice in animated kids’ films, in video games, in TV commercials, and in audio books. We can even find him in Viktor the Vampire mode as a collector’s doll! In spite of all of this, many American viewers confuse him with Bill Nye the science guy. Perhaps now that he has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Living, this new accolade will set the record straight.
Mr. Nighy is often called “the thinking woman’s crumpet” by journalists in his country. He is intelligent and physically attractive plus many of his movies have given women –- indeed, all viewers –- something to think about. His latest movie explores the big question, the meaning of life. As I talk about the new movie — and other films of his that I have enjoyed –- I will look for some nuggets of truth, proving that his films have more to offer than just his handsome face. In my book, this guy deserves to be recognized as Best Actor!
Movie #1: Living
What it’s about: A buttoned up bureaucrat in post WWII London learns he has a terminal illness, and is determined to get some living in before death overtakes him. The movie is a remake of a classic 1952 Japanese film called Ikiru.
A nugget of truth: When faced with his dire diagnosis, Bill Nighy’s character, Williams, tries a little debauchery, but doesn’t enjoy it. Next, he tries having a heart to heart with his son, but fails to get up the nerve to speak. So he does what he has always done, he goes to the office. He is the head of the Public Works Department, a division that pushes papers, but gets nothing done. He decides to take on an actual project! It ultimately becomes his legacy. Workaholics can rejoice as he proves that going to work isn’t all bad, as long as the work contributes to the greater good.
Movie #2: Love Actually
What it’s about: Considered to be one of the best Christmas movies of all time, this film has a large ensemble cast. They work together to remind us that love comes in many forms, not just romantic.
A nugget of truth: Bill Nighy’s character is an aging rock star looking for a comeback. When he succeeds, his new-found celebrity wins him an invitation to celebrate Christmas Eve at a party hosted by Elton John. Off he goes to the party only to change course as he chooses to spend the evening with Joe, his manager of thirty years. This reminds us that there are lots of Big Stars/bright objects out there to attract the eye, but a good friendship is an everlasting light in the heart.
Movie #3: About Time
What it’s about: Bill Nighy and Domhnall Gleeson are father and son in this story where the men of the family have the capability to travel in time to any place/time they have been before. But they need to be careful of the butterfly effect -– one small change in the past can accidentally affect other bits of history without intending to. Ultimately, Bill Nighy’s character has a terminal illness. Because of the butterfly effect -– and a major change in the son’s life after his father dies -– the men are no longer able to visit each other in the past.
A nugget of truth: The goodbye scene is short on words and long on emotion, especially for those who have known the joy of strong family bonds.
Bill Nighy says: “My son.”
Domhnall Gleeson responds: “My dad.”
As for me? I cry every time I watch it, ever grateful for familial love in general and my dad in particular.
Movie #4: The Girl in the Café
What it’s about: Bill Nighy is a buttoned up civil servant named Lawrence who works for the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He is a loner, perhaps because he is a workaholic or perhaps because he has few social skills. He meets a woman – Gina – by chance in a London café and a friendship ensues. Meatier than just a romance, Gina accompanies him to a G8 summit where she argues with the prime minister of the U.K. over the politics of poverty relief in Africa.
A nugget of truth: Forget all the politics, though they are moving, I was thrilled to watch Lawrence get up the nerve to call Gina for the first time and delighted to watch him jump for joy -– literally –- after hanging up. Recognizing and celebrating a success, wow!
Movie #5: The Boat That Rocked – aka Pirate Radio
What it’s about: This movie is historically based. It is set in 1966. The British government did not allow rock and pop music to play on BBC radio stations due to the “commercialism and low morals” of such music. To get around this ban, radio stations broadcast to the U.K. from ships anchored in international waters. This movie tells the story of a fictitious pirate radio station and its crew of disc jockeys.
A nugget of truth: From researching the film, I know two things. According to Bill Nighy, the purpose of this film was to thrill the audience with some of the greatest hits that have ever been made. Meanwhile, Director Richard Curtis says that when contemplating the meaning of life, music must be included. Thus, they take music from mundane to magical.
More movies too numerous to mention:
When I check the International Movie Database (IMDb) for Bill Nighy’s work, I am astounded by the number of roles beside his name –- one hundred and sixty three credits as an actor! As a mega fan, I’d give him a Lifetime Achievement Award, but I am ever so pleased he was nominated for Best Actor. I hope it will cause Bill Nighy -– the British Actor Guy – to become a household name.