Bill Nighy

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Bill Nighy
Bill Nighy-3007.jpg
Nighy at the Berlinale in February 2020
William Francis Nighy

(1949-12-12) 12 December 1949 (age 71)
Caterham, Surrey, England
Years active1976–present
Partner(s)Diana Quick (1980–2008)
Bill Nighy's signature.svg

William Francis Nighy (/n/;[1] born 12 December 1949)[2] is an English actor known for his work in film, stage, and television.

Nighy became widely known for his performance as Billy Mack in Love Actually (2003). Other notable roles in cinema include his portrayal of Davy Jones in the Pirates of the Caribbean film series, and Viktor in the Underworld film series. He is also known for his roles in the films Shaun of the Dead (2004), The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005), The Constant Gardener (2005), Notes on a Scandal (2006), Hot Fuzz (2007), Valkyrie (2008), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 (2010), voicing Grandsanta in Arthur Christmas (2011), The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012), and About Time (2013). His performances were also acclaimed in the BBC One series State of Play and in the TV films The Girl in the Café, Gideon's Daughter and Page Eight, for which he earned Golden Globe nominations, winning one for Gideon's Daughter.

In 2015, Nighy appeared on Broadway with Carey Mulligan in the acclaimed revival of Skylight and received a Tony Award nomination for Best Actor in a Play.

Early life and education[edit]

Nighy was born on 12 December 1949 in Caterham, Surrey.[2] His mother, Catherine Josephine Nighy (née Whittaker), was a psychiatric nurse of Irish descent born in Glasgow,[3] and his English father, Alfred Martin Nighy, managed a car garage after working in the family chimney sweeping business.[4]

Nighy was brought up as a Roman Catholic, and served as an altar boy.[5] He has two older siblings, Martin and Anna. Nighy attended the John Fisher School, a Roman Catholic grammar school in Purley, where he was a member of the school theatre group. After leaving the school with two O-levels, he worked as a messenger for The Croydon Advertiser.[6] He entered the Guildford School of Acting to train for stage and film.[7]


After two seasons at the Everyman Theatre, Liverpool, Nighy made his London stage debut at the National Theatre in an epic staging of Ken Campbell and Chris Langham's Illuminatus!, which opened the new Cottesloe Theatre on 4 March 1977. He was cast to appear in two David Hare premieres, also at the National. During the 1980s, he appeared in several television productions, among them Hitler's SS: Portrait in Evil with John Shea and Tony Randall.

Nighy has starred in many radio and television dramas, notably the BBC serial The Men's Room (1991). He claimed that the serial, an Ann Oakley novel adapted by Laura Lamson, was the job that launched his career.[8] More recently he has appeared in the thriller State of Play (2003) and the costume drama He Knew He Was Right (2004).

He played Samwise Gamgee in the 1981 BBC Radio dramatisation of The Lord of the Rings (where he was credited as William Nighy), and appeared in the 1980s BBC Radio versions of Yes Minister episodes. He starred with Stephen Moore and Lesley Sharp in the acclaimed short radio drama Kerton's Story, written by James Woolf and first aired in 1996. He had a starring role in the 2002 return of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, portraying crooked politician Jeffrey Grainger. He has also made a guest appearance in the BBC Radio 4 series Baldi.

Two of Nighy's most acclaimed stage performances were in National Theatre productions. As Bernard Nightingale, an unscrupulous university don, in Tom Stoppard's Arcadia (1993), he engaged in witty exchanges with Felicity Kendal, who played the role of Hannah Jarvis, an author. He played a consultant psychiatrist in Joe Penhall's Blue/Orange (2000), for which he won an Olivier Award nomination for Best Actor, and which transferred to the West End at the Duchess Theatre the following year. In 1997, Nighy starred as Tom Sergeant, a restaurant entrepreneur, in David Hare's Skylight, which had premiered in 1995 and was moved to the Vaudeville Theatre.[9][10]

Nighy received some recognition by American audiences for his acclaimed portrayal of overaged rock star Ray Simms in the 1998 film Still Crazy. In 1999 he gained further prominence in the UK with the starring role in "The Photographer", an episode of the award-winning BBC-TV mockumentary comedy series People Like Us, playing Will Rushmore, a middle aged man who has abandoned his career and family in the deluded belief that he can achieve success as a commercial photographer.

