Bill Nighy on Acting in Film: “I make it up as I go along”

Bill Nighy on what he learned from the many acclaimed playwrights he has worked with, including the importance of being funny.

While promoting the drama film The Kindness of Strangers, BAFTA Award winner Bill Nighy spoke with Collider about his background in acting and focused on specifically what he learned from the many acclaimed playwrights he has worked with — including, surprisingly, the importance of being funny while acting.

Though Nighy has a long history of working with gifted dramatic writers, he points to their abilities with comedy as one of the highlights of their skills. He explains, “Although I work with very serious playwrights, David Hare, Tom Stoppard, Harold Pinter, and they all have one thing in common: they all write world-class jokes. It’s a great way of delivering information and also of welcoming people–then you can tell them whatever you want to tell them. The other thing is that the idea of getting laughs is endlessly addictive.”

However, when it comes to acting, Nighy admits that he has no secret insight except that unlike in stage acting, an actor on film can achieve a lot with very little. He says, “I make it up as I go along and I’m never quite sure. It’s tricky because the camera sees everything and one of the things instinctively you discover is that less is required. As an audience member you see people on screen doing very small things and getting a very big laugh.”

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

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