Bill Nighy is one of those character actors whose mere presence can rescue a movie from mediocrity. Just seeing his face makes things better (sometimes infinitely so). As his prominence has risen in recent years, thanks in large part to the scene-stealing role of Davy Jones in the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean‘ sequels ‘Dead Man’s Chest‘ and ‘At World’s End,’ he’s been offered bigger and more illustrious movies. And he keeps making us smile. While talking to him for “Arthur Christmas,” we thought we’d quiz him about some of his upcoming projects.
First on our list was “The Lone Ranger,” Disney’s troubled big-screen reboot of the pulp hero. It was announced, when the movie carried a weightier budget (and supernatural overtones), that Nighy would be part of the cast, reuniting with his ‘Pirates’ and “Rango” director Gore Verbinski. But when the scaled-back version was finally given the go-ahead, much of the supporting cast (including Ray Winstone and Nighy) wasn’t mentioned. “I don’t know,” he says flatly. “I would love to do ‘Lone Ranger.’ I love working with Gore.” This doesn’t exactly sound promising, especially when word got out last week that he had committed to “I, Frankenstein,” which would presumably be shooting in the same block of time. Still, he remained optimistic, in a loose sense: “I really look forward to working with Gore again. He brings out the best in me.”
Closer on the horizon is his role in “Wrath of the Titans,” the sequel to 2010’s “Clash of the Titans” remake (this time directed by “Battle: Los Angeles” auteur Jonathan Liebesman), out this spring. “I’m a demigod,” he says. “I was a god but I’ve had my power taken away. I make all the weapons with magical qualities.”
From what he tells us, this movie could be cooler simply based on its chosen locations. “We filmed a great deal above the clouds on a volcano in Spain,” Nighy said. “So you look down on a carpet of bright white cloud. It’s very, very beautiful. It does resemble the ancient world with these red mountains. You could just look at it and if somebody told you that you were on Mount Olympus, you’d believe them.”
Another film has his reteaming with a favorite director and some familiar technology – next summer’s “Jack the Giant Killer,” which pairs Nighy with his “Valkyrie” director Bryan Singer and the funny shiny jumpsuit he had to wear in the latter two ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ movies. “I’m the giant,” he tells us. “I’m 22-feet-tall and I eat people. I got to wear the black vinyl jumpsuit with the zip up the front with a helmet with cameras attached.” Still, he’s faithful that it’ll turn out alright, awkward head rig aside: “It’s Bryan Singer, who I love to work with, and you feel confident that since Bryan’s there, it’ll be okay. I think it’ll be a very cool movie.”
But the role we were most curious about was his part in the “Total Recall” remake that Sony is releasing next summer. “I’m a big fan of sci-fi,” Nighy admitted. “I’m not a fan of monsters and that stuff but I do like funky, imaginative versions of the near future and this is absolutely brilliant.” He then gave us a taste of the technology on display in the new film: “It’s the kind of thing where you look at it and you say, yeah, it could be like that – it could be true that people commute from Australia to Britain every morning.” Nighy is also aware of the vaulted status of the Paul Verhoeven/Arnold Schwarzenegger original, which despite some inherent silliness, has held up surprisingly well over the years. “I know the film is treasured but I can help you relax because if anyone can remake it, it’s not even in safe hands, it’s in brilliant hands,” he says of his “Underworld” director Len Wiseman.
We couldn’t help ourselves but ask if his character, Kuato, the rebellious guerrilla leader is, like in the original, a freaky mutant. “I’m not at liberty to tell you, I know that’s all you want to know,” Nighy said.
As we were walking out the door together, though, he confided something. “I actually want to see this one the most out of all the movies I’m working on,” Nighy said, which took us aback. “Total Recall?” Maybe it will be more memorable than we imagined.