In 2003, Nighy played the role of the Vampire Elder Viktor in the American production Underworld. He returned in the same role in the sequel Underworld: Evolution in 2006, and again in the prequel Underworld: Rise of the Lycans in 2009. In February 2004, he was awarded the BAFTA Film Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Billy Mack in Love Actually. At the BAFTA Television Awards in April 2004, he won the Best Actor award for State of Play. He also appeared in the comedy Shaun of the Dead.

In early 2004, The Sunday Times reported that Nighy was on the shortlist for the role of the Ninth Doctor in the 2005 revival of the BBC television series Doctor Who.[11] Christopher Eccleston ultimately filled the role.

In 2005, he appeared as Slartibartfast in the film adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. He also appeared in the one-off BBC One comedy-drama The Girl in the Café. In February 2006, he appeared in scriptwriter Stephen Poliakoff's one-off drama, Gideon's Daughter. Nighy played the lead character, Gideon, a successful events organiser who begins to lose touch with the world around him. This performance won him a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Mini-series or TV Film in January 2007. Also in 2006, Nighy made his Broadway debut at the Music Box Theatre alongside Julianne Moore in The Vertical Hour, directed by Sam Mendes.

Bill Nighy at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival in Canada

In 2006, Nighy played the principal villain, Davy Jones, in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, although his face was entirely obscured by computer-generated makeup; he voiced the character with a Scots accent. He reprised the role in the 2007 sequel, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, in which his real face was briefly revealed in one scene. He also provided the narration for the Animal Planet series Meerkat Manor. In 2006 he played the role of Richard Hart in Notes on a Scandal, for which he was nominated for a London Film Critics' Circle award. Nighy also appeared as General Friedrich Olbricht, one of the principal conspirators, in the 2008 film Valkyrie. He had played an SS officer in the 1985 Hitler's SS: Portrait in Evil. Nighy starred in the film Wild Target in 2010.[12]

In July 2009, he announced that he would play Rufus Scrimgeour in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1.[13] Nighy had already worked with director David Yates twice, and with the majority of the Harry Potter cast in previous films. He has said of his role as Rufus Scrimgeour that it meant he was no longer the only English actor not to be in Harry Potter.[13]

In 2010 he made a small cameo in Doctor Who, in the episode titled "Vincent and the Doctor".

Nighy voiced Grandsanta in the 2011 CGI animated film Arthur Christmas.[14] In 2012, he starred in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Wrath of the Titans, and the remake of Total Recall.[15] In 2013, he played a role in Darkside, Tom Stoppard's radio drama based on Pink Floyd's album The Dark Side of the Moon.[16]

In 2014 he starred with Carey Mulligan in a revival of David Hare's Skylight at Wyndham's Theatre in London's West End.[17] It had a large international audience via broadcast in the National Theatre Live series.[18][10] He and Mulligan also starred in the play when it was transferred to Broadway in 2015.[19] In 2016, he provided the voice of Socrates in the critically panned animated feature Norm of the North.

