Bill Nighy: ‘I have danced naked in my front room, but you need shoes to really spin’

<span>‘I dance on my own at home, which is one of the great pleasures of living alone’ … Bill Nighy.</span><span>Photograph: Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP</span>
‘I dance on my own at home, which is one of the great pleasures of living alone’ … Bill Nighy.Photograph: Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

There’s an argument that you’re the person James Bond matures into: women still want to sleep with you and men want to be you. What’s your secret? MarcoPoloMint
I have no idea. I don’t get out much and I don’t identify with whomever they’re talking about. I did used to quip that I could be James Bond’s grandfather and I’ve always wanted to say: “The name’s Nighy. Bill Nighy.” I’m very happy to hear, but it’s a bit of a stretch for me to grasp.

When you were younger, you travelled to Paris to write a book, but never completed it. Will you ever dust down your great unfinished novel to realise your literary ambitions? VerulamiumParkRanger
I had a very romantic idea – I was a walking cliche in my 20s – of running away to Paris to write the great English short story. The pathetic thing is that I went and stood in the Trocadéro, outside the Shakespeare and Company bookstore and under the Arc de Triomphe, hoping to catch some vibes. I sat down for an hour in front of a blank page and drew a margin, like at school, for the teacher’s remarks, but the doorbell went or the phone rang and that was the end of my literary career.

How do you deliver unspoken dialogue so loudly and more than adequately every time? Twist27
I’m not sure, because I never watch anything I’m in. I mean, I’m there when it’s happening. I keep acting until somebody says “stop”, whether I’ve got lines or not. I’m flattered to hear that my silence is eloquent, but I’m not really in a position to comment further.

Thank you for Pride. What a wonderful film. One of my favourite scenes involves you and Imelda Staunton making sandwiches. What is your perfect sandwich? pleicetene
Decent bread, untoasted, with butter, plenty of Marmite, cheese, cucumber and salt and pepper. That’s what I call a sandwich. I’m not very good at food. I eat lots, but I don’t eat very sophisticatedly. I’ve made whole films on toasted cheese sandwiches and Snickers bars.

I was surprised to read that you come from a family of chimney sweeps. Did you clean many chimneys when you were younger? Catupatree
It’s true that I did a lot of chimney work as a boy, but there was a bittersweet moment for all Nighy children when they realised they were too tall. There’s generally a family party at this point, which is a joyous occasion, but it’s also sad, because it’s a farewell to chimney work; those were good times, good years. You can find out a lot about yourself up a chimney.

You’ve sung as Strange Fruit’s Ray Simms in Still Crazy, Billy Mack in Love Actually and Dylan in the Magic Roundabout. Would you welcome the opportunity to sing as yourself? VerulamiumParkRanger
I think the days of me being a singer have gone. A couple of films have required me to be in a recording studio and, I have to say, they were some of the happiest times of my life. Watching musicians together is absolutely thrilling. I listen to music all day long: when I get up in the morning; in the car on the way to work; in the hotel room; in the trailer. I dance on my own at home, which is one of the great pleasures of living alone. I have danced naked in the privacy of my front room, but you need shoes to really spin.

Related: ‘I think about death 35 times a day’: Bill Nighy on sex, social media – and still being able to manage the stairs

Do you get much post addressed to Mr Nighty? TopTramp
I get post directed to – and people approaching me in the street as – Mr Nighly. The first time I was ever reviewed in a newspaper, I was Bill Nickby. People I’ve known for a long time still call me Nickby. I get Mr Nightly, which is longer and more complicated. Nighty. All sorts of stuff. Somebody sent me a newspaper cutting with six or seven names that are leaving the language, and one of them is mine. So there you go.

Considering all your grumpy old men roles, what makes Bill Nighy grumpy? TurangaLeela2
I don’t think I’ve ever played a grumpy old man. I’ve played some cheerful old men, some sad old men, but not particularly grumpy. But let’s assume that I have. I blush easily. And what makes me grumpy is people telling you that you are blushing. The people who are blushing are never in any doubt about the fact that they’re blushing. No one needs telling that they’re blushing and there’s no attractive reason for pointing it out.

Is there any particular role you have yet to be offered that you would still like to play? Sagarmatha1953
I want my action career to begin. I’m not kidding. I looked at a film of mine on Netflix or Prime the other day. They give you “five other films you might like if you like this one” and they were all about people dying. I thought: “I think I’ve done as much dying as I really want to do.” I’m grateful to be the guy they come to for dying, but from now on, if I’m going to die, I don’t want to die on a drip in my pyjamas – I want to die in a hail of machine gunfire or jumping out of an aeroplane at 30,000ft. When there’s a scene where you are required to wear pyjamas, I always try to get some funky alternative, because I always feel too exposed. It’s a terrible thing for an actor to say, but there we go.

Custard: thick or thin? billyocean
When I was a boy, my Sunday duties were gravy and custard. I never had many complaints. You don’t want it to be too thick. It’s got to have some movement. Thin custard is a depressing thought. So, somewhere between the two – a fluid consistency that can honour the pudding.

I love your work and would watch you read the phone book. How would you approach such a role? Shelley88
I would put in a lot of pauses, gaze into the middle distance to give particular significance to certain names. There would be special graphics when we get to names that are dying out, like Nighy. I would speed up at points and slow down inexplicably with some of my – as you say – trademark unspoken dialogue. I would change costume a few times, into a series of lounge suits. Possibly, I’d have some music playing in the background. Maybe I’d dance – but not naked. And I’ll die in my pyjamas at the end, but only if you insist.

• The First Omen is in UK cinemas from 5 April