For those who can’t make it through the holidays without watching Love Actually at least once—and there are many of us—Bill Nighy is always top of mind for his BAFTA-winning role of pop star Billy Mack. But his latest performance as a widower facing down death in Living, a new film from Oliver Hermanus, is generating even more buzz. Set in 1950s London, Living is a reimagining of Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru, and as Nighy prepares for its December 23 release, he reveals his key components to the good life. —Ashley Baker

ALIBI: “My phone’s been playing up … ”
ATHLETE: Lionel Messi. His achievement is unworldly, and his grace and understated athleticism are thrilling and hip. You will never see him straining into the face of a referee or another player; he’ll be already placing the ball.
BAG: I could use one.
CAR: Black Jaguar Mark 1 with wire wheels and walnut dash with leather interior in powder blue. It’ll go with anything.
COUPLE: Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant in Bringing Up Baby. They act so fast.
DANCERS: James Brown threw so many unprecedented shapes and must be the most influential mover of all time. Prince could do the splits in heels and come back up on the back beat. I mean …
DINNER, WEEKDAY: Penne arrabbiata with anchovies—calm down—capers and black olives … and more chili than you’d think is even good for me.

EXCUSE: “Mrs. Pumphrey fell on the Rockery.” That’s one I actually used when late for work; it was instantly exposed as a lie.
HOLIDAY: Le Bristol in Paris for the week that Mary J. Blige is inexplicably playing the bar downstairs.
INDULGENCE: Nourishing my hair takes a lot of product.
INTROS: “Monkey Man,” by the Rolling Stones, and “Stay,” by David Bowie, live at the Nassau Coliseum in 1976.
KISS-OFF: “You should get out more.” Particularly if they’ve just said, “I’ve never been so insulted in my life.”

A proper Welsh rarebit on two toasts with Marmite underneath—just breathe—with grilled cherry tomatoes and The New York Review of Books on the side. (Open at the sports page.)

NAME: Agnès. It’s good in most languages but best in French, obviously.
Novel: Parade’s End, by Ford Madox Ford. My favorite love story …
: The Escape Artist, by Jonathan Freedland.
: Smokie, a festival of bad character, but he could catch a Frisbee in full flight and hang there like Gareth Bale. (He was a dog.)

Piece of advice: “Don’t take drugs and pay your taxes and moisturize while face is still wet … ”
RIDE: An empty night train headed north with loud rain and coffee.
SINGER: Aretha Franklin. For anyone in doubt, try “I Want to Be with You,” from Rare & Unreleased Recordings from the Golden Reign of the Queen of Soul.
STORM: A storm in early spring from a balcony overlooking Paris.
Television series
: The Larry Sanders Show.
Time of day
: Dusk. The word is enough.
: From the top of Montmartre, in Paris, at two a.m.
Wake-up time
: 7:27 a.m. Trust me.
Work of Art
: Interior with Screen, by Édouard Vuillard. I used to visit it at the Courtauld Gallery, in London, and they made me a print. Thank you, George.

Bill’s Essentials

Clockwise from top left: Welsh rarebit; a scene from Bringing Up Baby; a Jaguar Mark 1; The Escape Artist, by Jonathan Freedland; Lionel Messi.