BILL originally wanted to be a journalist and after a short spell with a magazine, ran away to Paris in his late teens to write "the great novel" - but he only managed to write the title. Back home, a girlfriend suggested he should become an actor, so he trained at the Guildford School of Dance and Drama. Since then he has worked regularly on stage, screen and radio, but it wasn't until the 2003 hit romantic comedy movie Love Actually that he gained international recognition (and the first of his Bafta awards). He is currently filming Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, playing Davey Jones.


THE 6ft 2in, 55-year-old actor says he was ridiculed by film crew over the size of his manhood when he first stripped off on set. "The first time I took off my underpants, the camerman looked down and said, 'Oh Bill, why didn't you say something?' And he shouted to his assistant, 'Get me a magnifying lens, I can't see bugger-all from here." Little wonder, then, that he says he doesn't enjoy sex scenes. He suffers from a genetic condition called Dupuytren's Contracture. "I inherited it from my mother's side of the family," he explains. "My last two fingers in each hand are permanently bent back against the palms." It becomes worse the older you get, which is why in his earlier films he could spread his hands perfectly. He had to do a fight scene while filming Underworld and he hurt a shoulder. "But what I felt was a shooting pain in my chest, and I got scared. But the X-rays showed all was well."


WALKING his two dogs is not only one of his favourite pastimes, but his regular every day source of exercise. "Smokie is a rescue dog and has a lurcherish kind of appeal," he says. "Nellie is a posh dog, a Tibetan terrier. They enjoy long walks, which is good for them - and good for me." He admits that he's never been a great enthusiast of 'proper' exercise in gyms, although he is now seriously considering taking up some form of yoga. "I reckon I need to do something to stay fit and healthy in my old age," he quips. "I watched Love Actually and it was good fun but I thought, 'God you're old, you're knackered-looking, you look terrible.'"


ATHOUGH he doesn't follow strict diets, he tries to be careful about what he eats because "Now that I've become an 'overnight star' after 30 years in the business, I must keep in good shape for my fans." He hasn't drunk alcohol for more than 12 years now after drinking too much and doing drugs in the past. He became a coffee-aholic instead, but gave that up last year and turned to tea. "By God, have I drunk some tea! Although if you abuse tea, it doesn't make you feel as bad as if you abuse coffee." He is also addicted to Diet Coke. He has also given up smoking.


NIGHY has been in a relationship with actress Diana Quick for 23 years, although they have never married. They have a daughter, Mary, 20. "Diana has been the love story of my life. I first saw her on the cover of a magazine which asked: 'Is this the most beautiful woman in the world?' Then we worked together at the National Theatre. Our separations for work reasons have probably stopped us getting sick of the sight of each other. It has kept us fresh.