Timothy Spall Portrays Complex Artist in ‘Mr. Turner’
Timothy Spall stars as J.M.W. Turner in MR. TURNER. ©Sony Pictures Classics. CR: Simon Mein.

Timothy Spall stars as J.M.W. Turner in MR. TURNER. ©Sony Pictures Classics. CR: Simon Mein.

By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features

HOLLYWOOD—British actor Timothy Spall is getting some of best notices of his career with his performance as the enigmatic 19th century British artist J.M.W. Turner in Mike Leigh’s “Mr. Turner.” Already this year, he has been acknowledged as best actor at the Cannes Film Festival and he has topped the list of various film critics’ organizations for his remarkable portrait of a man who was gifted and prolific and yet who could be difficult and distant to those closest to him.

The 57-year-old London native recently discussed his latest collaboration with Leigh, whom he has known for more than three decades and has worked with previously six times. Part of his preparation for the role involved taking painting lessons for a few years so the scenes in which his character is applying brush to canvas appear authentic.

Having starred in Leigh’s “Secrets and Lies,” “Topsy-Turvy” and “All or Nothing,” among other works, he acknowledges an unspoken shorthand with the renowned writer-director.

While his onscreen character frequently lacks the ability to verbalize his ideas with those around him, Spall, a married father of three, displays a gift for gab while discussing the his long association with Leigh, taking on a talented but flawed artist and how he dealt with a near-fatal disease.

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