You know Bill Nighy. He’s the guy who made planets from scratch in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and was the Minister of Magic who bossed Harry Potter around. His bowtie was bigger than Matt Smith’s when he guest-starred on Doctor Who, and he was perhaps, most famously, the foul-mouthed rockstar in Love, Actually. Recently, he played a detective in the gaslight thriller The Limehouse Golem. But his real passion is reading the excellent sci-fi novels of Philip K. Dick. As the world readies themselves for Blade Runner 2049, it’s time to curate your science fiction reading list, courtesy of Bill Nighy.
“I love what’s generally called the genre world, I suppose,” Nighy tells Inverse. “I love that world and I love the enthusiasm of the fans for that, those films. And I’m very comfortable in that world, and I like sci-fi personally. I read sci-fi. I read William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, and Philip K. Dick.” Just because an actor has been in both science fiction and fantasy films and TV, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they are always a fan of that genre. But when you talk to Nighy, you get the sense that loves smart sci-fi just as much as he enjoyed playing a vampire in the Underworld films.
“I’m not necessarily into things from outer space,” he says. “But possible near-futures, extrapolating from the kind of technology into the future. I like those kinds of things and I like those kinds of movies. I like to watch sci-fi movies and I like … I loved being a vampire in Underworld! I like the whole phenomenon of being a vampire. And I think vampires are cool. Everybody knows vampires are cool.”
Nighy’s trademark deadpan, casual delivery gives most of his syllables an injection of coolness. But in his newest movie, The Limehouse Golem, he’s less of a rock star and more of a stoic gentleman. So how does he act funny and also act so seriously? “To get a laugh technically often involves a particular kind of delivery, like there’ll be a pause or just emphasizing a particular word, usually the last word of the sentence, so everybody hears it at the same time,” he says. “There is a difference, because if you don’t have any comic responsibilities then you’re at liberty to deliver the line however you wish, whereas if you are required to be funny, there are specific things, technically, that you might choose to do.”
As an actor with amazing range but also a subtle understanding of how small choices in line-delivery change everything, Nighy’s funny moodiness seems to fit perfect in a Philip K. Dick narrative. In fact, Nighy had a substantial role in the 2012 remake of Totall Recall, which despite getting some negative reviews was more true to Dick’s vision than the 1991 Totall Recall movie. And whenever Nighy is on the road, he says he’s usually reading either Philip K. Dick or William Gibson.
“I’ve just been reading Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said,” Nighy says. “Which I enjoyed very much. I’ve read three Philip K. Dick books in a row. I’m now reading VALIS”.
Bill Nighy’s latest movie, The Limehouse Golem is available now for digital download with iTunes. Blade Runner 2049 — based on the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, is out now in wide theatrical release.