Sunday, September 12, 2010

Interview with Bill Nighy - January 21st, 2009

Promoting: Valkyrie
Venue: The Dorchester Hotel
Interview type: Round table

Question (Q): Were you a World War II buff before the film?

Bill Nighy (BN): No, I'm not a World War II buff. I know a little bit about it, I was taught the other side of the story, majorly, in school. It was unfamiliar to me, the idea of a German resistance and it was considerable. And my character, Friedrich Olbricht, for instance, it's suggested, was involved with the resistance from as early as 1937, which is an incredibly sustained period, therefore, of personal heroism on his part, because he risked the lives of everyone he was associated with, including his children. I knew there was a bomb and a table, I knew that Adolf Hitler didn't die, but that's about as much as I knew. It was a revelation to me, this script. It was a great script, as you can see from watching the movie, but it was almost all new information, apart from those bare facts.

And I think it's really important, you know, because like any story that tells you that it wasn't black and white, in any culture – you know, what happened in Germany, it occurs to me, could have happened anywhere. Anti-Semitism and Fascism have a long and mysterious and bewildering and poisonous and vile history and it's not exclusive to the Germans. It was the extraordinarily weird and surreal set of circumstances that led to this lunatic being delivered into the Chancellorship of Germany. And these were very honourable military men, they were not members of the Nazi Party, - they had sworn an allegiance to Hitler, because they required to do, in order to just continue their lives – but they were appalled and disgusted, not only by the Nazi Party and the obvious vileness of that, but the fact that their Commander-in-Chief was an incompetent nincompoop and they were losing men. And, you know, Stauffenberg came from nine generations of military men, he was like the epitome of what was German then and what being a soldier meant.

Q: We know what happened to Stauffenberg's children, they survived. What happened to Olbricht's children?

BN: I believe that Olbricht's children survived also. As we know, you know, the Nazis were pretty merciless and they did kill a lot of people who were on the periphery. Olbricht was a very - - well, they all were, they always say, 'He was a family man', well, who isn't? Kind of thing, you know?

Q: Did you give him that nervous tic that he has? Was that something of yours or was that documented?

BN: Er...I have a coffee problem. (Laughter). Er, no, you see, this is odd. I'm not aware of it until it's over. So it certainly wasn't a conscious thing. I have no sense memory of what happened when I was there. It's not because I go into any fancy altered state or anything, it's just because I'm getting old. But, you know, I must have made a decision, because I am quite, you know, like any actor, I'm meticulous about that. So it was in order to act in the moment -- this sounds so lame, go directly to Pseud's Corner - - but in the moment, I stand by it, in as much as it was there to express a part of the story.

Q: And a man living right on the knife-edge?

BN: Yes, exactly.

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