On my mind… Bill Nighy

Bill Nighy is the Godfather. Of what, I’m not sure. He probably is someone’s godfather thinking about it. Maybe he’s the Godfather of rather dry, distinctly witty and faintly amusing supporting roles in British comedies?

Yeah, that sounds about right.

Salting the Battlefield

As some of you may or may not know, William Francis Nighy is one cool cat. And in the last few years or so he’s got even more Bill Nighy-like. Concentrated Nighy you might say. It’s always a delight when he pops up on screen, seemingly playing the same role no matter the film. Maybe he just plays himself? Maybe that’s his charm?

Whatever… his appeal is there, however elusive. And to pay our respects (I know he’s not dead, but we can still pay our respects) here’s my selection of his best performances.

Cameron Foster – State of Play (2003)
Brilliant writing with a great cast which included John Simm and James McAvoy, this TV miniseries introduced a lot of people to his work and probably launched him onto the A-list.

Billy Mack – Love Actually (2003)
With such a big cast in this film each was left with little screen time, Nighy made his count with some tender scenes as an aging rocker in this Richard Curtis love-in.

Philip – Shaun of the Dead (2004)
It’s often hard to describe his style as an actor. So understated, almost like he’s barely doing anything – as demonstrated opposite Simon Pegg in this modern zom-com classic.

Davy Jones – Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)
No matter the actor, they all love a chance to play dress up and get big and silly. And if you’re going to be in a Pirates movie, go large. Nighy obliged bringing Davy Jones to life with aplomb.

Quentin – The Boat That Rocked (2009)
The sauve leader of a group of pirate radio DJs at sea, Nighy’s role is not a big one in this film, but he managed to steal all his scenes with a raised eyebrow or a twitch of a smile.

Dad – About Time (2013)
Apparently this film about family, friendship and making the most out of life was a wake-up call for Nighy. Whatever it was, it was another great collaboration with Richard Curtis.

Cliff – Pride (2014)
Playing a Welsh miner protesting the strikes in the ’80s, Nighy gave one of the most restrained performances in years and, in some ways, all the better for it. More of this please.

PRIDE

Top swordplay scenes and fencing movie moments – en garde!

inigo montoya dread pirate robertsYesterday I went for my first ever fencing lesson with a group of mates. Quite an interesting sport – a lot harder than I expected.

As our Hungarian instructor attempted to explain the technique behind parry and riposte, my thoughts drifted to iconic swordplay scenes from movies. Let’s look at some of my favourites:

The Princess Bride (1987)

‘You seem a decent fellow, I hate to kill you.’ ‘You seem a decent fellow, I hate to die.’ Memorable lines uttered by cult character Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) and the film’s hero Wesley (Cary Elwes), aka the man in black. A wonderfully scripted scene too. Patinkin rose to professional level in fencing as part of his preparation and bears striking resemblance to a young Antonio Banderas. Is that how Banderas got the Zorro gig a few years later? Hmm.

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The Three Musketeers (1973)

In terms of a compelling screen presence and down and dirty swordplay, you can pretty much pick out any scene involving Athos (Oliver Reed). D’Artagnan meeting the musketeers was a key scene, as it brought the main characters together brilliantly. But special mention should go to Athos’s fight in the third act, where he appears to get killed and impaled on a windmill. Great swordplay, great scene.

Die Another Day (2002)

Whilst this Bond film may have been below par, the swordfight scene was not. Found a great behind-the-scenes clip that shows Brosnan really got stuck in, doing most of the physical work himself. Most impressive!

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Pirates of the Caribbean (2003)

Try and force the rest of the self-indulgent franchise from your head for a second and focus on the original film – a thoroughly enjoyable tale. Johnny Depp elevated this film with his quirky, masterful take on Captain Jack Sparrow. A stand-out scene had Orlando Bloom’s blacksmith Will Turner meeting Depp’s Jack for the first time and trying to prevent his escape. As expected, a wonderfully choreographed fight ensues.

