Five Favorite Films with Timothy Spall

The charismatic British character actor talks about his favorite movies, terrifying small children and working with Clint Eastwood.

One of the busiest and most recognizable British character actors in movies, Timothy Spall cuts a unique figure of comedy and menace that's seen him play everything from Winston Churchill in The King's Speech to the nefarious Wormtail in the Harry Potter series. Along the way, Spall has worked for the likes of Clint Eastwood, Tim Burton, Ken Russell and Bernardo Bertolucci, while his collaboration with longtime friend Mike Leigh yielded an acclaimed lead performance in the director's Secrets & Lies. This week, Spall makes an appearance alongside Donald Sutherland and Christian Slater in the action thriller Assassin's Bullet, and we had the chance to chat with the very charming actor about his career and five of his favorite movies.


A Matter of Life and Death (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1946; 95% Tomatometer)

I'll tell you what my favorite film is. I think it goes like this: A Matter of Life and Death, by Pressburger and Powell. Do you know that film?

I do indeed. It's funny, one of your "peripheral" Harry Potter co-stars -- Daniel Radcliffe -- picked that as one of his all-time favorites.

Isn't that interesting? It's a great, great film. It's marvelous.




Mary Poppins (Robert Stevenson, 1964; 100% Tomatometer)

One of my favorite films of all time has got to be Mary Poppins.

Oh that's curious. How does Mary Poppins come to be on your list? Is that a favorite from your childhood?

Well I was old enough to remember it when it came out, but I don't think I saw it in the cinema, I think I saw it when it eventually came on television. In those days, you had to wait about six or seven years before a film got from the f--king cinemas to the television, and it being Disney, they never actually released their films. It was a very clever policy: They just re-released them every 10 years. I think it's one of those movies. I was having a very depressing time recently working on a job. I was feeling particularly bad and I put the television on on a Sunday afternoon, and Dick Van Dyke was singing "Chim Chimney" -- it just lifted my spirits. Everybody criticized his Cockney accent -- and even at the time I probably joined in -- and you can criticize his Cockney accent, but you cannot criticize his brilliant comic dancing. It's f--king wonderful. Oh, it's wonderful. And the quality of the work: The beauty of that film, the simplicity of it and the way it was made and directed; the charm. The way it appeals to people -- it's the old cliché, you know: Eight or 80. It's a wonderful piece of work. And it's magical. It's one of those films, you know, that you can dip into. If you're ever feeling low, stick it on and you'll feel much better. If you haven't got any illegal drugs, put that on and you'll be alright. [Laughs]

Today's lesson for the kids: Don't take drugs, do watch Mary Poppins.

[Laughs] Yeah. Say "no" to drugs but "yes" to Mary Poppins.

You've sung on film a few times yourself, of course -- in Sweeney Todd, in Gothic, in Topsy-Turvy---

Oh god. [Laughs]

I especially enjoyed your duets with Alan Rickman.

Well that's very nice of you, thank you. That's probably one of the most repulsive characters I've played in my life.

But what a lovely voice.

[Laughs] Well it was a joy to manifest such a greasy, disgusting little man. But I don't regard myself as a singer. I never ask to do it but I can sometimes just about hold a tune, as long as it's all part of the character. I'm not about to start jumping about on the West End stage in a musical. But it's nice to be involved in a film that's got a bit of singing in it and manage to acquit yourself without too much embarrassment -- that's always an achievement.




Fargo (Joel and Ethan Coen, 1996, 94% Tomatometer)

I would definitely then have to say Fargo. I love the Coen brothers.




The Fugitive Kind (Sidney Lumet, 1960; 60% Tomatometer)

What's that one... the one with Marlon Brando and Anna Magnani, from the Tennessee Williams script. It had several titles. It was called Orpheus Descending, the [original] script...

The Fugitive Kind -- is that the one?

Yeah, that's it! The Fugitive Kind. It's f--king brilliant, I love it. Anna Magnani and Brando.




