The First Omen star Bill Nighy reveals the biggest thing that attracted him to the horror prequel: "It explodes expectation"

Bill Nighy in The First Omen
(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

Bill Nighy has played a lot of different types of characters over the course of his career, from rock star and a vampire, to a humanoid squid and a radio producer. With The First Omen, he gets to add 'priest' to that list, and what a priest his character is...

Seeing as there's still a few days left until the horror prequel's release, we won't go into specifics, but if you've watched any of its trailers, you'll know there's something not quite right about Nighy's Cardinal Lawrence. And it's exactly that, the actor tells GamesRadar+, that first drew him to the project.

"That was one of the attractions of the script, because it was unusual, and refreshing, and different," Nighy explains. "What's that expression? I can't remember exactly, but it explodes expectation, you know? You would presume that they were on the side of the angels, literally, but there's more to it than that. So, that's more of a reflection of how things should proceed in horror in the modern world, in my view."

Directed by Arkasha Stevenson, The First Omen fills in the blanks when it comes to Damien Thorn's backstory and explores how the infant Antichrist came to be in the first place. More specifically, it follows Margaret (Servant's Nell Tiger Free), an American novice who comes to Rome to begin a life of service to the church. Once there, though, she finds herself at the center of a terrifying conspiracy...

When we ask Nighy what it was like getting to don Cardinal Lawrence's ornate get-up, he chuckles, "Obviously it made me look really good, really good," before opening up about his beginnings as an altar boy in the '50s and '60s.

"No, it's an odd thing because I was brought up a Catholic and I used to wear a cassock and cotta, which was just like wearing a school uniform," he recalls. "You didn't think anything about it, but it was a long flowing flock, and I regularly hung out with people dressed in priests' clothes. 

"My family's ambition for me, on my grandmother and my mother's side, was to be a priest so it was funny to play this priest," says Nighy. "It's a shame they're no longer with us to see the day when I was drenched in religious red, wearing a frock. But yeah, any of these big costumes affect the way you move obviously, which just really helps bring some of that atmosphere to your performance."

The First Omen releases in cinemas on April 5. For more, check our list of the best horror movies of all time, or our guide to the most exciting upcoming horror movies heading our way. 

Amy West

I am an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering all things TV and film across our Total Film and SFX sections. Elsewhere, my words have been published by the likes of Digital Spy, SciFiNow, PinkNews, FANDOM, Radio Times, and Total Film magazine.