Timothy Spall on learning to paint like Turner

Timothy Spall shows off one of his canvases to ITV News Correspondent Nina Nannar Credit: ITV News

British actor Timothy Spall has spoken of having to learn to paint in preparation for his award-winning role in the biopic Mr Turner.

In an exclusive interview with ITV News, he said he completed a "personal foundation course in fine art" in order to get inside the mind of the romantic painter J.M.W. Turner.

Asked whether he felt any pressure at having to paint like one of Britain's most celebrated artists, he admitted this was never his intention:

You try and find out as much and experience as much about the character [as you can] ... You're never going to experience a whole lifetime of painting and you're certainly never going to be anywhere near as good as the genius of Turner. I mean, he was about as good as that [gesturing at his own paintings] when he was nine.

timothy spall

ITV News Correspondent Nina Nannar reports:

Spall spent around two years taking private art lessons from the London artist Tim Wright in preparation for the role.

In the end you don't see me painting a whole Turner, or anything like that, what you do see is me holding a paintbrush like someone who knows what he is doing.

timothy spall

Speaking of his own paintings, he joked: "As to whether they're any good or not, I don't know".

He also spoke of his admiration for a man who was perpetually reinventing his art form, even if it flew in the face of prevailing tastes in 19th-century England.

The film, which is directed by Spall's long-term collaborator Mike Leigh, focuses on the last 25 years of Turner's life.

Coming for a working-class background, Turner began drawing and painting young and was a member of the Royal Academy of Art when he was 15.

Despite being recognised in these hallowed circles, he remained a controversial figure - a "massive revolutionary mind," as Spall puts it - who was never fully accepted.

Spall said he was drawn to the contradictions of this "strange little man that not everyone liked".

Mr Turner premiered at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, where Spall won the award for Best Actor.

He said he was shocked when asked to attend the award ceremony and even more shocked when he won the prize - so much so that a publicist had to remind him to get up and receive it.

But he remained tight-lipped about his chances of being nominated for an Academy Academy Award, saying only that "it would be great for the film".

Mr Turner is released in the UK on 31st October 2014.