Naked / Secrets & Lies (Mike Leigh, 1993/1996; 88/94% Tomatometer)

One more... I think it's gonna have to be Naked by Mike Leigh.

You don't wanna say Secrets & Lies?

[Laughs] Well look, why don't you say Naked/Secrets & Lies? I didn't want to be self-congratulatory in any way. [Laughs]

You can pick your own movie.

Well not only is it a great film, it was very important for me because I was very ill just at the time it won the Palme d'Or. So the fact that I didn't die and the film had gone around internationally and won all these awards... not only did I not die, I had a film career when I woke up. I was very pleased about that. [Laughs]

Not dying, that's always a good result.

Yeah, I was very ill. But thankfully I got over it, and that's why I have a very joyous, lunatic relationship with life -- 'cause it can easy go, you know.



Next, we chat to Spall about Harry Potter infamy and his favorite career moment.

Comments

Nick Fury

Nick Fury

Timothy is brilliant in Harry Potter and Sweeney Todd!

Aug 3 - 04:26 PM

Justin Garrett-Becker

Justin Garrett-Becker

Harry Potter is brilliant Timothy in Sweeney Todd

Aug 3 - 04:51 PM

Sean D.

Sean D

And Brilliant Timothy is Harry Potter in Sweeney Todd.

Aug 3 - 05:59 PM

bassbait t.

bassbait the monkey

Todd Timothy Potter is in Sweeney and Harry!

Aug 3 - 10:25 PM

Double.Dubs

Edward Stymest

Sweeney Harry in Todd brilliant Timothy and in Potter!

Aug 4 - 11:53 AM

Sean D.

Sean D

And Brilliant Timothy is Harry Potter in Sweeney Todd.

Aug 3 - 05:59 PM

bassbait t.

bassbait the monkey

Todd Timothy Potter is in Sweeney and Harry!

Aug 3 - 10:25 PM

Double.Dubs

Edward Stymest

Sweeney Harry in Todd brilliant Timothy and in Potter!

Aug 4 - 11:53 AM

Sean D.

Sean D

Seriously though, Timothy Spall is one of those great character actors who can step it up when need be. He's great in everything.

Aug 3 - 06:00 PM

bassbait t.

bassbait the monkey

Todd Timothy Potter is in Sweeney and Harry!

Aug 3 - 10:25 PM

Double.Dubs

Edward Stymest

Sweeney Harry in Todd brilliant Timothy and in Potter!

Aug 4 - 11:53 AM

Chris Wright

Chris Wright

Was charming in The Last Samurai.

Aug 3 - 11:28 PM

Robert G.

Robert Gassaway

A MATTER OF LIFE & DEATH is probably my favorite "old" film of all time. It begins as a black & white war drama, then bursts into Technicolor w/ romance, fantasy, and philosophy. Great acting by its leading man David Niven, solid supporting performances, and brilliant direction by The Archers. Also one of the few films to depict heaven in a clever way, which is much easier said than done. I was surprised not to see it listed on Sight & Sound's recent list of "The 50 Greatest Movies of All Time."

Aug 4 - 01:44 AM

Chris Bean

Chris Bean

Except it's not "heaven". They made a point in the script of never referring to it as "heaven" and then the Americans released it under the name "Stairway to Heaven".

Aug 5 - 11:23 AM

jake s.

jake suttles

I really like this guy....and I really like this list. doesn't seem like hes trying to ramble off some big names to seem like a "true" movie buff and explaining why they have a personal connection to him.

fargo is a given, as is a matter of life and death. I really liked the shout out to marry poppins, not many people would think to mention that but its an amazing flick. other two I have yet to see...

Aug 4 - 06:41 AM

Josh Mallalieu

Josh Mallalieu

I really like this guy. He excells in everything from large scale movies like Harry Potter and Sweeney Todd to small television roles like The Syndicate. Really great actor.

Aug 4 - 07:41 AM

bigbrother

Bigbrother .

