A good friend of mine who spends her summers in London seems to have the knack of running into faces we're familiar with on PBS. Judi Dench, Felicity Kendall, Gillian Walker, John Inman, John Thaw, and Frank Thornton are just some of the people she's met over the years. Her most recent encounter was with Bill Nighy, whom you might have seen as Worricker in the recent Masterpiece Contemporary series.
My friend's encounter with the sharply dressed Nighy came about after she'd seen him in his most recent West End play, Skylight. She reports that while he was very gentlemanly and allowed her to take a photograph, he did get slightly irritated when she wanted to take a second shot, as we all do, "just to be sure". Other than that she reports that Nighy was "very nice", with a reserved and charming demeanor much in keeping with how he comes across on film.
One of the things my friend couldn't fail to notice about Nighy - apart from his dapperly way of dressing - was his right hand. The actor suffers from a condition called Dupuytren's contracture where the ring and little finger of each hand are permanently bent inwards towards the palm.
Nighy, who will be 65 on December 12, hails from Caterham, Surry. His mother was a psychiatric nurse and his father managed a car garage. Raised in the Roman Catholic tradition - he was an altar boy - Nighy went to a Catholic high school and it was at his school's theatre group that he developed an appreciation for the stage. Acting wasn't Nighy's first love, though. Originally he'd planned on being a writer and following a short lived career as a messenger at a weekly newspaper office, he ran away to Paris then journeyed to Persia to write the great English novel.
It was a girlfriend who persuaded Nighy to take acting seriously and she suggested drama school. As Nighy tells it, he was so smitten he'd have become an astronaut if she'd have suggested that instead! Embarking on a stage career proved to be a good move, although Nighy jokingly says he's only an actor because he's been putting off being a writer for 35 years. Along with a stage career Nighy has also had received international fame for the films he has made: Love Actually; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1; Pirates of the Caribbean; The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel to name just a few. His television credits are equally as long.
Over time, Nighy has received many awards, but a fairly recent one wasn't for acting at all. That was last March when Nighy was listed as one of the fifty best-dressed over 50 by The Guardian newspaper. Nighy's is well known for his love of stylish suits: off screen you'll never see him in anything else. He will, however, only wear blue suits.
"I respond to dark blue more than any other color", explains Nighy. "I resist black, I don't know why I don't like black, but it doesn't make me comfortable. I feel uneasy even standing next to a man who's wearing a black suit."
Along with his fussiness about the suits he wears, Nighy is also known for other eccentricities. Tea for instance. He carries bags of his favorite blend - Yorkshire Gold - in his trouser pocket. He's also somewhat of a recluse, who detests "scheduled fun" and enjoys spending solitary time listening to Bob Dylan and Rolling Stones music.
For 27 years Nighy shared his life with actress Diana Quick who played spoiled aristocrat Julia Flyte in Brideshead Revisited. They never married, but their relationship was said to be one of the most solid in show business. The met when they were both performing at the National Theatre in 1981 and their daughter Mary was born in 1984. Nighy and Quick parted in 2008 on amicable terms, citing pressures of Nighy's increasingly demanding work schedule. Since then Nighy's career has continued to flourish. His most recent project is The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel due for release next year. In the meantime, you can see Nighy's play Skylight on film at the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington DC, as part of their National Theatre live broadcast program, which airs December 22nd to January 5th.
To contact Heather:
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117