‘I had and I still do have a completely romantic view of being a journalist,’ Bill Nighy says describing his first dream of running away to Paris to become a writer. ‘I thought I’d get a good coat and hat, it’d be raining and I’d be interviewing attractive girls who were in terrible trouble.’
But the dream that could have kept Bill Nighy away from the silver screen never became a reality.
‘When I first left school I wanted to be a writer like everybody else in the world,’ Bill explains. ‘I went to the National Youth Employment with my mum and in those days they would open their big book of jobs and ask: “What sort of thing are you looking for?”
‘I said I wanted to be a writer and the man was very kind and said: “Umm well we haven’t got any jobs for authors but perhaps we can put you in the way of something that might lead to something literary.’
‘My mum pushed her foot really hard down onto mine as if to say: “Don’t be so bloody stupid” but he made me a messenger boy on the Field Magazine.
Nighy’s time at “Huntin’, Shootin’, and Fishin’” didn’t exactly live up to his romantic impression of the gossip-hack life he’d seen Marcello Mastroianni play in La Dolce Vita.
‘I would blush red roots and then have to run out with embarrassment. They would do it every time because I was such an easy wind up.’ As if the lacking glamour of the job wasn’t bad enough, Nighy also struggled with the genuinely romantic element of journalism too.
‘I was in love with the girl next door who worked at the Western Daily Mail. She was the receptionist, had red hair and I occasionally had to give her a package. I never spoke to her of course, but I was enthralled by her.’
Despite realising that journalism was not for him, Nighy wasn’t done with his literary ambitions. Like any vaguely bookish boy Nighy was obsessed with Paris and the literati of the 1920s. Imitating F Scott Fitzgerald and James Joyce, Nighy headed to France to ‘be like them’.
‘I ran away to Paris to write the Great British short story. I didn’t write a word came home and became an actor.’ It suffices to say, literature’s loss is British acting’s gain.