10 Things You Never Knew About Bill Nighy
Ever since his scene-stealing turn as aging rocker Billy Mack in Love Actually, Bill Nighy has become a bit of a British national treasure. His latest assignment is narrating Meerkat Manor: Rise of the Dynasty, a super-dramatic and visually stunning nature documentary series that follows three families of meerkats as they compete for food and resources in South Africa's rapidly changing Kalahari Desert. Whether Nighy's narrating an emotional or cheeky moment, he absolutely nails the vibe, as you can see in the clip below.
New episodes of Meerkat Manor: Rise of the Dynasty premiere Saturdays at 8pm ET on BBC America – or alternatively, you can watch the first episode online here. Let's whet our appetites for what's still to come by finding more about the series' charismatic voice.
1. He never watches any of his films because he can't bear to see himself on screen.
"The trouble is that confidence is a movable feast and I'm not famous for it," he told The Observer. "And, therefore, it takes me quite a long time to recover if I see myself on screen. Because all my fears about my inadequacies are confirmed when I watch myself. I know there's an answer, and the answer is, get over yourself. But that's hard. I suppose it’s a form of dysmorphia. I mean, I hope it's a form of dysmorphia."
2. He made the playlist for Swans Bar at Maison Assouline in London's Piccadilly, one of his favorite local spots to grab a coffee.
Nighy's selections – songs by Prince, Mary J Blige, Angie Stone, and Dr. John, among others – are every bit as classy as you'd expect.
3. Nighy lives right in the center of London and doesn't mind at all if fans stop him on the street.
He doesn't even mind if you ask him about Love Actually. "I walk everywhere, so I get approached at least 20 times a day and 15 of them want to talk about that film," he told Gentleman's Journal. "That's fine with me. If that kind of thing happens to you, you should just continually thank your lucky stars."
4. He knows his personal style and sticks to it.
"I always want to wear a suit, and I nearly always do," he told The Independent a few years ago. "I'm a fetishist about what they used to call 'a decent lounge suit.' I sort of want to wear the same dark blue suit every day, maybe with a different shirt. My range of enthusiasm is pretty narrow; I occasionally take a break into dark grey, possibly a stripe."
5. Before he was famous, he worked on an old-fashioned English market stall in his English hometown.
Recalling the experience, Nighy told the New York Times: “I was opposite the egg man. It was the summer where all the girls wore cheesecloth, the long wraparound skirts. I put the skirts on in order to advertise, and the egg man treated me with disdain. I used to sell a lot of cheesecloth."
6. He turned down the title role in Doctor Who.
Nighy guested in the 2010 episode "Vincent and the Doctor," but he revealed in 2013 that he was once approached about taking on the title role. "No disrespect to Doctor Who or anything, I just think that it comes with too much baggage," he said according to The Hollywood Reporter.
7. His daughter Mary Nighy is an actress and, more frequently in recent years, a director.
Her recent directing credits include episodes of long-running U.K. procedural Silent Witness and the acclaimed BBC/HBO drama series Industry.
8. He has Dupuytren’s contracture, a condition that causes some of his fingers to bend in towards the palm.
Asked if this hurts, Nighy told The Guardian: “Not at all. It started in my 20s. It was alarming and I should have had an operation on them at the time, but I didn’t because I was a mess and was frightened. It means I have a spooky handshake."
9. He has no problem with being cast as a "Bill Nighy type."
During an interview with The Guardian, Nighy said he feels there is "nothing wrong with doing things you've done before." He added: "I mean, people used to say: ‘I don’t want to get typecast’ – my big secret was that I couldn’t wait to get typecast. You know, the idea of going to work every day and doing the same thing … man! Wow! That’s like the greatest thing that could happen to me. I have no problem with that. And if there is a thing that people have come to expect from me, I’m very, very happy about that."
10. He also worked as a messenger boy for British country sports magazine The Field.
"When I first left school I wanted to be a writer like everybody else in the world," he told Gentleman's Journal. "I went to the National Youth Employment [service] with my mum and in those days they would open their big book of jobs and ask: 'What sort of thing are you looking for?'"
He continued: "I said I wanted to be a writer and the man was very kind and said: 'Umm well we haven’t got any jobs for authors but perhaps we can put you in the way of something that might lead to something literary.' My mum pushed her foot really hard down onto mine as if to say: 'Don’t be so bloody stupid' but he made me a messenger boy on The Field Magazine."
Nighy later "ran away to Paris" so he could attempt to "write the Great British short story," but his authorial ambitions didn't pan out and ultimately literature's loss became acting's gain.
Do you have a favorite Bill Nighy role or moment?