Toronto: Bill Nighy Blasts Margaret Thatcher for Bashing Gays, Trade Unions

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The 'Pride' star praised the U.K. comedy about militant gays uniting with striking miners in 1984 Britain

Pride star Bill Nighy on Sunday lashed out at former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who died last year, for bullying gays and lesbians and trade unions during her 1980s reign.

"When I was young, people still went to jail for public displays of affection, people of the same sex. It's bizarre to say that," he stated at the Pride press conference on Sunday during the Toronto Film Festival.

Nighy welcomed, 30 years later, being able to attend a wedding of two gay friends.

"They can turn to one another and say 'I love you' in a public place. I find that almost overwhelming," he insisted.

For Nighy, Matthew Warchuscomedy about gay activists uniting with striking Welsh coal miners against Thatcher's rule in 1984 Britain recalls a time when same-sex relationships and trade unions were vilified and marginalized by the tabloid press and police.

"To crush whole communities all over the country, communities of decent working men and women, who were demonized in the press and were invented as actual enemies of the state … that's what they did," Nighy said of the Thatcher government's battle against mining unions.

Stephen Beresford's screenplay for Pride dramatizes real-life gay and lesbian activists making common cause, and comedy, with striking Welsh miners.

The British indie has its North American premiere in Toronto after bowing in Cannes, and CBS Films has picked up the U.S. rights.

"To find a script that treated those men and women and that community with dignity and respect was a long time coming," Nighy, who plays Welsh working men's club worker Cliff, said.

Pride also stars Imelda Staunton as a Welsh woman leading a support group, Paddy Considine as a union organizer and an ensemble cast that includes George MacKay and Dominic West.

The Toronto Film Festival runs through to Sept. 14.