A Conversation with Bill Nighy

Bill Nighy

If I’m quite honest, I am still coming to terms with the fact that I am even in the position to be able to write an article quite like this one. 

On the 20th of September, I met Bill Nighy.

Mark Featherstone-Witty and Bill Nighy.

At the beginning of this academic year, I was fortunate enough to receive a place for the sixth form at Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts. Considering my deep love for the arts, more specifically acting; I have been constantly buzzing happily along every morning, making the commute to college. However, nothing could prepare me for the excitement I would face, just week 3 into the course (and my 18th birthday.)

The conversation was to be held in The Paul McCartney Theatre in the main LIPA building. The theatre, of which was packed with animated young actors from both college level and HE, awaiting the wise consultations of the widely loved, Bill Nighy.

The ever beautifully humble double BAFTA award-winner sat gracefully astute next to the schools’ director, Mark Featherstone-Witty, communicating a Q&A, encapsulating the entire room; dismissing any private conversation. Despite any preconceived confident exterior anyone had previously associated with Nighy, the discussion held a running theme of self-consciousness. He openly described how difficult he found acting throughout his career- “I am very good at producing negative propaganda about myself, I’m world class at it. I can listen to it now like a dodgy radio channel.” 

The talk was never low energy within talking about his insecurities and found a way of delivering his struggles with charm and pure inspiration, enthusing ” You can do incredible things whilst feeling chronically self- conscious, but you have to be really well prepared”. In fact, he went on to say “you have to be prepared like a motherfucker.” Which of course sent the room of 16-25 year olds into a rapturous applause.

Key advice Nighy was so keen to let us in on was pure preparation. “I’m quite familiar now with going onto film sets and being the only person who knows their lines.”
“They (other actors) will say you’ll become imprisoned by intonations and it’s therefore a discourtesy to your fellow professionals, but that’s bullshit.

“You keep it fresh by saying the line over and over and over again ‘til you can say it like you’ve never said it before – that’s the process.”
He understood that some actors think rehearsal is the enemy of spontaneity but not for him, he said: “It’s not. The reverse is true.”

A personal favourite response from the 75 minute session was one to answer the question of What was your most difficult role? To which he so cooly smirked So, I played a squid.”

All in all the experience had me, well, star struck and all I could manage when I stuck out a trembling hand for him to shake was “It was so lovely to listen to you.” But what I could take from the day was that any feelings of self- doubt or anxieties when performing is normal in a global success let alone me, accustomed to mirror singing and am-dram pantos; so I don’t think I have to worry quite as much.


Paige Janey x

I hope to be configuring a series of similar reports on my exciting endeavours into the wonderful guests at LIPA, so stay tuned!

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