I’ve been throwing shapes in front of the mirror since I was 14,” says veteran British actor Bill Nighy, who’s had plenty of time to perfect his aging English rocker moves in the 1998 film “Still Crazy” and now “Love Actually.”
In Richard Curtis’ sprawling ensemble romantic comedy, Nighy plays Billy Mack, a former metal god now bitterly bracing himself for an end-of-career comeback with a calculated Christmas version of “Love Is All Around.”
It’s a hilarious scene-stealer of a role that cuts the film’s sap in half whenever Billy’s interviewed by the music press, plainly talking about his old heroin addictions, how the new record’s “crap” and that sex with Britney Spears was “rubbish.”
“Everybody knows these guys,” says Nighy. “Guys like Keith Richards and John McEnroe, who seem to have a gift for saying the honest thing that cuts to the chase in a way that a lot of other people don’t have.”
But there’s more to Mack than wisecracks and his backup band of Robert Palmer girls in Santa suits. He also has an unexpectedly tender platonic love story in the film with his faithful rock and roll manager (played by Gregor Fisher). “Which heterosexual men traditionally find very difficult to express,” says Nighy. “We usually kind of slap each other on the back briefly and leave the room. Then go to the football game and shout at the ref.”
For Nighy, a faithful rock ‘n’ roll fan, playing Billy Mack has been a dream come true. The actor recorded the track for “Love Actually” at Abbey Road Studios in London.
“We were in the studio next to where the Beatles recorded ‘Sgt. Pepper’ and I got to hang out with some of the musicians, which was great,” he says.
The single is climbing the U.K. charts, with all the proceeds going to Richard Curtis’ favorite charity Comic Relief. “People seem to think the song is funny,” says Nighy. “I hope so because otherwise I’ll leave the country.”
Coming attractions: “Enduring Love,” “Shaun of the Dead”