Bill Nighy

Active - 1979 - Present  |   Born - Dec 12, 1949 in Caterham, Surrey, England  |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Adventure

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Biography by AllMovie

BAFTA-winning veteran actor Bill Nighy gained international recognition in 2003 thanks to his role as a Keith Richards-esque former rock star in the hit romantic comedy Love Actually. Nighy had remained a relatively obscure figure even in his native England until a memorable turn as a controversial politician in series three of the acclaimed television comedy drama Auf Wiedersehen, Pet found him finally thrust into the spotlight in 2002. A Caterham, Surrey native, Nighy excelled in English language and literature early on; however, even though his journalistic instincts were strong, his lack of education prevented him from a career in the media. Work as a bike messenger for Field Magazine helped the aspiring writer keep his toes in the business, and a suggestion by his girlfriend that Nighy try his hand at acting eventually prompted him to enroll in the Guildford School of Dance and Drama. As the gears began to turn and his career as an actor started to gain momentum, Nighy was encouraged to stick with the craft after landing a series of small roles.

Though British television provided Nighy with most of his early exposure, supporting roles in such features as Curse of the Pink Panther (1983) and The Phantom of the Opera (1989) found the actor honing his skills and laying the groundwork for future feature success. Though Nighy stuck almost exclusively to the small screen in the early '90s, his supporting role in the 1993 Robin Williams film Being Human seemed to mark the beginning of a new stage in his career, focusing mainly on features. A part in the 1997 film Fairy Tale: A True Story found Nighy climbing the credits, and the following year he joined an impressive cast including Timothy Spall, Stephen Rea, and Billy Connolly in the rock comedy Still Crazy. It was his role in Still Crazy that gained Nighy his widest recognition to date -- earning the up-and-coming actor the Peter Sellers Evening Standard Award for Best Comedy Performance. Nighy's role as a conflicted husband who embarks on a heated extramarital affair in 2001's Lawless Heart continued his impressive career trajectory, and later that same year he would land a role in The Full Monty director Peter Cattaneo's jailbreak comedy Lucky Break.

A role in the long-running U.K. television series Auf Wiedersehen, Pet finally found Nighy earning some deserved recognition in 2002, and after a winning performance as the patriarch of an eccentric family in I Capture the Castle (2003), he continued to earned even more accolades for his performance in Love Actually. His part as an ancient vampire in the gothic action horror hit Underworld found Nighy's recognition factor rising for mainstream audiences on the other side of the pond, and before jetting into the future with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in 2005, the increasingly busy actor would appear in three feature films in 2004, including the horror comedy Shaun of the Dead, Doogal, and Enduring Love. By the time Nighy received an Emmy nomination for his role as a loved-starved civil servant falling for an enigmatic younger woman in the 2005 made-for-television romantic comedy-drama The Girl in the Café, television fans in both the U.S. and the U.K. knew well of Nighy's impressive range as an actor.

Yet another small-screen role in that same year's Gideon's Daughter allowed Nighy a chance to play a serious role once again. Playing a burned-out PR agent who is forced to reevaluate his life when his adult daughter threatens to cease all contact with him, Nighy gave a performance that moved critics and audiences alike, later earning him a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Mini-Series or TV Movie. Soon the actor was venturing into lands of fantasy once again, however, reprising his role as Viktor in Underworld: Evolution, and taking to the high seas as the legendary squid-faced sailor Davy Jones (captain of the Flying Dutchman) in director Gore Verbinski's big-budget summer extravaganza Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. That film, of course, became a predictable sensation (it grossed over one billion dollars worldwide) and (more than any of Nighy's prior efforts) launched the British actor into the public spotlight for audiences of all ages, who were understandably impressed with the presence he was able to exude onscreen despite the layers of makeup and CG it took to make him into a squid-man.

Nighy stayed the course of big-budget fantasy, with a turn as Alan Blunt in that same year's Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker, then signed on for another turn as Davy Jones in 2007's Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, co-starring this time with the inspiration for some of his previous characters, Keith Richards. Nighy would spend the next several years appearing in such acclaimed films as Valkyrie, Pirate Radio, and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

Nighy has maintained a life partnership with veteran British stage and screen actress Diana Quick since 1981. Though the two don't subscribe to the legal institution of marriage (much like long-standing Hollywood couple Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon), Nighy has been known to refer to Quick as his wife simply to avoid confusion. The couple's daughter, Mary Nighy, was born in 1984 and is also an actress.

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  • At age 15, ran away from home, intending to write a book; got as far as the South of France and, starving, turned to the British consul for help. His father wired him money so he could return home.
  • Came to prominence in England starring in the 1991 BBC2 drama The Men's Room.
  • Won BAFTAs for his work in Love Actually and the British miniseries State of Play (both 2003).
  • Made his Broadway debut opposite Julianne Moore in 2006's The Vertical Hour.
  • Is a huge Rolling Stones fan.
  • Suffers from Dupuytren's contracture, a hereditary condition that has left the two last fingers on both hands permanently bent toward the palms.
  • Provides narration for the popular Animal Planet series Meerkat Manor.