In 2020 he appeared as Mr Woodhouse, Emma's father, in Emma.[a] (2020).[21]

Personal life[edit]

Nighy had a relationship with English actress Diana Quick, with whom he has a daughter, actress Mary Nighy. The couple separated in 2008. He has Dupuytren's contracture, a hereditary condition which can, depending on the condition's severity, cause contractures of the fingers, most commonly the ring and little fingers.[22]

Nighy is a supporter of Crystal Palace F.C. and is the Patron of the CPSCC (Crystal Palace Children's Charity),[23] and of the Ann Craft Trust.[24] He is also one of the Honorary Patrons of the London children's charity Scene & Heard.[25]

Nighy is also a patron of the Milton Rooms, a new arts centre in Malton, North Yorkshire, along with Imelda Staunton, Jools Holland and Kathy Burke.[26]

Known for his support of total gender equality, Nighy noted in an interview during the 2016 DIFF film festival that the highlighting of the gender inequality problem had been a factor in his choice of films.[27] He has also spoken of his role in Pride, a film extolling the mutual support between the National Union of Miners and gay rights' groups in the UK in the 1980s, as one of his most cherished.[28]

Nighy is noted for his bespoke navy suits.[29] He was listed as one of the 50 best-dressed over-50s by The Guardian in March 2013[30] and one of GQ's 50 best-dressed British men in 2015.[31]

Nighy's name is similar to famous American engineer and television host Bill Nye. Nighy has admitted that in the past, he had disappointed his daughter's friends for not being the same man. He finally got to meet him in 2015 at Cafe Fiorello located in New York City. Nighy was happy to finally meet him stating, "He was very gracious and we had a laugh, and he'd had this conversation with people same as I had, so it was quite funny to finally be united."[32]



Year Film Role Notes
1979 The Bitch Flower Delivery Boy Uncredited
1980 Death Watch Man in 'Harriet scene' Uncredited
1981 Eye of the Needle Squadron Leader Blenkinsop
1983 Curse of the Pink Panther ENT Doctor
1984 The Little Drummer Girl Al
1985 Hitler's SS: Portrait in Evil Helmut Hoffmann
Thirteen at Dinner Ronald Marsh
1989 The Phantom of the Opera Martin Barton
1994 Being Human Julian
1996 True Blue Jeremy Saville
1997 FairyTale: A True Story Edward Gardner
1998 Still Crazy Ray Simms
1999 Guest House Paradiso Mr. Johnson
2001 Blow Dry Raymond "Ray" Robertson
Lawless Heart Dan
Lucky Break Roger "Rog" Chamberlain
2002 AKA Uncle Louis Gryffoyn
2003 Ready When You Are, Mr. McGill Phil Parish
Love Actually Billy Mack
I Capture the Castle James Mortmain
Underworld Viktor
2004 Shaun of the Dead Philip
Enduring Love Robin
2005 The Magic Roundabout Dylan (voice) (UK version)
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Slartibartfast
The Constant Gardener Sir Bernard Pellegrin
2006 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest Davy Jones
Underworld: Evolution Viktor
Stormbreaker Alan Blunt
Flushed Away Whitey (voice)
Notes on a Scandal Richard Hart
2007 Hot Fuzz Chief Inspector
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End Davy Jones
2008 Valkyrie Friedrich Olbricht
A Fox's Tale The Ringmaster
2009 Underworld: Rise of the Lycans Viktor
The Boat That Rocked Quentin
G-Force Leonard Saber
Astro Boy Professor Simon Elefun/Robotsky (voice)
Statuesque Mr. Jellaby Short film
Glorious 39 Sir Alexander
2010 Wild Target Victor Maynard
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 Rufus Scrimgeour
2011 Rango Rattlesnake Jake (voice)
Chalet Girl Richard
Arthur Christmas Santa Claus XIX / Grandsanta Voice
The Man with the Stolen Heart Narrator [33]
2012 The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Douglas Ainslie
Wrath of the Titans Hephaestus
Total Recall Matthias Lair
2013 Great White Shark 3D Narrator (voice) [34]
Jack the Giant Slayer Fallon (voice)
The World's End The Network (voice)
About Time James Lake
2014 I, Frankenstein Naberius
Pride Cliff
2015 The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Douglas Ainslie
2016 Dad's Army Sergeant Wilson
Norm of the North Socrates (voice)
Their Finest Ambrose Hilliard / Uncle Frank
The Limehouse Golem John Kildare
2017 The Bookshop Mr. Edmund Brundish
2018 Sometimes Always Never Alan
2019 The Kindness of Strangers Timofey
Detective Pikachu Howard Clifford
Hope Gap Edward
StarDog and TurboCat Sinclair (voice)
2020 Emma. Mr. Woodhouse
Minamata Robert Hayes


