Bill Nighy on Why He Doesn’t Watch His Own Movies: “All I see are my mistakes”

“Generally, every morning, I have to start from scratch.” – Bill Nighy on Being an Actor

One of the many funny thing about some actors is that it doesn’t matter how many awards they win, how many good reviews they receive, or how much money their projects make — these actors will always think they’re not good enough. In fact, it’s not uncommon for actors — even wildly successful ones — to never revisit their movies. One such example is Billy Nighy, who tells Entertainment Weekly that it’s “too upsetting” and “too uncomfortable-making” to watch himself on screen.

Much like many other actors, Nighly admits that he doesn’t watch the movies he appears in. He reveals, “I don’t watch the movies I’m in if I can help it. It takes me too long to recover. It has nothing to do with the movies. I’m comfortable now with the idea that, thank God, there is a disparity between what I think and what other people think. But I stopped watching myself very early on because it was too upsetting. Too uncomfortable-making… I made the mistake of watching myself [when I was younger] because I thought, ‘Well, I’m on TV so I should watch!’ And then I did and I wanted to kill myself, so I said, ‘How about I never do that again?'”

So why did Nighy vow never to watch himself on screen again? He says, “All I see are my mistakes. Nobody else knows about it and that’s fine. It’s only me that knows: those little compromises, those dreadful tics, that default thing I reach for when I can’t really figure the scene out. And I think, ‘Oh, man, it’s just the same old blues.'”

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Of course, Nighy isn’t completely self-deprecating about his work. He says there are some moments in which he feels like he’s nailing it — he describes, “There are so many elements that have to come together for the conditions to be right. But I think I know when it’s any good. Most of the time it’s half-good. But now and again I feel like, ‘Yeah, I know exactly how to do this.'”

If Nighy is so unhappy with some of his performances, how does he convince himself to keep going? He explains, “In the end, I keep going on being an actor. And some days are easier than others, but I always have to kind of persuade myself into it each day. I’m not sustained by precedent. Generally, every morning, I have to start from scratch.”