Nesbitt was born to a Northern Irish family, his father was a teacher. Nesbitt himself wanted to become a teacher as well, so he began a degree in French at the University of Ulster. He dropped out of school after a year when he decided to become an actor. He graduated in 1987 and spent seven years performing in multiple plays. He made his film debut playing a talent agent in Hear My Song.
His notable roles include the title role of the BBC miniseries Jekyll, a modern-day sequel to Robert Louis Stevenson's novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He is also the host of a travel series touring around his native Ireland, and another touring around New Zealand, where he and his family lived for a year during the filming of the Hobbit trilogy.
Nesbitt is married to actress Sonia Forbes-Adam, who appears in the trilogy as Belladonna (Took) Baggins (Bilbo Baggins' mother). In October 2013, Nesbitt announced his separation from Forbes-Adam, though the couple are still legally married.
- Nesbitt joked that, now that every member of his family belongs to the cast of The Desolation of Smaug, they will henceforth be referring to themselves as "the von Nesbitts."
- One of Weta Workshop's makeup artists commented that Bofur's facial prosthetics were originally intended to be much more extensive, but Nesbitt had such an expressive face that these prosthetics were scaled down to leave most of his face uncovered.
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