Billy Dee Williams, now starring in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, talks shoe shopping, a life-changing safari, and revisiting the role of Lando Calrissian 40 years later.
What’s the best advice you ever received?
Practice, practice, practice.
Who were your heroes growing up?
My father, my mom, my sister, my grandmother. Whoever I am, it’s the result of those four absolutely wonderful people.
You’re 82 now. How should a person handle getting older?
You just handle it. I surround myself with people who take care of themselves, the body and the mind. I think the whole idea is surrounding yourself with situations that keep you healthy.
What’s it like to play Lando Calrissian again, all these decades later?
I feel as though I own Lando. I’ve owned him for like 40 years—he is very much me, and I’m very much Lando.
How should a man handle criticism?
With a sense of humor. I don’t worry about things like that.
How should a man handle regret?
I don’t really regret anything I’ve done. It’s all a process. As long as you don’t repeat yourself, especially when you’re doing things that are not good for you, it makes no sense to regret anything.
What human quality do you most admire?
Integrity. If you lose your integrity, you’ve lost everything.
What human quality do you most deplore?
Cruelty. Lying. I’m not saying I haven’t lied a few times in my life, but I don’t think it’s a good habit to get into.
What role should vanity play in a man’s life?
I would say that I’m a fairly vain person. I mean not to any extreme. I’m certainly not a narcissist. I’m not like our president.
What’s the best cure for heartache?
Heartache is a funny kind of thing. I mean, you don’t ask for it, but it shows up. You just have to learn to live with it, endure it, and not let it drive you crazy.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Stay away from all of the girls.
What should every man understand about women?
Do you really want me to get into that?
It’s your call.
Women are wonderful. But they have their crazy ways. Guys do, too.
What adventure most changed your life?
I went to Botswana many years ago—I was in Sun City [South Africa] to co-host the Miss Universe contest—and we went on safari. It was one of the most extraordinary experiences I’ve ever had. You suddenly realize how raw life is.
What’s the most indulgent purchase you’ve ever made?
I’m a chronic shopper. I’m always sending away for stuff like vintage watches, walking canes—my most expensive cane cost me about two grand. And shoes. I love shoes.
How many pairs do you own?
I have no clue.
How do you want to be remembered when you’re gone?
That I was a good dad and a good grandpa.
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