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Bill Nighy on the New York City subway.

On a visit to New York, British actor Bill Nighy has come to the defense of Occupation Wall Street — and the wider related protests against corporate greed.

He told me: “All of the protesters around the world have impressed me with their dignity and their restraint and their consequent power.”

“They seem to be decent men and women,” Nighy says, “who have finally come to the point where they need to express their disquiet because the situation is so graphic.”

The actor made it clear that he was commenting on the protests in his role as an ambassador for Oxfam, the British international aid agency. As such, Nighy is in favor of a “Robin Hood” tax that would take from the wealthy financial sector and give to the needy.

“The Robin Hood tax is a very sweet idea,” he says.

Nighy, speaking to me on board a stationary New York subway car parked beneath Grand Central Station, also talked about another legendary figure who has historically been involved in a slightly different kind of distribution of wealth – Santa Claus. The train was, in fact, driven by Santa Claus and saturated with movie advertising, all part of a big effort to promote the animated feature, Arthur Christmas, which will be released next week (Nov. 23).

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When asked about the world financial system, Nighy maintains that the derivatives market is right now somewhere in the neighborhood of $620 trillion, and it’s entirely untaxed. He says financial experts claim that governments can’t tax derivates.

“Yes, you can,” Nighy counters. “Of course, you can.”

When asked about the new holiday movie, Nighy said he sees it as basically an entertainment but acknowledges it can be viewed partly as a satire on the corporatization of Christmas.

Nighy provides the voice of Grandsanta, one of the picture’s key characters. The film tells the story of how Santa’s son Arthur, voiced by James McAvoy, strives against the odds to make sure that a young girl receives her Christmas gift after it was inadvertently left behind at a vast mechanized corporate gift distribution center at the North Pole.

He’ a real fan of the animated picture, a co-production from Britain’s Aardman Animations and Sony Pictures, which has been winning some rave reviews.

“I’m proud about this film,” Nighy says. “I was very desperate to be in it because the script was one of the best I’d read for years. Who knows, but I think it’ll be a perennial.”

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By Tom Brook