Year Title Role Notes
1976 Softly, Softly: Taskforce Albert Blake Episode: "Say it with Flowers"
1978–1982 Play for Today Dave/William/Bill 3 episodes
1979 Premier Deasey Episode: "Deasey"
1980 Agony Vincent Fish Season 2
Fox Colin Street 2 episodes
BBC2 Playhouse Bruno Episode: "Standing in for Henry"
1982 Minder Oates Episode: "Looking for Micky"
Play for Tomorrow Connor Mullen Episode: "Easter 2016"
1983 Reilly, Ace of Spies Goschen Episode 3: "1905: The Visiting Fireman"
Jemima Shore Investigates David Cullen Episode: "A Model for Murder"
1984 Crown Court Lee Sinclair Episode: "The Son of His Father: Part 1"
1985 The Last Place on Earth Cecil Meares Miniseries: 7 episodes
1989 Storyboard Sam Episode: "Making News"
1990 Making News Sam Courtney 6 episodes
Screenplay Howard Nash Episode: "Antonio and Jane"
TECX Brill Episode: "Writing on the Wall"
1991 The Men's Room Mark Carleton BBC serial
Bergerac Barry Episode: "All for Love"
Boon Steve Reeves Episode: "Pillow Talk"
1991–1993 Performance/Absolute Hell Roger Maitland/Hugh Marriner 2 episodes
1992 Chiller Tom Dickenson Episode: "The Cat Brought It In"
A Masculine Ending John Tracey Television film
1993 Eye of the Storm Tom Frewen 6 episodes
Peak Practice Alan Sinclair Episode: "Growing Pains"
Don't Leave Me This Way John Tracey Television film
The Maitlands Roger Maitland BBC TV production
1994 Wycliffe David Cleeve Episode: "The Four Jacks"
1996 Testament: The Bible in Animation Belshazzar (voice) Episode: "Daniel"
1997 Insiders Mark Gordon Episode: "The Vat Man"
Kavanagh QC Giles Culpepper QC Episode: "Ancient History"
1999–2000 Kiss Me Kate Ian 5 episodes
1998–2000 The Canterbury Tales The Merchant 2 episodes
1999 People Like Us Will Rushmore Episode: "The Photographer"
2000 Longitude Lord Sandwich
Animated Tales of the World Tiger (Voice) Episode: "A Story of Taiwan: Aunt Tiger"
2002 Auf Wiedersehen, Pet Jeffrey Grainger Season 3
The Inspector Lynley Mysteries Alan Lockwood Episode: "Well Schooled in Murder"
2003 State of Play Cameron Foster 6 episodes
Ready When You Are, Mr. McGill Phil Parish Television film
The Lost Prince Arthur Bigge, 1st Baron Stamfordham Television film
The Canterbury Tales James Episode: "The Wife of Bath"
The Young Visiters Earl of Clincham Television film
Life Beyond the Box: Norman Stanley Fletcher Narrator (voice) Television film
2004 He Knew He Was Right Colonel Osborne 3 parts
2005 The Girl in the Café Lawrence Television film
Gideon's Daughter Gideon Warner Television film
2006 Horizon Narrator (voice) Episode: "The Great Robot Race"
2009 10 Minute Tales Mr Jellaby Episode: "Statuesque"
2010 Doctor Who Dr. Black Uncredited; episode: "Vincent and the Doctor"
2011 Page Eight Johnny Worricker BBC TV series: The Worricker Trilogy
2014 Turks & Caicos Johnny Worricker BBC TV series: The Worricker Trilogy
Salting the Battlefield Johnny Worricker BBC TV series: The Worricker Trilogy
2017 Red Nose Day Actually Billy Mack Television short film
2018 Ordeal by Innocence Leo Argyll BBC TV series[35]
2020 Castlevania Saint Germain (voice)


