If you wanna know what kind of on-screen magic happens when the one and only Bill Nighy becomes the lead actor of the British remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru, you don’t want to miss out on Sony Pictures’ Living, directed by Oliver Hermanus, and now out in the US. Bill Nighy portrays Mr. Williams, a man buried alive in a dreary, sad, daily routine in the early 1950s in London. When Mr. Williams learns of a life-changing medical diagnosis, he reclaims control of his own life to fulfill his dreams before it is too late.
Nighy’s performance as the touching, heartbreaking Mr. Williams is already being showered with awards nominations, including a Golden Globes nomination for Best Actor in a Motion Picture. With the Oscar predictions growing stronger every day, Bill Nighy could finally earn his first Oscar nod (and win) after a stellar career of over 46 years. If you ask us, it is more than time for this living legend to earn, at least, this nomination, after this groundbreaking performance.
We spoke with Bill Nighy, Aimee Lou Wood, and director Oliver Hermanus (who is already working on the upcoming The History of Sound). You can watch the full interviews down below:
Bill Nighy stars alongside the incredibly talented Sex Education star Aimee Lou Wood, who portrays Margaret, Mr. Williams’ young colleague. Her compassion for the sad and poignant Mr. Willams will help him grasp a different meaning of what living is. They will both learn and grow from each other, and Bill Nighy and Aimee Lou Wood’s off-screen dynamic and relationship is as respectful and admirative as it is on the big screen.
Bill Nighy declared:
“We were involved, and this is gonna sound as cheesy as anything, but hey: [We were] involved in something that was much more important than either of us. We were believers, in terms of the story and the film, and believers in acting, as a primary art form. (…) It involves getting out of your way, to try to ignore any personal concerns, so you can access, dare I say, some humility, so you can express it plainly.”
Bill Nighy’s power as Mr. Williams resides in how he subtly slips into the skin of a disenchanted man who no longer expect anything from life. The bubbly, hilarious and brilliant Bill Nighy we all love is no more, and all of a sudden, Mr. Williams engulfs the audience with hope and tears. His eyes tell the tales of a lifetime, and his perfectly chosen moments of silence, of quietness, mean more than any monologue could ever have.
Oscar nominations aren’t only meant for drastic, physical transformations and biopics (and of course, these performances are more than deserving of their triumphs). However, the art of acting comes in many shapes and forms, and they all need to be looked at with a particular attention this award season. The performance Bill Nighy pulled off in Living is an absolute best of a career. It is a subtle, deep, heartbreaking transformation (reminiscent of another 2022 performance by Colin Farrell in The Banshees of Inisherin, who equally brilliantly embodies a heartbreaking character facing the deceptions of his life.) It is the kind of acting that makes you forget that you are watching this actor we all know. It is still the same face, it is still the same voice. And somehow, we don’t recognize them.
The credits start rolling, a black screen with a name written in white: Bill Nighy. Ah yes, for nearly two hours, we forgot.
Indeed, Nighy’s potential Oscar nomination is in the way Mr. Williams puts on his hat every morning, and in the way he waits at the train station, carefully keeping his distance from his coworkers. It’s in the way he shyly asks an (almost) stranger how to do life. It’s in the way he gives up on being heard and seen by his son. And it certainly is in the way he stands by the piano of a crowded bar in all his dignity, to sing a traditional Scottish song, “The Rowan Tree”, a lump in his throat.
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