Balance September 2017 - 22

BILL
TOP OF THE

Away from the cameras, the scene-stealing actor is
happiest when floating through London during 'long
periods of no work'. Balance gets to grips with
a national treasure - and reluctant icon...
words by S CARLE T T RU S SELL
photography by ALEX B RA MA LL

W

hat should I expect from
spending an hour in Bill
Nighy's company? Half
the interviews I've read
with him portray him
as charming, erudite and wonderfully deadpan; from
the others, I get the distinct impression he'd rather be
somewhere else. Today, I seem to get both sides of Bill.
Dare I suggest he throw a party for his next birthday or
refer to acting as 'fun' or 'a passion,' he visibly shirks. Get
him on the subject of BB King or old London, however,
and his stories have me chuckling and him smirking. This
is also when the true Billy Mack-mannerisms appear, the
beloved character from Love Actually ('I was a little bit
too young for the Swinging Sixties. I was at school when
everyone was having ill-judged sex'). And then there are
the rare insights into his life that are quite moving. An hour
is nowhere near long enough to spend in Bill's company.
We're sitting on armchairs in the Soho Hotel. Bill
eschewed the sofa opposite me and pulled his chair next

22

to mine, offering me a cup of tea. 'No? It's there if you want
some anyway.' We begin by discussing his love of London.
Bill lives in west London but has spent years in the north
of the city. His latest film, The Limehouse Golem, is a gory,
gothic story set on the dirty cobbled streets of 19th century
London where his character, Detective Inspector John
Kildare, is assigned to solve a series of gruesome murders.
The original novel by Peter Ackroyd was based on actual
events and the film features Douglas Booth as notorious
performer Dan Leno, and a cameo of Karl Marx. 'I like the
juxtaposition between the fictional context and the real
historical figures,' Bill says. 'I've waited a while to play a
detective and I liked wandering London looking for clues.'

PARK LIFE
Some of Bill's best-loved places are in north London,
namely Hampstead and Highgate. 'I like feeling high up
above London,' he says. 'I love Waterlow Park - it's one of
my most cherished places. I have a book of hidden London
walks and I've done a few of them. The river walks are my
favourites. If you walk along the riverside you get all the
beautiful bridges and there are lots of nooks and crannies
you can creep into.' For Bill, it really is about the simple
pleasures. 'What I like is reading, music, caf├ęs and walking.
That's all I do and it keeps me busy. I love not doing stuff.'
Bill was born in Surrey in 1949, side-stepping the
Carnaby Street revolution entirely. 'I grew up in a small
town excluded from anything that might be described
as "swinging,"' he says, peering at me over his glasses.
He ventured to London in the 1970s though, he says:

BA LA N CE September 2017



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Balance September 2017

Balance September 2017 - 1
Balance September 2017 - 2
Balance September 2017 - 3
Balance September 2017 - 4
Balance September 2017 - 5
Balance September 2017 - 6
Balance September 2017 - 7
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