Bill Nighy, Glasgow boy.

Is Bill Nighy the new Dame Judi Dench? Any film that requires a British actor requires a Nighy in the same way that any female role requires a Dench. Stephen Poliakoff’s (2009) Glorious 39, recently shown on BBC2, had a Nighy, as did David Hare’s Page Eight. As any passing numerologist or cabbalist will tell you the relationship between 39 and 8 leaves a 7, which is the number of creation and of a pieiad. * 8 is also the number of goals that Machester United scored against Arsenal, which just goes to show something or nothing, but not in Arsenal’s case.

The number 39 in Poliakoff’s film, however, refers to a year: 1939. Nighy, a Sagittarian, was born in 1949. Sagittarian’s are well known dictators. Nighy plays a background Johnny, the kind of well meaning chap that has the ear of the government, because he has 240 000 acres, like the Duke or Buccleath, or 131 000 acres, like the Duke of Nothumberland, or a measly 129 000 acres, such as Duke of Westminister. If we can suspend our disbelief and just imagine that most of the Uk’s 60 million acres are owned by 0.4% of the population and that the Duke of Westminster owns most of central London, including Belgradia, but pays less tax than a pipe smoking chimney sweep, then we can imagine Nighy as Westminstery. As my old school primer will tell you, 1939 was the year we went to war with Germany. The ‘what if’ in Glorious 39 suggests a different scenario. What if the landowners, here and abroad, led by Nighy/Westmistery decided not to go to war? To avoid it at all cost? To appease Hitler. Then imagine a plucky young actress, Romola Garia, playing a plucky young actress, stumbling on this shameful episode of wholesale greed, robbery and domiciled tax avoidance and tries to alert Winston Churchill. Then imagine that she finds out she is not really Nighy’s daughter, but had been left by gypsies and it’s all in the blood. She is not an aristocratic landowner. Her birth has seen to that. She can’t really understand what it will all mean, but surely as she rises from her wheel chair in the closing frames, with a younger face super-imposed on her older face, we know these impostors, for sure, have been found out. Nighy/Westminstery’s foul plans to keep all the land and wealth have been thwarted by the Second World War and one plucky actress. ‘What if?’

In Page Eight, Nighy really is a Johnny, but in this case Johnny Worriker. He plays a M15 officer. In cases such as this it is mandatory to mention Smiley’s People and say something like this is not Smiley’s People. But in this case I was quite smiley, because Rachel Weisz had a part. She played Nighy’s neighbour. The Israeli army had murdered her brother, but in the world of realpolitik it had been downplayed; a causality of truth. In the same way, page eight referred to a file that suggested the Prime Minister had prior knowledge of events such as 7/7 bombings, but chose to do nothing to protect his special relationship with Bushy tale. This seems as plausible as 100 000 people dying in one day at the Somme. Nighy and Weisz getting together? Nah, here was a part crying out for Dame Judi.