A definitive countdown of our favourite Bill Nighy films
Bill Nighy is one of the country’s beloved character actors and whether he’s breaking hearts in Love, Actually, swashing his buckle in Pirates of the Caribbean or spinning records in The Boat That Rocked, Nighy has always been one of the nation’s most dextrous and treasured performers. In The Limehouse Golem – which arrives on Digital Download on Christmas Day, and on Blu-ray and DVD on Boxing Day – Nighy remarkably takes his first ever role as a detective, Inspector Kildare, who must discover the identity of a mass serial killer, nicknamed ‘the Limehouse Golem’, who is terrorizing the streets of Victorian London.
In honour of Nighy and his multi-faceted acting talents, let’s take a look at some of his greatest roles, to date.
Love, Actually (2003)
A perennial Christmas classic, Love Actually has stood the test of time and remains a firm favourite in households up and down the country. In the romantic comedy, Nighy has a ball as jaded rock’n’roll star Billy Mack; a character who keeps his frazzled manager Joe (Gregor Fisher) on his toes with his unpredictability and outlandish character. A ticking time bomb and no stranger to swearing live on air, Mack is a loose cannon who cannot be tamed. As the film progresses, it becomes clear that Mack’s world has narrowed and Joe is the only one who’s been there for him through thick and thin. Perfectly cast in a role that seems on the surface a caricature, Nighy adds bittersweet notes; creating the light and shade that has had audiences hooked for well over a decade.
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
The role of the incredibly grumpy and cold Philip in Edgar Wright’s Horror/Comedy Shaun of the Dead was something of a departure for Nighy, as he is anything but loveable from the moment he appears on the screen. The film follows our mess of a protagonist, Shaun (Simon Pegg), whose epiphany that leaves him desperate to get his life back on track happens to coincide with the start of the zombie apocalypse. When he goes to rescue his dear mother, he decides he should probably take his step-dad (he’s definitely not his step-dad) with them. Even though it’s clear the world is crumbling around them, Philip doesn’t miss a chance to have a few swift digs at his wife’s screw-up of a son, in the classic quick-witted style Nighy’s known and loved for.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)
Another not so subtle role for Nighy came in 2006’s fantasy action adventure, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. In the film Nighy plays one of the standout roles of the franchise; Davy Jones, a bizarre part octopus, part lobster, part man, who was once a human. Unable to deal with the grief of losing his true love, Jones cuts out his heart and puts it in the Dead Man’s Chest, which he then hides in a secret location. Not content with this, he takes it upon himself to collect the souls of dead or dying soldiers to serve on his ship, The Flying Dutchman, for 100 years. Jones also makes a return in the third instalment, At World’s End, with just a glimpse of him appearing in the fifth film, Dead Men Tell No Tales; a fact that Nighy himself wasn’t aware of until the film’s release!
The Boat That Rocked (2009)
Richard Curtis clearly sees Bill Nighy for what he is: One of the coolest men on the planet. For the second time (after Love, Actually), Bill is cast by one of Britain’s most prolific filmmakers as a true rock ‘n’ roller, desperate to keep the dream alive! Nighy plays Quentin, who runs pirate station Radio Rock; a station anchored in the North Sea and home to some of the most rebellious disc jockeys the swinging sixties had to offer. Nighy absolutely oozes cool in this role, and if we had to shack up with one person in the North Sea with nothing but liquor and rock ‘n’ roll music, he’d definitely top our list!
About Time (2013)
About Time is another Curtis-Nighy collaboration that sees Nighy adopt a slightly softer persona as James Lake; an early retiree with a fondness for Dickens and table tennis, husband to Mary (Lindsay Duncan), father to budding lawyer Tim (Domhnall Gleeson), and… oh, he’s also a time-traveller. In fact, so is Tim; time travel is a talent that runs through all the men in the Lake family. The night after another unsatisfactory New Year party, James reveals this time-bending trick to his son, and warns him that his new-found ability is something to use wisely and not on a whim. James departs his wisdom upon Tim, who soon learns that his unique gift can’t save him from the sorrows and ups and downs that affect all families, everywhere. Tim discovers that, in the end, making the most of life may not need time travel at all. Surely one of the most adorable and moving father-son relationships on film.
Their Finest (2016)
As Ambrose Hilliard, Nighy meets the indignity of playing a terrible actor brilliantly, serving thick chunks of largely talent-free ham in the scenes where he acts like he’s acting, while balancing that with the tragic weight of reality in more private moments as he both fights against and simultaneously accepts the hand the war has dealt his career as an actor. Scenes opposite Henry Goodman and Helen McRory (who individually and to varying degrees of success serve as Hilliard’s manager) allow him to let rip and deliver some peak Nighy, but he’s just as good when failing to realise he’s being manipulated by Gemma Arterton’s canny Catrin.
The Limehouse Golem (2017)
Victorian London is gripped with fear as a serial killer – dubbed The Limehouse Golem – is on the loose and leaving cryptic messages written in his victims’ blood. With few leads and increasing public pressure, Scotland Yard assigns the case to Inspector Kildare (Nighy) – a seasoned detective with a troubled past and a sneaking suspicion he’s being set up to fail. Faced with a list of suspects, including music hall star Dan Leno (Douglas Booth), Kildare must discover which one is the killer before the Golem strikes again. The Limehouse Golem marks a departure from Nighy’s traditional romantic-comedy safe ground, further showcasing his talent and cementing his position as one of Britain’s best-loved actors.