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Bill Nighy

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Biographical information


Eye color


Hair color



December 12, 1949


William Francis "Bill" Nighy

Behind the scenes
First appearance

Dead Man's Chest

Last appearance

At World's End


Davy Jones was killed

Character(s) portrayed

Davy Jones

William Francis "Bill" Nighy (born September 29, 1942) is an English actor and comedian. He worked in theatre and television before his first cinema role in 1981, and made his name in television with The Men's Room in 1991, in which he played the womaniser Prof. Mark Carleton, whose extra-marital affairs kept him "vital".

Nighy became known around the world in 2003 for his critically acclaimed performance as aging rocker Billy Mack in Love Actually. His other notable role in cinema include his portrayal of Viktor in the Underworld film series. He was also known for his roles in the films Lawless Heart, I Capture the Castle, Shaun of the Dead, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Hot Fuzz, Valkyrie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1, Rango and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. His performances were also acclaimed in the State of Play series and in the TV films The Girl in the Café, Gideon's Daughter and Page Eight, for which he earned Golden Globe nominations, winning one for Gideon's Daughter. Bill Nighy portrayed Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean film sequels Dead Man's Chest and At World's End, as well as the Disneyland ride and the Disney Infinity video game.


Early life

Nighy was born in Caterham, Surrey, England. His mother, Catherine Josephine Nighy (née Whittaker), was a psychiatric nurse who was born in Glasgow, and his father, Alfred Martin Nighy, managed a car garage after working in the family chimney sweeping business. Of part Irish descent, Nighy was brought up as a Roman Catholic, serving as an altar boy.

Originally determined to become a journalist, he switched careers after he trained at the Guildford School of Dance and Drama, soon winning roles on stage, screen and radio. He appeared in Tom Stoppard's Arcadia and David Hare's Skylight and Blue/Orange at the National Theatre, and he played the role of Sam Gamgee in the original BBC radio production of The Lord of the Rings.


Bill Nighy delighted international audiences with his scene-stealing turn as aging rocker Billy Mack in Richard Curtis' Love, Actually, which also starred Nighy's future Pirates of the Caribbean co-star Keira Knightley. This performance won him a British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award for Best Supporting Actor. In the same year, he won a BAFTA Best Actor TV Award for the series State of Play. He also received the Los Angeles Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor in I Capture the Castle, Love, Actually, AKA and The Lawless Heart.His work in Peter Cattaneo's Lucky Break brought him a Best Supporting Actor nomination from the British Independent Film Awards, as did his chilling performance in Fernando Mireilles' The Constant Gardener in 2005. Nighy has twice won the Evening Standard's Peter Sellers Award for Best Comedy Performance: in 1998's hit ensemble comedy Still Crazy and in 2004 for Love, Actually.

His numerous feature-film credits have included Eye of the Needle, Curse of the Pink Panther, The Little Drummer Girl, Fairy Tale: A True Story, Working Title's acclaimed zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Stormbreaker and Notes on a Scandal. One of Bill Nighy's most notable roles was his portrayal of Viktor in Underworld and Underworld: Evolution.

On British television, Nighy has appeared in the series Fox, Agony, Making News, The Men's Room, The Maitlands, Kiss Me Kate and State of Play, the miniseries Reilly: Ace of Spies, The Last Place on Earth, Eye of the Storm, The Canterbury Tales and He Knew He Was Right, and the TV movies Easter 2016, Hitler's S.S.: Portrait in Evil, Agatha Christie's 'Thirteen at Dinner', Longitude, The Lost Prince, The Young Visiters and The Girl in the Café, the latter bringing him a 2004 Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television.

Pirates of the Caribbean


Prior to the back-to-back productions of the second and third Pirates of the Caribbean films, Dead Man's Chest and At World's End, the Pirates producers considered several actors for the role of Davy Jones, particularly Christopher Walken and Ian McShane (who was later chosen to portray Blackbeard in On Stranger Tides).[1] Ultimately, the role was given to Bill Nighy.

