TORONTO -- Three weeks before he was to start shooting his new film, "What We Did On Our Holiday," Scottish star Billy Connolly got a wallop of bad news.
On the same day in September 2013, within a span of hours, he received two major diagnoses: that he had Parkinson's disease and early-stage prostate cancer.
Connolly underwent surgery to remove the cancer and never considered pulling out of the film. In fact, he didn't even tell writer-director duo Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin about his Parkinson's diagnosis, he said.
"It didn't change anything at all," the 72-year-old comedy legend said in a recent telephone interview, noting he had very few Parkinson's symptoms at the time.
"I think they thought I was just getting old, when I sat down a lot, which is quite right. I am getting old."
Connolly even joked that his condition "was very useful" for his role as an ailing grandfather who gets a visit from his son and his fractured family to celebrate his 75th birthday in the Scottish Highlands.
Rosamund Pike and David Tennant play parents who have separated but don't want their extended family to know. Emilia Jones, Bobby Smalldridge and Harriet Turnbull are standouts as their children; Connolly said they deftly handled dialogue that involved a lot of ad-libbing.
The sweet comedy, which was inspired by the BBC show "Outnumbered," opens at Toronto's Cineplex Varsity Cinemas and Vancouver's Cineplex Fifth Avenue Cinemas on Friday.
Connolly's character has an attitude of acceptance and humour about his illness, which also reflects the way the actor feels.
He said he's just as enthusiastic about life as ever, noting he was once asked by a woman if he wanted to join a society supporting the right to die and his response was an emphatic "No" (preceded by an unprintable expletive).
"You must never give these things an even break, because you certainly find they overwhelm you, and it's all people want to talk about," he said from his home on the Maltese island of Gozo, where he likes to draw.
"You become defined by it. But I've had 45, 50 years without (Parkinson's), so I can get along just fine, thank you very much. And I find it very interesting, especially in my comedy life, because my mind works differently. It works at a different speed and I find it very exciting."
The late comedy star Robin Williams, who was Connolly's good friend, was said to be suffering from the early stages of Parkinson's disease -- as well as depression and anxiety -- before he committed suicide in August 2014.
Connolly said he spoke with Williams shortly before his death and he "knew there was something wrong."
"He kept saying that he loved me and asking if I believed him and I said, 'Of course I believe you. Don't be daft,"' said Connolly.
"My wife's a psychologist and afterward she said, 'I think that was him saying goodbye."'
Connolly said he met Williams in Canada in the 1970s when they were in the studio at the same time for tapings of a talk show.
"He's got me going to church, the bugger," said Connolly of Williams.
"Well, I don't go and pray, I go and light a candle for him. And my sister died a couple of weeks ago, so I light two candles.
"It really appeals to me, the flame burning when you leave the building, you know?"
In October, Connolly will take his ad-libbed standup comedy High Horse Tour to Canada.
He said his memory isn't as good as it used to be, so he doesn't reminisce onstage as much anymore. He also asks audience members to remind him of stuff.
"Sometimes I pick people, individuals, and I say, 'You, you're my memory tonight,"' said Connolly. "They love it."