Mr. Turner writer-director Mike Leigh, who has been nominated for Oscars five times, knew exactly who he wanted to play the lead role in his new biopic about the revered and irascible English Romantic painter J.M.W. Turner.

That was, as he tells Deadline’s Pete Hammond in this video clip from our recent Oscar showcase The Contenders, veteran character actor Timothy Spall.

Mike Leigh Mr TurnerSpall was the only actor Leigh said he considered for the role, and he’s perhaps best known for his ratty role as Wormtail in the Harry Potter films. But before Spall picked up a paintbrush in the film, Leigh said he made Spall take two years of painting lessons. That’s dedication.

The film also stars Paul Jesson, Dorothy Atkinson and Marion Bailey. It was produced by Georgina Lowe.

Mr. Turner is scheduled for a limited release beginning Dec. 19, after a lengthy string of film festival appearances, including Telluride, New York, London and AFI. Sony Pictures Classics is distributing the film in the United States.

Have you seen the film yet? What did you think? Let us know.