Year Title Role Author Venue Ref.
1969 Plaza Suite Asst. Stage Manager Neil Simon Watermill Theatre, Newbury [36]
1969 The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore Performer Tennessee Williams Watermill Theatre, Newbury [37]
1971 Landscape and Silence Performer Harold Pinter Gateway Theatre, Chester [37]
1971 Entertaining Mr Sloane Mr. Sloane Joe Orton Gateway Theatre, Chester [37]
1971 Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead Performer Tom Stoppard Arts Theatre, Cambridge [38]
1971 The Immoralist Performer André Gide Hampstead Theatre [38]
1971 Speak Now Timmy Olwen Wymark Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh [38]
1971 Under New Management Harold Chris Bond Everyman Theatre, Liverpool [37]
1972 Freedom of the City Skinnwe Brian Friel Everyman Theatre, Liverpool [39]
1976 Occupy! Player Everyman Theatre, Liverpool [40]
1977 Illuminatus! Performer Ken Campbell/Chris Langham National Theatre, London [41]
1978 Comings and Goings Vernon Mike Stott Hampstead Theatre Club [42]
1979 The Warp Performer Neil Oram/ Ken Campbell Institute of Contemporary Arts, London [40]
1980 Illuminations Gorman Arthur Rimbaud Lyric Hammersmith [43]
1983 A Map of the World Performer David Hare National Theatre, London
1985 Pravda Eaton Sylvester David Hare/ Howard Brenton National Theatre, London [44]
1986 King Lear Edgar William Shakespeare National Theatre, London [45]
1987 Mean Tears Julian Peter Gill National Theatre, Cottesloe [46]
1991 Betrayal Jerry Harold Pinter Almeida Theatre, London
1993 Arcadia Bernard Nightingale Tom Stoppard National Theatre, London [47]
1994 The Seagull Trigorin Anton Chekhov National Theatre, London [48]
1995–97 Skylight Tom Sergeant David Hare National Theatre, Vaudeville Theatre UK tour
1998 A Kind of Alaska Hornby Harold Pinter Donmar Warehouse [49]
2000–2001 Blue/Orange Robert Joe Penhall National Theatre, Cottesloe
Duchess Theatre, London
2006 The Vertical Hour Oliver Lucas David Hare Music Box Theater, Broadway [40]
2014 Skylight Tom Sergeant David Hare Wyndham's Theatre, West End [50]
2015 Skylight Tom Sergeant David Hare John Golden Theatre, Broadway [50]


Date Title Role Station
1981 The Lord of the Rings Sam Gamgee[51] BBC Radio 4
1983 Yes, Minister Frank Weisel BBC Radio 4
1993 Arcadia Bernard Nightingale BBC Radio 3
1994 Ancient Enemies Un­known BBC Radio 4
1999 So Much Blood Charles Paris BBC Radio 4 Saturday Play
2002 Blue/Orange Un­known BBC Radio 4
2003 Baldi: The Book Case O'Connor BBC Radio 4 Afternoon Play
2003 Turtle Diary William BBC Radio 4 Saturday Play
2004 A Series of Murders Charles Paris BBC Radio 4 Saturday Play
2004 All Fingers and Thumbs Tom BBC Radio 4 Afternoon Play
2006 A Charles Paris Mystery: Sicken and So Die[52] Charles Paris BBC Radio 4
2007 A Charles Paris Mystery: Murder Unprompted[53] Charles Paris BBC Radio 4
2008 I Wish to Apologise for My Part in the Apocalypse[54] Keith BBC Radio 4 Afternoon Play
2008 A Charles Paris Mystery: Dead Side of the Mic[55] Charles Paris BBC Radio 4
2009 Educating Rita[56] Frank BBC Radio 4 Saturday Play
2010 Private Lives[57] Elyot BBC Radio 4 Saturday Play
2010 A Charles Paris Mystery: Cast in Order of Disappearance[58] Charles Paris BBC Radio 4
2010 A Charles Paris Mystery: Murder in the Title[59] Charles Paris BBC Radio 4
2011 The Bat Man[60] Christopher BBC Radio 4 Afternoon Play
2013 Darkside[16] The Witch Finder / Doctor Antrobus BBC Radio 2
2016 A Charles Paris Mystery: A Decent Interval[61] Charles Paris BBC Radio 4
2019 A Charles Paris Mystery: Star Trap[62] Charles Paris BBC Radio 4
2020 A Charles Paris Mystery: A Doubtful Death[63] Charles Paris BBC Radio 4

