Pirates Of The Caribbean’s Bill Nighy Talks The Ridiculous Stuff He Had To Do To Play Davy Jones And How ‘The Money’ Kept Him Going

Bill Nighy as Davy Jones
(Image credit: Disney)

At this point movie fans have become accustomed to movie characters that are mostly, if not entirely, CGI creations. Bill Nighy was one of the pioneers of that when he transformed into Davy Jones for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, and the actor admits that he couldn’t really believe what he’d gotten himself into as he didn’t understand what the job would require. It’s a good thing the money was good. 

Bill Nighy recently appeared in a video interview for Vanity Fair where he talks about many of his most famous roles, including the one that’s probably been seen by the most people, Pirates of the Caribbean’s Davy Jones. He explains that he didn’t realize what would be required to do the motion capture until he asked the wardrobe department where his costume was, only to learn that he wouldn’t be getting one. Nighy said… 

Then, when I got there I didn’t realize I wouldn’t have a costume like everybody else. So, I actually phoned the costume department and said, ‘Is my costume coming anytime soon?’ They said, ‘Has nobody told you?’ I said, ‘Told me what?’ It turned out I had to wear computer pajamas with white baubles all over them and a skull cap with a bauble on the top, and 250 dots painted out on my face and sneakers… with a bauble on top! Then they introduce you to Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom. If you ever felt lonely before now it’s for real.

It’s probably one thing when you’re making a movie like Avatar and everybody on set is dressed in the same motion capture rig, but when it came to Dead Man’s Chest, everybody was dressed like pirates except Nighy, who, as he says, was wearing “computer pajamas.” 

Nighy says that he’s quite proud of the fact that he didn’t just walk away from the role, though that implies that the thought at least crossed his mind. In the end, because he was playing the lead villain in a tentpole Disney movie, Nighy was paid quite well for the work. We know Johnny Depp was certain well paid for the Pirates films. The films made a lot of money, the Pirates films have been worth billions to Disney, and so they had money to spend. Bill Nighy says remembering that was what got him through. He continued…

I used to wander about the set just saying, 'the money' over and over in my mind. Because they gave me quite a lot of money. That’s why I went. I went for the money. People wouldn’t have lunch with me; it was too sad. Members of the crew would go, ‘Hey. Hi. Hi’ and they’d just walk away. Because it was just too sad to see this man in late middle age dressed as somebody who didn’t get into DEVO or something.

In the end, Nighy says he was quite impressed with what the digital effects people did to create Davy Jones, and so he likely is glad he stuck with it. Whatever he spent the money on was probably also nice.  And who knows, the last movie teased a Davy Jones return, so maybe he'll be back one day, for the right price. 

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.