Page 3 Profile: Timothy Spall, actor


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The king of Cannes?

Debuting at Cannes Film Festival, Timothy Spall’s new film, Mr Turner, is the talk of the town. Showered with glowing reviews, it is now hotly tipped to take home the coveted Palme d’Or award.

Ted Turner?

Erm, no. It’s a biopic of the Romantic painter JMW Turner. And, according to our film critic Geoffrey Macnab, it is “a rambling, richly detailed character study with a magnificent central performance from Timothy Spall”.

What’s the story?

Directed by Mike Leigh, the film traces the artist’s life from Holland to London. Congratulated for steering clear of melodrama (the tortured love affair, the pursuit of perfection leading to madness), it instead explores Turner’s everyday life. And the homely Spall acts the part perfectly, says Macnab: “As played by Spall, Turner is a grunting, walrus-like figure with a hint of Charles Dickens’ Sam Weller about him.”

A masterstroke!

Very good. Spall’s certainly got the experience to do Turner justice. The son of a hairdresser and a postal worker, he trained at the National Youth Theatre and Rada, going on to appear in a host of blockbuster films.

And the cinematographer must have had his work cut out?

Certainly. Turner’s watercolours, particularly their depiction of light, were crucial in landscape painting. But cinematographer Dick Pope has, by all accounts, done a spectacular job of recreating some of the great artist’s best-known paintings on screen.

An instant classic?

The film perhaps, but it was a different story for Turner himself, who struggled to win over some contemporaries. Queen Victoria scorned his work.