Kill Bill: Vol 2 (2004)

Just to be obscure I’m going to include a deleted scene, one where Bill (David Carradine) shows off his skills with Kiddo (Uma Thurman) watching with adoration in the background. I can see why it was cut, as it doesn’t drive the story forward a great deal, just adds more depth to Bill as a character. As sword fights go though, it’s pretty cool.

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Highlander (1986)

‘There can be only one.’ I’ve often pondered the subtext to that line. Only one what? Film with a Scottish guy (Sean Connery) playing an Egyptian lord? Or French guy (Christopher Lambert) playing a Scottish tribesman? Suspension of disbelief aside, it’s a film packed with iconic swordplay scenes. For me, Highlander vs. The Kurgan is the pick of the bunch.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

‘Recognise this? It was your father’s…’ Not technically great swordfighting, more a chance to watch Alan Rickman at his scene-stealing best, swinging a sword as long as his arm against Kevin Costner’s ‘Californian’ Robin Hood in this climactic battle. Even as an out-and-out bad guy, you don’t want Rickman’s Sheriff of Nottingham to die. He’s mesmerising to watch, particularly when fighting and spitting venomous lines in Robin Hood’s direction.

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The Lord of the Rings (2001)

Here, Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) goes toe-to-toe in a frenzied battle with giant orc Lurtz. Fun fact: when filming, the stuntman playing Lurtz accidentally threw the knife directly at Mortensen instead of aiming wide as planned. Viggo instinctively deflected the blade with his sword. Does that mean Mortensen is actually Aragorn in real life? We can but sincerely hope this is the case.

As a final note, before anyone mentions Rob Roy, Seven Samurai or Star Wars, I’ve left them out because either I’ve not seen them, or don’t consider them worthy of inclusion in terms fencing quality. You may disagree, but it’s my list, so there we go.

The wonderful weirdness of Johnny Depp

fear and loathing in las vegas

I was thinking about the Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill remake of 21 Jump Street recently – incidentally a really good film, Tatum is much funnier than I expected – and it reminded me of Johnny Depp’s cameo near the end. A complete scene-stealing, unexpected moment that lasts less than 2 minutes. It’s brilliant. Check it out.

This got me thinking about Depp’s career and his forthcoming role as Tonto in the remake of The Lone Ranger. What I love about Depp is the choices he has made. In terms of character, he’s carved out a career embracing the weird, wacky, offbeat, fantastical, macabre and deranged.

tonto johnny depp 2013It wasn’t always like this. Returning to 21 Jump Street for a second, Depp’s appearance in the remake was a nod to the fact he appeared in the original series (1987-90). That final year he made his film breakthrough in Edward Scissorhands (1990). With one of his strangest characters, he’d kick-started his career. However he didn’t return to the weird and wonderful again for 8 years, appearing in Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998). A film you can probably only truly appreciate if you’ve taken a hell of a lot of drugs.

fear and loathing in las vegasFor me, Fear and Loathing was the start of his wacky period which saw him give us fabulously strange characters in films such as: Sleepy Hollow, From Hell, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride, Pirates of the Caribbean, Sweeney Todd, Alice in Wonderland, The Rum Diary, and Dark Shadows.

So, from what we can see, his output for the weird, wacky and fantastical in on the up. Some say he’s sold out. I don’t entirely buy that. Like many successful actors, he has said he just wants to have fun and embrace new challenges that come his way. If that happens to be five (yes five!) Pirates of the Caribbean films then so be it. Being part of a franchise that’s grossed nearly $3 billion probably gives you a bit of room to express yourself.

alice in wonderlandThere are some that say he’s sold out whilst still managing to play quirky edgy characters. This may be true, but where’s the harm in that? If it means Depp can give us his version of The Mad Hatter, Tonto or Barnabas Collins, then I’m all for it.

As Hatter says to Alice, ‘You used to be much more “muchier” You’ve lost your muchness.’ Well I think Johnny Depp has begun to find his muchness in recent years, long may it continue!