Timothy Spall is one of those actors who works regularly and is constantly acclaimed by the critics, but he's never been the leading man type. Much of his acclaim has been for roles in ensemble films ('Secrets & Lies', 'Topsy Turvy', 'All or Nothing') or as part of a larger award-winning cast (winning the SAG best cast award for 'The King's Speech').

Timothy Spall in 'Mr Turner'
Timothy Spall admits he learnt to paint for 'Mr Turner' role

Then his usual collaborator Mike Leigh asked him to play the iconic 19th century painter J.M.W. Turner in the biopic 'Mr. Turner', and Spall went home with the Best Actor award from this year's Cannes Film Festival. 

More: Read our review of 'Mr Turner'

Leigh first mentioned the project to Timothy Spall some seven years ago, and Spall started learning how to paint in 2010 to give him three years to prepare, while Leigh raised the funds to make the movie. 'A brilliant portrait artist called Tim Wright gave me lessons until the point I was actually able to do a full size copy of a Turner painting', Spall says. 'Obviously, I can't paint like Turner! I paint like he did when he was nine. The point was to make it look like I've been holding a brush since I was two.'

More: Watch the trailer for 'Mr Turner'

Of course, Spall also did quite a bit of reading about the man. 'The great thing is that Turner was a funny-looking, fat little man. And so am I', he laughs. 'But there was also a lot of research about his art and what his inspirations were.'

More: Timothy Spall wins award for Best Actor in 'Mr Turner'

And now there's Oscar buzz swirling around him, although he keeps that in perspective. 'Someone's got to win one', he says philosophically. 'Actors always say, 'Oh, competition shouldn't be part of art.' B*****ks! It's part of everything.'