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October 2003
Bill Nighy - the interview
Love Actually
Who wouldn't be in Bill's shoes?
Love Actually promises to brighten up many lives this Christmas and it might produce an unlikely festive hit for Bill Nighy.
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FACTS

Love Actually has a vast list of stars - Hugh Grant, Martine McCutcheon, Bill Nighy, Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Emma Thompson, Kris Marshall, Colin Firth, Alan Rickman, Keira Knightley, Rowan Atkinson, Billy Bob Thornton, Andrew Lincoln - phew!

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Nighy stars as faded rock god Billy Mack.

He releases a festive version of The Troggs (and Wet Wet Wet's) Love Is All Around.

It's possibly going to be released in real life.

Nighy and Love Actually producer Duncan Kenworthy have been doing the rounds promoting the film and they caught up with our own Nigel Bell.

Interview with Bill Nighy and Duncan Kenworthy
It's writer Richard Curtis's first time as a director. What was he like?
Duncan:
We always wanted Richard to direct because he thinks about everything.
Bill: He took to it like a duck to water. You'd never believe he was a first timer. He's a great plot maker and knows how they should be delivered. It was a treat for me.
How daunting was it to try and weave nine different stories together?
Duncan:
Richard was very candid and said it might not work. We knew it was risky. It certainly made scheduling awkward. Because we cast Laura Linney late on she had to fly back from the States five times. It was the most difficult film to edit. Put it this way, there's plenty of stuff left for the DVD. The finished film is different to how we originally saw it. Everything was thrown up in the air. Nothing ended in the position it was originally intended.
What was it like having so many celebrities around?
Bill:
Filming with Ant and Dec was charming although when we were shooting they were more concerned about Newcastle United than the filming. Michael Parkinson was great and touchingly nervous that he got his lines out correctly. There were so many people in the trailer area it was like a small village. It was a really sweet feeling because you'd keep meeting stars on the corner just going into make-up.
Duncan: We had two days where everyone met for a big read through. Everyone was gathered around a big table.
Bill, what was your inspiration for Billy Mack?
No inspiration I'm afraid. He was just an amalgamation of people I've observed over the years. I do a shocked stance which is a bit like Gary Glitter, as if someone had just come up behind him. Then there's some Elvis Costello. He was a fantastic rock dancer of mine - post ironic, putting he knees together and sticking his bum out. It was strangely, deeply satisfying.
What about the cameo roles like Billy Bob Thornton who plays the US president?
Duncan:
Billy Bob was just up form it. Richard has a reputation as a writer in the States. Lots of people wanted to be in it. He writes a mean letter as well, asking people. Billy Bob turned himself into quite a despicable person which was more than we had asked for. Most Americans want to come into a film and be a hero but not Billy Bob.
How easy was it sorting out the roles for the film?
Duncan:
We auditioned for ages. It was something we'd learnt on Four Weddings. The role of Sarah (played by Laura Linney) was particularly difficult to fill. Richard was never quite happy. He kept saying it had to be someone like Laura so in the end we asked her and she jumped at it.

Love Actually
Hugh Grant and Martine McCutcheon give us a wave

Part of the film is shot at 10 Downing Street. Did you get much co-operation?
Duncan:
We tried to get into number 10 with a production team. We wanted our designers to have a proper idea of what to portray on film. Alastair Campbell said we couldn't have access because of new security stipulations. Apparently they had to turn down Margaret Thatcher as well. In the end what you see on screen is a mix of the authentic and made up.
What's filming like on a Richard Curtis movie? Can you improvise the script?
Bill:
There's no room for artists to improvise. There are so many story strands and with a good writer like Richard you don't need to mess around.
Duncan: That's why we have such a long auditioning process. Richard has to hear the actors speak the lines to see if they work. At the sit down read through some actors were reading with no guarantee they'd get the part.
The film is bound to do well in the UK but what are your hopes in America?
Duncan:
We've shown the film to the press in the US and the reaction has been very positive. It went down well at the Toronto film festival. In America we want to build a reputation slowly, starting in November and then by Thanksgiving it should be on 2000 screens.
And what about rock star status for Bill Nighy?
We're hoping life will reflect art. You'll be able to buy Christmas Is All Around and we're crossing our fingers Blue will release a festive single as well. Then we'd release it on the same day and see what happened. It would be fun.
A word about Martine McCutcheon in a big screen role?
Duncan:
Richard has always been a huge Eastenders fan. He always wanted Martine for the role. He's a popular culture person who watches loads of TV. He thinks she's going to be a big star and she's fantastic in Love Actually. We knew about her reputation after My Fair Lady but she couldn't have been more up for the film. She holds the screen, she's got quality. She was in awe the first few times she was on set. It probably wasn't surprising as one of her first shots was kissing Hugh Grant.

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