Mr Turner, Mike Leigh's long gestating dream project about the romantic painter J.M.W. Turner recently hit theaters in limited release but it's buzz began back in the summer when Timothy Spall took home the Best Actor prize at Cannes for his grunted commitment to this fusion of great artist and unsavory man. Last month I had the opportunity to sit down with the Mike Leigh favorite (this is their fifth big-screen collaboration). It'd be impossible to list all the ways in which the man and role are different but the physical strikes you first. Spall has slimmed down considerably since playing what he calls this "toby jug of a man."
The generous friendly actor, a thousand times more articulate than his current character, talked about the hazards of working with Mike Leigh, and beautiful fathers and son relationships both on screen and off.
Nathaniel R: I’ve talked to a few actors who’ve worked with Mike Leigh. You always hear about the months of prep work and not knowing how large your role will be. You're the lead this time but is it frustrating to do the work and then just have a small part?
TIMOTHY SPALL: I think it is. I’ve been in situations where other actors have worked a long long time and because of the way the film is structured they’ve ended up working for three months for one scene. That’s just the way it goes. It is a hazard when you work with Mike Leigh and he doesn’t hide that fact. In all the 33 years that I’ve worked with him, he’s never guaranteed I’d be the center of the piece
Well this one you had a good idea...
Unless he was shooting another film secretly in the evening about Constable.
Or a film about the Academy.
Or about Tina Turner.
One of the Turners. [Laughs]