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Bill Nighy

Bill Nighy was born in Caterham, Surrey, in 1949 and trained for the stage at the Guildford School of Acting. He made his professional stage debut at Newbury's Watermill Theatre and subsequently gained experience at regional theatres like the Edinburgh Traverse, the Chester Gateway and the Liverpool Everyman. It was in Liverpool that he formed a touring theatre company with Julie Walters and Pete Postlethwaite, which played at a variety of venues. He made his first appearance in London in Comings and Goings at the Hampstead Theatre in November 1978.

Nighy's long association with the work of Sir David Hare began in the early 1980s when he was cast in Dreams of Leaving, a BBC film written and directed by Hare. They next worked together on Map of the World, which Hare both wrote and staged at the National Theatre in London. When Hare was asked by Peter Hall, the National's Artistic Director, to form a company of actors, Bill became a founding member of an ensemble that also included Anthony Hopkins.

Hare's first production for the new company was Pravda, a merciless satire about the British newspaper industry, which he co-wrote with Howard Brenton. Hopkins played the role of ruthless media tycoon Lambert Le Roux, with Nighy cast as his equally unscrupulous associate. The two actors were reunited for Hare's production of Shakespeare's King Lear with Nighy playing Edgar and Hopkins in the title role. A decade later, Nighy starred in Hare's Skylight, which won him a Barclay's Theatre Award and which played very successfully for a season at the Vaudeville Theatre in London's West End.

Nighy has regularly appeared at the National Theatre in a succession of new plays by leading British writers. In 1993, he starred as an ambitious academic in Tom Stoppard's Arcadia, in a production by Trevor Nunn. Seven years later, he received enormous critical acclaim and a Best Actor nomination in the prestigious Olivier Awards for his performance as psychiatrist Dr. Robert Smith in Blue/Orange, written by Joe Penhall and directed by Roger Michell.

Other theatre credits include two revivals of plays by Harold Pinter: Betrayal, at the Almeida Theatre, and A Kind of Alaska, at the Donmar Warehouse Theatre. Bill was also seen as Trigorin in a National Theatre production of Chekhov's The Seagull, opposite Judi Dench as Arkadina. Nighy had previously worked with Dame Judi on Absolute Hell (BBC) and they were recently reunited for the critically acclaimed film Notes on a Scandal, which also starred Cate Blanchett and was directed by Richard Eyre.

Nighy's long list of small-screen credits includes virtually every major drama series on British television, but it was his work on The Men's Room (BBC) in 1991 that first brought him particular attention. He then won a BAFTA Best Actor Award and a Royal Television Society Best Actor Award for his performance as a newspaper editor in the cult series State of Play. He has starred in two television films for writer and director Stephen Poliakoff: The Lost Prince, for which he won a Golden Satellite Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, and the extraordinary Gideon's Daughter. His performance as Lawrence, a middle-aged Treasury official rejuvenated by love in The Girl in the Cafe, won him a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Miniseries and widespread praise from critics.

Nighy made his movie debut in the early 1980s with appearances in such films as The Little Drummer Girl and it was another John le Carré screen adaptation, The Constant Gardener, that won him Best Supporting Actor at the British Independent Film Awards in 2005. But it was Still Crazy and his performance as aging rock vocalist Ray Simms that established Nighy's cinema profile and won him the Peter Sellers Award for Best Comedy Performance, given by the London Evening Standard. Nighy landed a second Peter Sellers Award for his work as the unforgettable washed-up pop star Billy Mack in Love, Actually, an enormously popular performance that also won him a London Film Critics Award and a Best Supporting BAFTA.

Other film credits include Underworld, Underworld: Evolution, Shaun of the Dead and Enduring Love. In 2003, Nighy won four Best Supporting Actor awards from the L.A. Film Critics Association for his performances in AKA, Lawless Heart, I Capture The Castle and Love, Actually. He also turned in stellar performances as pirate captain Davy Jones—half-squid, half-human—in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.

Nighy recently performed on Broadway in David Hare's production The Vertical Hour. He starred alongside Julianne Moore in the story of an American war correspondent challenged about her beliefs and culture after meeting an Englishman whose way of life comes as a surprise to her. The New York Times reported that it is "unlikely that any other actor could bring down the house as Mr. Nighy does… The New York Theatre Guide wrote, Everything he does and every movement he makes…is unique, and the Observer stated that Nighy gave one of the most remarkable performances ever seen on a New York stage." Clive Barnes of The New York Post said that Nighy has made eccentricity a way of acting and later added that his performance was wonderful and that "…anyone who's seen him in film or onstage in London expects nothing less."

Nighy also made a cameo appearance in Hot Fuzz, a film from the makers of Shaun of the Dead. Most recently, he was seen in Brian Singer's Valkyrie, co-starring alongside Tom Cruise and Patrick Wilson in this WWII thriller based on a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

Note: This profile was written in or before 2009.
Read earlier biographies on this page.

Bill Nighy Facts

Birth Name William Francis Nighy
BirthdayDecember 12, 1949 (74)
BirthplaceCaterham, England, United Kingdom
Height6' 1½" (1m87)  How tall is Bill Nighy compared to you?
Awards2007 Golden Globe Awards: Best Actor in a Mini-Series or TV Movie (for Gideon’s Daughter)
2004 BAFTA Awards: Actor in a Supporting Role (for Love Actually)

Selected Filmography

I Capture The Castle
Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Page Eight
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Astro Boy
Shaun of the Dead
About Time
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