Video games[edit]

Year Title Voice
2009 G-Force Leonard Saber
2013 Disney Infinity Davy Jones
2014 The Elder Scrolls Online High King Emeric
Destiny The Speaker[64]
2015 The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited High King Emeric
Disney Infinity 3.0 Davy Jones[65]
2017 The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind High King Emeric
Destiny 2 The Speaker
2018 The Elder Scrolls Online: Summerset High King Emeric
2019 The Elder Scrolls Online: Elsweyr High King Emeric
2020 The Elder Scrolls Online: Greymoor High King Emeric
2020 Kosmokrats Narrator

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Nominated work Award Category Result
1998 Still Crazy Satellite Award Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Nominated
2001 Lawless Heart Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award Best Supporting Actor Won
BIFA Award Best Actor in a British Independent Film Nominated
2002 AKA Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award Best Supporting Actor Won
2003 Love Actually BAFTA Award Best Supporting Actor Won
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award Best Supporting Actor Won
Evening Standard British Film Awards Peter Sellers Award for Comedy Won
Washington D.C. Film Critics Award Best Ensemble Won
Phoenix Film Critics Society Award Best Cast Nominated
Satellite Award Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Nominated
2003 I Capture the Castle Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award Best Supporting Actor Won
2003 State of Play British Academy Television Award Best Actor Won
2003 The Lost Prince Satellite Award Best Supporting Actor - TV Won
2005 The Girl in the Café Golden Globe Award Best Actor in a Mini-Series or TV Movie Nominated
2006 Gideon's Daughter Golden Globe Award Best Actor in a Mini-Series or TV Movie Won
Satellite Award Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film Won
2006 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest Teen Choice Awards Choice Movie: Villain Won
MTV Movie Award MTV Movie Award for Best Villain Nominated
Saturn Award Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor Nominated
Teen Choice Awards Choice Movie: Villain Won
2011 Arthur Christmas Annie Award Voice Acting in a Feature Production Won
2011 Page Eight Golden Globe Award Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film Nominated
Satellite Award Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film Nominated
2015 Skylight Tony Award Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play Nominated


  1. ^ The title of the film has a period attached to signify it being a period piece.[20]


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  31. ^ "50 Best Dressed Men in Britain 2015". GQ. 5 January 2015.
  32. ^ Alexander, Keira (23 March 2017). "Bill Nighy talks Bill Nye confusion, and the time they met in NYC". AM NY. Retrieved 3 March 2021.
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  34. ^ "Great White Shark 3D". Retrieved 1 November 2013.
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  36. ^ Desk, BWW News. "The Watermill Celebrates 50 Years of Producing Theatre and Three London Transfers in 2017".
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  46. ^ Clum, John M. (4 May 2018). Staging Gay Lives: An Anthology Of Contemporary Gay Theater. Routledge. ISBN 9780429965753 – via Google Books.
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  63. ^ "BBC – A Charles Paris Mystery – A Doubtful Death". BBC. May 2020.
  64. ^ Destiny – End Credits – IGN Video. IGN Video. 11 September 2014. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  65. ^ Avalanche Software. Disney Infinity 3.0. Scene: Closing credits, 5:39 in, Featuring the Voice Talents of.

External links[edit]