An established stage and screen actor, William “Bill” Frances Nighy has been working in the industry for the best part of four decades. Born on December 12, 1949, Bill grew up in the Home Counties town of Caterham, Surrey. After a short stint as an aspiring journalist, Bill went on to study acting at the Guildford School of Dance and Drama and has seemingly never looked back.
After a string of theatre, film, and television roles, Bill credits his part in the popular black comedy TV series, The Men’s Room, as his breakthrough role. His portrayal as the womanizing Professor Mark Carleton led him in a path of notable roles, before gaining international recognition, and a BAFTA award, for his performance of aging rock star, Billy Mack in Love Actually. Since then, Bill has maintained a varied career, from supporting roles in successful franchises, including Harry Potter and Pirates of the Carribean, to character driven independent films and television series such as The State of Play and Gideon’s Daughter. In recent years, Bill has been seen in Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy and alongside Potter alumnus, Domhnall Gleeson, in About Time.
Bill has one daughter, Mary Nighy, from his 27 year marriage with actor Diana Quick.
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Bill portrayed Minister for Magic, Rufus Scrimgeour, in the penultimate film of the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1. His portrayal of the role is sparse, appearing in a couple of pivotal scenes. His casting in the role came after much campaigning on behalf of himself, and the Potter fandom, for him to secure a role in the series. He was often heard to, jokingly, complain that he was “the only remaining English actor not to work in Harry Potter” and mock David Yates for not getting him involved.
I’ve worked David Yates three times. He never writes. He never calls. He’s lousy.
He announced his involvement with the series in June 2009 although he was initially rather cagey about the subject, commenting only, “I don’t think I’m allowed to say it but I’m going to be in the next Harry Potter film. I won’t say which character, but he’s a goodie. I just got the gig.”
At the 2014 Toronto Film Festival, Bill spoke to BuzzFeed News about his role as Scrimgeour, revealing why the character was Welsh, and why he was so delighted to get the role.
Harry Potter, funnily enough, is the only other time [other than Pride] I’ve ever played anybody Welsh. I had no excuse to play him Welsh. I just thought it might be, you know, “interesting.” In other words, I couldn’t think of anything else. I went to the director [David Yates] and said, “You know what, I think he might be Welsh.” Much to my amazement, the director said, “Yeah, well, why not? Try that!” I had a very, very impressive wig, which I thought made me look kind of cool. It made me incredibly notable in the world of 9- to 15-year-olds. To a whole generation, I am simply Rufus Scrimgeour.
Until I was in Harry Potter, and I only got in under the wire, I was trying to find some distinction in being the only British actor who hadn’t been in Harry Potter. I was trying to invent that as a kind of a performer’s status. So I was relieved finally to be invited.
Having been a loyal supporter of Crystal Palace Football Club for some years, Bill became Patron for the CPFRIS (Crystal Palace F.C. Fast Results & Information Service) Disabled Children’s Club in 2004. He holds the same role for the Ann Craft Trust and is a spokesperson for the National Society for Epilepsy.
In 2008, he was one of the Oxfam supporters to travel to Japan for the year’s G8 conference and in the following year he joined the ActionAid campaign to send an open letter to world leaders on the eve of the same summit.
Bill has also been instrumental in the widespread Robin Hood Tax campaign, for which he also appeared in viral video, The Banker.
Bill’s charitable efforts also extend to supporting the arts, where he a patron for the Milton Rooms, an arts center in Malton (North Yorkshire), alongside fellow Potter actor, Imelda Staunton.
Bill’s exceptional performances in so many projects has gone far from unnoticed. He has amassed a collection of 13 awards and 16 nominations over his career so far, including:
- 2007 – Golden Globe – Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television – Gideon’s Daughter
- 2004 – BAFTA – Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role – Love Actually
- 2004 – Broadcasting Guild Awards – Best Actor – State of Play