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CANNES FIRST LOOK: Mike Leigh's 'Mr. Turner' Biopic, Starring Timothy Spall

Photo of Beth Hanna By Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood April 17, 2014 at 12:50PM

A first image has arrived for Mike Leigh's much anticipated and long in-the-works J.M.W. Turner biopic -- simply titled "Mr. Turner" -- with Timothy Spall in the lead role as the famed Brit Romantic landscape painter. The film was announced this morning as part of the Cannes competition lineup. Check out the new still, below.
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Mike Leigh
Mike Leigh

A first image has arrived for Mike Leigh's much anticipated and long in-the-works J.M.W. Turner biopic -- simply titled "Mr. Turner" -- with Timothy Spall in the lead role as the famed Brit Romantic landscape painter. The film was announced this morning as part of the Cannes competition lineup. Check out the new still, below.

While no official synopsis has been released for the film, we know that Marion Bailey, Dorothy Atkinson and Paul Jesson co-star in Leigh's first period piece since 1999's brilliant behind-the-scenes Mikado tale "Topsy-Turvy." Cinematographer Dick Pope ("Another Year") was in charge of lensing, while the National Gallery, the Tate Britain and Royal Academy granted special access to some of Turner's paintings for the project.

Here’s what Leigh has had to say in the past about his interest in the artist, for hints about the direction of the film:

"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.  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.”

Sony Pictures Classics snapped up rights to "Mr. Turner" in March 2013. No word yet on a stateside release.


Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh's "Mr. Turner."
Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh's "Mr. Turner."


This article is related to: Cannes, Cannes Film Festival, Festivals, Mike Leigh, Mike Leigh, Timothy Spall, Mr. Turner


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.