Not a big fan of Spall, not because I don't think he's a talented actor per say, I just find all his roles unctuous in the extreme. Since most of his roles are supposed to be unappealling maybe that's a compliment, but I find it hard to say that I enjoy him as an actor based on his range. If anyone can recommend a movie where he doesn't play a toadie, weasal or degenerate I might change my mind.

Aug 4 - 08:16 AM

Dre M.

Dre M.

Hmmm, for you I'd highly recommend Secrets and Lies. His character's rather subdued, but he's very compassionate. I bought it for dirt cheap (like $3.00) in a bargain bin after hearing all these rave reviews (also because renting it would've costed about the same). It was a great purchase and a solid, emotional film. Hope that helps!

Aug 4 - 09:27 AM

Ben Del Vecchio

Ben Del Vecchio

Try him in Damned United, stole my heart in that one, a wonderful performance, and few have seen it.

Aug 4 - 05:49 PM

Andrew I.

Andrew Imrie

It was a smaller role, but I just saw Topsy-Turvy and he was quite good as a well-liked and respected stage actor.

Aug 5 - 09:02 AM

Dre M.

Dre M.

Hmmm, for you I'd highly recommend Secrets and Lies. His character's rather subdued, but he's very compassionate. I bought it for dirt cheap (like $3.00) in a bargain bin after hearing all these rave reviews (also because renting it would've costed about the same). It was a great purchase and a solid, emotional film. Hope that helps!

Aug 4 - 09:27 AM

Double.Dubs

Edward Stymest

Sweeney Harry in Todd brilliant Timothy and in Potter!

Aug 4 - 11:53 AM

Ben Del Vecchio

Ben Del Vecchio

Try him in Damned United, stole my heart in that one, a wonderful performance, and few have seen it.

Aug 4 - 05:49 PM

Ben Del Vecchio

Ben Del Vecchio

Spall was fantastic in "the Damned United" along with Martin Sheen. It's a british flick about soccer... but so much more than that, watch it even if you don't enjoy the sport, its wonderrful!

Aug 4 - 05:50 PM

John Ianni

John Ianni

I think you mean Michael Sheen - and I agree that The Damned United is a great movie that isn't necessarily about sport. I also enjoyed Tim Spall in Topsy Turvy - great movie about Gilbert & Sullivan and the creative process that goes into developing a theatre production.

Aug 4 - 09:46 PM

bigbrother

Bigbrother .

Thanks guys, I actually intended to see The Damned United before I left England, but was considerably busy as you'd expect and it slipped through the cracks. Actually didn't think about it again until you just reminded me.

Aug 5 - 04:11 AM

John Ianni

John Ianni

I think you mean Michael Sheen - and I agree that The Damned United is a great movie that isn't necessarily about sport. I also enjoyed Tim Spall in Topsy Turvy - great movie about Gilbert & Sullivan and the creative process that goes into developing a theatre production.

Aug 4 - 09:46 PM

bigbrother

Bigbrother .

Thanks guys, I actually intended to see The Damned United before I left England, but was considerably busy as you'd expect and it slipped through the cracks. Actually didn't think about it again until you just reminded me.

Aug 5 - 04:11 AM

bigbrother

Bigbrother .

Thanks guys, I actually intended to see The Damned United before I left England, but was considerably busy as you'd expect and it slipped through the cracks. Actually didn't think about it again until you just reminded me.

Aug 5 - 04:11 AM

What's Hot On RT

New on DVD & Blu-Ray
New on DVD & Blu-Ray

Transcendence, Sabotage, Shōgun...

24 Frames
24 Frames

Pictures of classic movie pairs

Annabelle Trailer
Annabelle Trailer

Horror spin-off of The Conjuring

Laggies Trailer
Laggies Trailer

Keira Knightley is a responsible rebel

Find us on:                     
Help | About | Jobs | Critics Submission | Press | API | Licensing | Mobile