Mike Leigh

Ecstasy, Hampstead Theatre, London

Mike Leigh has broken the habit of a lifetime and returned to direct one of his stage plays for the second time. You can see why he has been reluctant hitherto. Given the improvisatory techniques and the exhaustive research into character that goes into the creation of a Mike Leigh piece, the original actors might be said to "own" the material in a deeper sense than is normally meant by the term. How could you hope to re-create in rehearsal that intimate sense of mutual discovery with actors coming to the finished product cold?

Mike Leigh - Secrets and Leigh lines

As Mike Leigh's new film, Another Year, is released, James Mottram explores the rigorous processes behind the performances his work is famed for, while stars reveal the demands involved.

Nobody's mug: How did Eddie Marsan become Hollywood's go-to man for

Eddie Marsan would probably agree that his face is his fortune. He is one of those film actors you can't always put a name to, but you'll instantly recognise that cartoon countenance: wide with low ears, flattened nose and crestfallen mouth, liable to look meek or mean depending on how the wind is blowing. It is the sort of face that nature has provided with its own stocking mask.

Our culture critics’ picks for 2010

From Picasso’s politics to ‘The Prisoner’ and Beethoven to Big Boi, our experts choose their cultural highlights for the next 12 months

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Read all about it: Tales from the bright side of life

Recession needn't mean depression – in fact, the first weeks of 2009 brimmed with heart-warming, gloom-busting stories. John Walsh unearths accounts of serendipity, misfortune overcome and downright silliness that you may have missed

Happy-Go-Lucky, 15

The veteran British director has taken a break from the grimmer side of life, and has created an ode to joy

Mike Leigh: 'Me? Miserable? Nonsense!'

He admits that his new film 'Happy-Go-Lucky' has put a smile on his face – but, says Mike Leigh, woe betide any actor who reveals the director's 'trade secrets'