SAG Awards nominee profile: Bill Nighy (‘Living’) takes center stage

At the age of 73 and after working as an actor for nearly five decades, Bill Nighy has finally earned his first individual nomination at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Nighy is nominated for Best Actor for his performance as government bureaucrat, Rodney Williams, in Oliver Hermanus’s film “Living.” He was nominated for Best Cast in a Motion Picture for being part of the ensemble in “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” in 2012.

Like Nighy, all the other nominees in the Best Actor category are making their first appearance as individual nominees: Austin Butler (“Elvis”), Colin Farrell (“The Banshees of Inisherin”), Brendan Fraser (“The Whale”) and Adam Sandler (“Hustle”). Fraser won a SAG Award for Best Cast as part of the ensemble of “Crash” in 2005 and Butler was also nominated in that category for “Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood” in 2019.

Based on Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 film, “Ikiru,” “Living” tells the story of Rodney Williams, the head of the Public Works Department, who has made a living of letting problems disappear into the endless red tape that consumes the system. After receiving a shocking terminal health diagnosis, Williams takes some time off of work and decides to experience life by actually connecting with people around him. After being away from his position for an extended time, he decides to return to work and makes it his personal mission to get one particular project, a neighborhood playground, completed and built by his department.

Nighy has long been known for being able to bring so much to a character even when the character might not have much to say and this film is no different. Just watching him listening to others speak can be captivating, but then he’ll give off a smirk or have a look of longingness and with that you feel every bit of emotion that Rodney has in reflecting on what he’s made of his life.

Nighy’s nomination may be the only one for “Living” but there are still several things that are working in his favor at SAG. Probably the biggest thing to consider is that Nighy has been working as an actor for over 40 years. Throughout that time he’s appeared in everything from small dramas (“The Girl in the Café”) and awards contenders (“The Constant Gardener” and “Notes on a Scandal”) to raucous comedies (“Love Actually” and “Shaun of the Dead”) and several major franchises (“Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Underworld” and “Harry Potter”).

Having worked on so many projects with so many people who are SAG voters and being extremely well-liked by his peers could give Nighy an advantage here. It may seem unlikely but we can’t forget that it’s definitely helped past winners like Ruby Dee (“American Gangster,” 2007), Christopher Walken (“Catch Me if You Can,” 2002) and Robert Duvall (“A Civil Action,” 1998).

This article is a part of Gold Derby’s “SAG Awards nominee profile” series spotlighting the 2023 contenders in film and TV.

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