Generally speaking, Mike Leigh‘s films have usually leaned toward the realistic, with dramas that feel almost like documentaries thanks to an approach that emphasizes rehearsals to find new and authentic notes for the characters the writer/director has put on the page. But could his next picture see him deliver something more in the vein of the flamboyant “Topsy-Turvy“?
Sony Pictures Classics have snapped up the North American, Latin American and Eastern European rights to Mike Leigh’s upcoming and untitled J.M.W. Turner biopic. Last fall, it was reported that Timothy Spall would be taking the lead in the movie, playing the painter who 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 has been working on the project for a few years now, with the budget expected to be a bit larger than what he generally requires. And it looks like he’ll find both humor and heart in the subject matter.
“Turner as a character is compelling. I want to explore the man, his working life, his relationships and how he lived. But what fascinates me most is the drama that lies in the tension between this driven eccentric and the epic, timeless world he evoked in his masterpieces,” the director said. “I also see rich tragic-comic potential in his often turbulent relationship with the English Art Establishment, especially in his later years, when his increasingly radical work was misunderstood and derided.”
It sounds promising, and Leigh has a great team of collaborators. The National Gallery, Tate Britain and the Royal Academy will grant special access to some of Turner’s original works for the movie, and behind the camera the director will be assisted by cinematographer Dick Pope (“The Illusionist,” “Secrets & Lies,” “Another Year,” “Topsy-Turvy”), Academy Award-winning costume designer Jaqueline Durran (“Anna Karenina,” “Pride & Prejudice,” “Atonement“) and more.
Production will begin this spring for release in 2014, and we’d wager this one will probably be an awards contender in more than one category.