Bill Nighy Answers the Proust Questionnaire

What is your idea of perfect happiness? On a train at night in a rainstorm. 

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? I still can’t tap-dance. 

On what occasion do you lie? When someone asks, “Did you enjoy the opera?” 

What is your greatest extravagance? Books and dry cleaning.

When and where were you happiest? Have you any idea who you’re talking to? 

What is your favorite journey? From the bookshop to the café. 

What do you dislike most about your appearance? I wouldn’t change a thing. 

What is your greatest regret? One of my fondest fantasies was that I’m at an Aretha Franklin concert, and out of nowhere she says: “Bill, get up here and dance!” and I have to go up and dance to “96 Tears.” It is one of my greatest regrets that never happened. 

What is the trait you most deplore in others? Their ability to see through my bullshit. 

Which talent would you most like to have? Moves like Prince. 

What is your current state of mind? Easy, baby. 

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I wish I had never smoked. 

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be? I’d like to come back as Pharrell Williams. 

Who are your favorite writers? Ford Madox Ford, Colson Whitehead, Martin Amis, Virginia Woolf, David Hare, Joan Didion, Walter Mosley, Zadie Smith, Penelope Fitzgerald, and Kazuo Ishiguro. 

Which words or phrases do you most overuse? I say “baby doll” regardless of gender, and it is possible that using it once could be considered overusing it. A female friend of mine recently remarked, “I can’t believe you called me baby doll on International Women’s Day.” 

What is your most treasured possession? A homemade book of my daughter’s favorite writing. 

Where would you like to live? In the penthouse of Le Bristol Paris. 

What is your favorite occupation? Air guitar. 

Who is your favorite hero of fiction? It is a tie between Christopher Tietjens in Parade’s End and Milgrim in William Gibson’s Blue Ant trilogy. Christopher is the cleverest man in England who never recovered from his education and therefore causes enormous confusion in a corrupt world, and is one half of my favorite love story. Milgrim is someone I am deeply fond of, and I always imagined him played by Sam Rockwell. 

What are your favorite names? Agnès and Ray. 

What is it that you most dislike? Nationalism. 

How would you like to die?Asleep in a suite in Le Bristol hotel in Paris. 

What is your motto? Stay loose. 

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Running out of tea.

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