Regarding on how Davy Jones speaks, the Pirates producers needed something that would sound different from all the other characters and to give Jones a bit of power and authority. Director Gore Verbinski at one point suggested that Davy Jones should speak Dutch, taking from that Davy Jones' ship was called the "Flying Dutchman", or Norweigan. Though the previous suggestions were all authentic within the story, Bill Nighy decided to use a Scottish accent; despite the fact that Nighy's mother grew up in Glasgow, Nighy himself had stated it was because he could do a Scottish accent. While riding in the back of a car in London, Nighy suggested the idea via mobile phone to Verbinki, who was in Los Angeles at the time. After Gore asked how would it sound, Nighy ended up doing his Scottish accent as a "phoned-in audition"[2][3]

Dead Man's Chest

To portray Davy Jones, who was as much sea creature as he is human, the filmmakers of Dead Man's Chest selected the extraordinarily versatile British actor Bill Nighy, knowing that he would find the humanity beneath the character's beastly veneer. "Davy Jones is a deeply damaged and isolated individual," says Nighy. "He's wounded so deeply that he determines that he will live a kind of semi-life, as long as it means he doesn't have to feel anything anymore. And so, he's torn out the center of all feeling—his heart—and locks it in a special chest. He also has control of a 'pet,' as it's sometimes referred to, which is the Kraken—a sea monster which is the likes of which you've never seen before, entirely malevolent, evil and powerful beyond expression. If you possess Davy Jones' heart, you control not only him, but the Kraken as well, which in effect gives you control of the oceans."[4]


The development of Davy Jones.

Nighy's primary challenge would be that because of Davy Jones' astonishing physical appearance, he would be acting throughout the film in what resembles a gray track suit and matching cap with reference marks for Industrial Light & Magic's computer wizards, who would embellish it with the amazing details as imagined by Gore Verbinski and famed conceptual artist Mark "Crash" McCreery. But Nighy was game to take it on. "The first movie was not only successful," he noted, "but is actually beloved, and has entered the language in a way that I think few movies do. To be part of this was a very satisfying notion. As for playing a character which will be physically embellished by computer wizardry, as an actor you use your imagination. The same things are required of you, generally speaking. Of course," adds Nighy dryly, "in Dead Man's Chest I'm playing a man who has an octopus growing out of my chin, which I must admit, has thus far been outside of my experience."[4]

To create the character of Davy Jones and his sea-creature encrusted pirate crew, ILM captured the performances of actors on location and applied that data to CG characters; the first time anyone had motion-captured actors so freely on set. Digital Davy Jones was so believable that film critics and even many people in the visual effects community thought he was actor Bill Nighy in a rubber suit.[5]

Nighy himself was highly amused by the process in which ILM converted him into the fully tricked-out Davy Jones. "The first thing they did was cyber-scan me, which they did in a sort of mystery truck lined with screens and computers. Then, on set, I wore a gray suit which had reference points comprised of white bubbles and strips of black and white material, so that when they come to interpret your physical performance, they're better placed to do so. I don't understand any of it, but I'm currently the world-record holder for playing the organ with an imaginary octopus beard. This is pioneering stuff, state-of-the-art."[4]

At World's End

Bill Nighy was also delighted to take Davy Jones more than a few steps further in the third film, At World's End, and again infusing the devilish character with a large dollop of recognizable humanity. "Davy is now in service to the East India Trading Company and Lord Cutler Beckett, certainly the first time he's been in service to anybody. He's no longer the free lord of the seas. In At World's End, you see how love and betrayal wrecked Davy's life and ruined his existence. He just wants Calypso, and peace from this terrible love pain. He suffers in a major way. Davy is a lover, and he's been deeply, deeply hurt, devastated by the loss of this woman. People like Davy, who never connected with anyone, ever, and then do and lose it, cleave for all time. And these are dangerous men, you know, they're almost certainly emotionally damaged. It's a central fact of Davy Jones' life that he's never getting over it."[6]

Despite not doing it in the previous film, costume designer Penny Rose had an opportunity to design a costume for Bill Nighy in a scene in which the audience could see what Davy Jones looked like as a man before he was under the sea for years and years and barnacled up. "We finally get Bill out of those gray CGI reference pajamas, for which he's very, very grateful," she says with a laugh. "We really set out to and made a fabulous costume for Bill, because he was so relieved to be out of gray. I bought some linen damask from a mill in Umbria that we hadn't used yet, and dyed it beautifully. We just thought that since Bill is a very elegant man, Davy Jones could, perhaps, in his past have been quite a snappy dresser. So we made him a square-cut coat from that damask linen."[6]

