British filmmaker Mike Leigh has, like many directors who make improvisation a key part of their process, developed something of a rep company over the years. Actors like Lesley Manville, Jim Broadbent, Eddie Marsan, Adrian Scarborough, Imelda Staunton and Phil Davis have all regularly returned to work with the director. But if Leigh has a De Niro to his Scorsese, a Kinski to his Herzog, it’s probably Timothy Spall, who had a break-out role in 1990’s “Life Is Sweet” before starring in “Secrets & Lies,” “Topsy Turvy” and “All Or Nothing” over the next decade or so.
The duo haven’t worked together since their last film in 2002, but the good news is that a reunion seems to be imminent, with Spall announcing that he’s taking the lead role in Leigh’s next feature effort. Interviewed in the Daily Telegraph in support of his role in Sally Potter‘s “Ginger & Rosa,” Spall announces that he’s playing the British artist J.M.W Turner in Leigh’s next.
Turner — who gives his name to the most notable British art prize — was born in London in 1775, and grew up to be at the forefront of the British Romantic movement in art until his passing in 1851. Leigh’s been working on the project for a few years now, hoping to raise a larger-than-usual budget for a shoot that would be partially set in Italy, among other places. There’s no word on exactly what approach the film takes yet, but given Spall’s casting, it’s likely it’ll focus on the later part of Turner’s life, when he was struck by depression after the death of his father.
So details are still thin on the ground, but given the quality of their previous collaborations, you can pretty much count us in, particularly as it’s a rare-but-deserved lead role for Spall. All being well, filming on the untitled project will get underway in 2013 for a 2014 release.