Scottish actor, comedian, and musician Billy Connolly has led a remarkable career, one that’s found him opening for Elton John, lending his voice to multiple Disney movies, Hobbiting with Peter Jackson, and laying waste in the Boondock Saints franchise. Now, the man who has brought no shortage of laughter to the world is culling tears. In an upcoming BBC Scotland documentary series on his life and career, Connolly speaks candidly about his struggle with Parkinson’s disease and the knowledge that his life is “slipping away” from him.
“My life is slipping away and I can feel it, and I should, I’m 75,” he says in the documentary. “I’m near the end but it doesn’t frighten me. It’s an adventure, and it’s quite interesting to see myself slipping away. Bits slip off and leave me. Talents leave and attributes leave. I don’t have the balance I used to have; I don’t have the energy I used to have; I can’t hear the way I used to hear; I can’t see as good as I used to. I can’t remember the way I used to remember.”
He also remarks on how his condition is impacting his music, a part of his career that’s been with him since he worked the Glasgow shipyards as a young man. “I can’t work my left hand on the banjo. It’s as if I’m being prepared for something, some other adventure which is over the hill. I’ve got all this stuff to lose first, and then I’ll be on the shadowy side of the hill, doing the next episode in the spirit world.”
He also acknowledges that “it’s going to get worse,” but not without embracing a bit of hope. “There’s still time to go yet,” he adds. “There’s still places to go, new friends to make, maybe new songs to write and sing and jokes to tell,” he says. We sure hope so.
Billy Connolly: Made in Scotland will air on BBC2 this Friday evening. Bring tissues.