Timothy Spall: I couldn’t get out of my Mr Turner character… even while buying booze in a London bar

The star of Mike Leigh’s new film about the C19th British painter reveals an embarrassing encounter in a bar when he was filming the movie and forgot who he actually was for minute


Like any actor in a Mike Leigh film, finding your character is a vital part of the work.


As RadioTimes.com revealed more than a year ago, Timothy Spall learned to paint in order to fully understand the mind of the great J.M.W Turner before playing him in the film.

But Spall’s dedication also led to an embarrassing moment in a north London wine-bar, as Spall reveals in this week’s Radio Times magazine: “One weekend early on, I was still struggling to find out what made Turner tick. I couldn’t get out of character. I went into an empty bar in Clerkenwell and said [and here he instantly morphs into Turner], ‘Are you a purveyor of wine?’”

He giggles at himself. “I had to go outside and lean against the wall for a minute. Calm down now, sport! I went back and said [back to south London], ‘Can I have a pinot grigio, please?’”


The new issue of Radio Times magazine is on sale from Tuesday 28 October in the shops and on Newsstand for iPad or iPhone