British director Mike Leigh is in the running for a second Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival with ‘Mr Turner’, based on the life of English artist J.M.W. Turner.
Leigh, who has already been nominated for the festival’s top prize five times, won the Palme d’Or back in 1996 for ‘Secrets and Lies’.
The director put in a huge amount of research into finding out about the painter, his techniques and his unconventional life in early 19th century England. But he said this film was no different to his previous work, which is famous for improvised dialogue made up on the set.
“You can read all the books in the world, you can research for a million years but it doesn’t make things happen in front of the camera, it doesn’t make Turner happen in front of the camera. You still have to create a characterisation, you still have to breathe flesh and blood into it,” said Mike Leigh at the film’s press conference in Cannes.
Turner, played by Timothy Spall, is presented as a working-class, heavyset man who has awkward relations with women and, despite deep intellectual ability, often communicates by grunting.
“This incredible instinctive and emotional autodidactic intellectual man had a billion, a zillion things to say. But never said it. So he encapsulated it in an imploded grunt. That’s how he expresses himself a lot of the time because he’s got this burning, burning thing inside him, so rather than say it, it’s just (Spall grunts),” said the actor.
‘Mr Turner’ is among 18 films competing for the coveted Palme d’Or, which will be announced on May 25.