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Timothy Spall
Timothy Spall creates 'Mr. Turner' from the spare strokes of Mike Leigh
Timothy Spall creates 'Mr. Turner' from the spare strokes of Mike Leigh

With its turbulent swirls of black and gray, British painter J.M.W. Turner's 1842 canvas "Snow Storm — Steam-boat Off a Harbour's Mouth" is unparalleled in its evocation of the terror and beauty of a raging sea. There are those who doubt the story that Turner had himself strapped to a ship's mast during a gale in order to experience the forces he so vividly set down in paint, but actor Timothy Spall, who plays Turner in Mike Leigh's earthy biography, is not among them. "There's a lot of contention among aficionados of Turner as to whether he did that," Spall agrees. "But when I look at that painting, having copied it full-size in oil,...

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