Bill Nighy on why Rufus Scrimgeour was Welsh – and why he was glad to be in “Potter”
In another interview at the Toronto International Film Festival, Bill Nighy (Rufus Scrimgeour) spoke about the different roles he has played in his career, including his role as Rufus Scrimgeour in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1.
On the subject of Rufus Scrimgeour, his Welsh accent, and actually being in a Harry Potter film, Nighy said,
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.
The Harry Potter films had some of the best British actors among the cast, and Nighy has worked with many of the other cast members, both before Potter and after. Love Actually changed Nighy’s career in many ways, and in this film he worked alongside many Potter stars, including Alan Rickman (Professor Snape) and Emma Thompson (Professor Trelawney). About the film he said,
It didn’t launch my career because I had a very familiar English career up until that point. I’d already worked with some of the greatest people currently working in my profession, in terms of writers, actors, and directors. But it certainly changed the way I went to work because it made me visible in North America, and therefore, I was more cast-able in movies. I could play principal-ish roles in films, which was not possible before. So yeah, it changed everything. [Writer-director] Richard Curtis — I owe him a great debt. And I’ve subsequently worked with him [in About Time].
About Time saw Nighy starring alongside yet another Potter name – this time one of the younger cast members, Domhnall Gleeson (Bill Weasley), who was recently cast in the new Star Wars. Nighy said:
I love Richard Curtis with all my heart, and I loved playing that part. I loved that script, and I loved the film. I actually watched the film, which I don’t always do. I was keen to play just a decent man. You know, somebody with no fireworks. Someone who is a good bloke, a nice and decent man who seeks to do the right thing, and in a low key. That’s refreshing to me. I dig all the other things too, but it was timely. It was in Cornwall, in the most beautiful part of England, with a flawless summer, in a wonderful house on an almost private beach — it was kind of heavenly to be there.
Nighy also starred alongside Dame Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall) in the The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and filming for the follow-up film has just been completed. Nighy said,
I think Maggie Smith had been to India before. I don’t think any of the others had been. So we were just like those [characters]; it was like an open-mouthed kind of thing. We stayed in the most incredible places, and we worked with the most wonderful people. We just made The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which involved us going back and meeting all those people who worked on the movie. It was a wonderful thing because they were so pleased to see us and because we could enjoy the fact that we had had a hit and was not a hit that I had any expectation around.
Finally, Nighy’s latest film, Pride, sees him staringr alongside Imelda Staunton (Professor Umbridge) and Jessie Cave (Lavender Brown). It is clear that Nighy is very proud of this project, and he says,
Pride is one of the best jobs I ever had, and that’s not PR. That’s the absolute truth. When I read the script, it made me laugh from start to finish, and it’s also about a couple of things [that] are very close to my heart and probably close to anyone’s heart of my vintage, as they say in magazines. One of them would be the emancipation of gay men and women in my lifetime, and this film portrays a very important part of gay history. And then the miners strike, which was like a huge scandal. It was like a civil war in our country, and it was largely misreported at the time. So it’s refreshing to have a little bit of the truth about these decent men and women working in the mining communities who were assaulted by the authorities, and this film treats them with upmost [sic] dignity and respect.
He further says,
I loved playing this part. Again, he was a quiet, decent man, and he was instrumental in bringing this whole thing together. I did think at one point that I’d reached an age where I could only play men from other dimensions. But it turns out not to be true. It turns out that I can on occasion play regular human beings, which is very refreshing.
Check out the full interview here, and see what Nighy has to say about some of his other projects. Have you been to see Pride, yet? Let us know your thoughts!