Bill Nighy reveals his biggest fear was “killing the national treasure that is Dame Judi” on the set of their latest film.
“This is the second time I’ve been on a motorcycle, the first was the first movie, probably the last. That’s enough for my motorcycling career, but there is that thing always… don’t kill Judi Dench.”
Bill Nighy with Dame Judi Dench, his co-star in 'The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel'
The sequel follows the surprise success of the first film, which took $137million at the box office. For Bill, this meant the delight of a return trip to India, although he admits that, with that, comes a certain burden…
“There is a unique kind of pressure when you go to India to have a spiritual experience, which is obviously not available because it’s a myth. It’s described as spiritual place, which doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. There are many spiritual things that happen in Holborn, or Stamford Bridge. You’re as likely to have a spiritual experience there as anywhere else.”
We’re interrupted when one of Bill’s recent downloads on his phone bursts into the room, a tune instantly recognisable as Marvin Gaye’s ‘Sexual Healing’. How perfect. Bill continues seamlessly…
“It is a common mistake that my generation made, mistaking a spiritual experience for ingesting certain mood-altering chemicals and having a tabloid version of what’s happening to you. So there is this kind of pressure to have an experience that you tend to resent.
“You have spiritual experiences depending on what’s going on inside you, and they’re unlocked by the most unlikely places.”
Of course, the film’s success also confounded the myth that cinema-goers don’t want to see the romance and adventures of an older generation. For Bill, this is something long overdue…
“It’s weird getting older. People patronise you from the age of about 50 onwards,” he ponders. “Perfectly rational people don’t even know they’re doing it, and it’s almost disguised, but it’s quite plain.
“And physically, you’re supposed to have checked out. I remember making a film when I’d just turned 50, and I had to move quite fast in a scene, and the crew clapped. You think, oh I see, I’m 50. I’m not supposed to be able to break into a trot… which is bullshit. Most 50 year olds can quite easily get out of jail and run for a cab.”
It’s the same for romance, too, he says.
“You’re not supposed to fall in love. How could that possibly happen? Suddenly you’re going to lose that facility? But people quantify everything, including sex, obviously, which is a terrible mistake. And younger men often resent the idea that older people are still going because they think it’s their preserve, they think it belongs to them, and that anything else is unseemly. Again, it’s complete nonsense, there’s nothing to back it up, but it’s been fed to us as the story.”
Bill stirs his tea, a cup of which he has, with his usual impeccable manners, offered me as soon as I get here.
“Don’t mistake me for someone who minds,” he chuckles. “It was always the case and it’s fine, and I’m lucky and we get by and sometimes it’s quite handy because people leave you alone.”
He twinkles knowing this isn’t the case, nobody wants to leave Bill Nighy alone, but for now I let him be, with his tea and the sound of Marvin Gaye wafting over us once again.
'The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' is in UK cinemas from today. Watch the trailer below...