Bill Nighy was in Sydney recently to to promote his role as a "chronically self-absorbed actor" in Lone Scherfig's WW2-set romantic drama Their Finest. He sat down with The Playlist's Nick Bhasin and Fiona Williams, and the pair can confirm that he is every bit the self-deprecating charmer you expect him to be.
Their Finest, now in cinemas, is set during the London Blitz. With the country’s morale at stake, an emerging screenwriter (Gemma Arterton) is assigned the task of writing an inspiring government sanctioned account of ordinary heroism, in a film to lift the war torn nation’s spirits - and inspire America to join the war. Bill plays a heightened version of a "serious actor", whose attention to his "craft" and his "process" is the source of comic relief.
Listen to the full episode of The Playlist (Bill Nighy interview starts 3:25)
In the interview, which you can hear in full above, Bill declares that it took him a great deal of time to understand the motivations of a celebrated thespian devoid of self-awareness. "Obviously it was a stretch and I had to do a lot of research".
Given the film-within-the-film's singular purpose: to rouse the spirits of the masses in trying times, Nick asks Bill whether he, too, feels a responsibility to leaven the stress of an anxious population, reeling from the shock and uncertainty surrounding Brexit, the election of President Donald Trump, and the general rise of nationalism around the world.
"The way things have been going lately, it brings to mind that myself and the people I mostly operate with have, broadly speaking, been in opposition to what goes on for most of my life, actually. But now it's an emergency," Bill says. "Therefore i think everyone is galvanised and shocked by recent events and you do feel that you want to do work that is useful in that respect. Fortunately this film is; I would categorise it as one of those jobs."
Elsewhere, Bill is characteristically frank about how found his 'style': "The thing that interest me is a simple thing but its endlessly fascinating, is to try and make the lines sound like they just occurred to you and you've never said them before, which might not sound like a great ambition in life but it's all I've got."
Off the back of watching his suave delivery of Ambrose Hilliard's lines, and given his penchant for a sharp suit, the thought occurs, have we been looking in the wrong places for James Bond? You mean for his grandfather?
"Well, why not? There seems to be a market out there. I could be the thinking woman's James Bond."
Make it happen, Broccoli family.
Their Finest is in cinemas now.