When working on the climactic "Maelstrom" action sequence, Bill Nighy did only several stunts, where the sword master Thomas DuPont acted as his stunt double. On his double, Nighy said that DuPont was "entirely and completely brilliant," saying that he wasn't just doing the stunts and that he did it as a character. Nighy would sit and watch DuPont do all the stuntwork, while drinking a lot of Yorkshire Tea and having a donut, and when he came off, he'd shake his hand.[7]

ILM supervisor John Knoll admits that "of all three pictures, probably the most fun aspect of any of them has been our involvement in the creation of Davy Jones. That was a really great partnership with Bill Nighy, who gave a fantastic performance on set, and all that without any real proof of concept. You know, we asked him to wear the unsettling computer gray 'pajamas' on set, and we couldn't really show him what it was going to look like when it was done, but he dove right in there and delivered these great performances, created an amazing character and gave us fantastic material to work with. The artists back at ILM did a fantastic job modeling, texturing, lighting and rendering, just beautiful animation. I think Davy Jones is a really special character in every way."[6]

As with the previous Pirates film, the actors had nothing but praise for their fearless leader, director Gore Verbinski. "Gore is one of the greatest directors I've ever worked with," proffers Bill Nighy, who should know, after his long international career on both stage and screen. "Every actor on the film will tell you the same thing. Nothing gets past him in terms of the authenticity of performance, and Gore knows that no matter how many special effects, wonderful landscapes or ships, what it comes down to are two people communicating. Not only can he spot what's wrong, but he can really help you. I just can't say enough about him."[6]

Rumors on Pirates 4

In 2009, months after an announcement that there was a fourth installment in September 2008, Bill Nighy expressed interest in returning as Davy Jones. "I am technically dead but then again, who cares?" Nighy said. "Everybody dies in the pirates movies. They killed Johnny [Depp] and Geoffrey [Rush]. Death is not permanent in the pirate world. I have a serious desire to come back."[8]

On October 2009, weeks after the official announcement of On Stranger Tides, rumors arose that Johnny Depp was done with the Pirates franchise, and Bill Nighy chimed in on the issue weeks later. Nighy stated, "I understand that there was an announcement that there was going to be a fourth, and now I've been told since that that was not a reliable announcement." Nighy also said, "Jerry at one point said we have to wait until the world is pirate-hungry again." He added that there was likely to be a fourth film, but maybe not in 2011. "I'm pretty sure that there will be [a fourth]," Nighy said. "I would be amazed if there weren’t, given the success of the first three."[9]

In the end, the film was made and released in 2011, but without Nighy in the cast.

Disney Attractions

The Ride

To coincide with the release of Dead Man's Chest, enhancements were made to the Pirates of the Caribbean attractions at the Disney Parks unveiled on July 7, 2006. Among the enhancements was Bill Nighy reprising his role as Davy Jones by helping with a very special "head shot" of Jones that would be featured in the ride at Disneyland and the Walt Disney World. Walt Disney Imagineering writer Michael Sprout wrote the script for Nighy, where Davy Jones speaks to guests on the ghostly waterfall in the grotto scenes.

About five years later, Bill Nighy as Davy Jones would be replaced by Ian McShane as Blackbeard on May 20, 2011, to coincide with the release of the fourth Pirates film, On Stranger Tides. Disney announced that this would only be a temporary replacement and that Davy Jones would return to the ride later that year.[10] On November 2011, the ride opened after a refurbishment, which included another change in the waterfall projection. For the Disneyland attraction, the grotto scene was modified to where both Blackbeard and Davy Jones appeared on the ride, with Davy Jones only appearing in Tokyo Disneyland.[11]

World of Color

Footage of Bill Nighy used from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride would also appear in the World of Color nighttime show at Disneyland. Nighy as Davy Jones would appear at the end of the Pirates sequence where Davy Jones laughs before saying "Aye. Tales there be a plenty in this cursed place." Another head shot, where Jones only appeared, could be seen in the show's final moments. The clips would be taken out in May 20, 2011, where an extended sequence to promote the fourth film, On Stranger Tides, would play in the show. From that version onward, the only clip with Nighy as Davy Jones seen in the show was the shot from the final moments.

Post-Pirates work

Bill Nighy appeared in 2010's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 as Rufus Scrimgeour. He also reunited with director Gore Verbinski and costar Johnny Depp in the 2011 film Rango, where he voiced Rattlesnake Jake.


Disney Attractions



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Notes and references

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