Mike Leigh movie Mr Turner forced to film in Cornwall instead of Margate

Timothy Spall’s new film is set on the Kent coastline but was shot in the West Country, due to the Turner Contemporary gallery getting in the way of the seafront view


Mike Leigh’s new biopic explores the life and works of eccentric, British artist J.M.W. Turner, known for his light landscape water-colour paintings of Margate, yet scenes from the movie were captured in Cornwall, rather than the Kent coastline.


Mr Turner was recently shown at Cannes Film Festival, audiences watched Timothy Spall as Turner, recounting the artist’s later life in Margate, where the painter looked for inspiration. However, the filmmakers chose to shoot in Kingsand, Cornwall, as the Kent seafront had “completely changed.”

Apparently, the white, bold and angular Turner Contemporary gallery got in the way of the traditional seaside views on the Kent coastline. Turner referred to Margate as having the “loveliest skies in Europe”, but producer Georgina Lowe had other ideas. “We didn’t go to Margate because of the gallery that’s situated there now,” she said, it has “completely changed.”

Director Leigh explained that “some people who really know Margate will object to that fact that the Margate in the film really doesn’t look anything like Margate, but this is our distillation of Margate and I think it serves the needs of the film”.

Margate’s modernisation and developments mean its appearance no longer looks like Turner’s 1830. “It’s a shame, because it was a great place,” said Leigh.

The Turner Contemporary gallery opened in 2011 and, outside London, it remains the largest art space in the South East. 

Tate Britain will hold a special Turner exhibition later this year, ahead of the release of Mr Turner, due to be in cinemas in October.


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