BREAKING: Sony Pictures Classics has acquired North American, Latin American and Eastern European rights to an untitled film by Mike Leigh that will focus on JMW Turner, considered England’s greatest artist. Leigh has set his Secrets & Lies star Timothy Spall to star, with Georgina Lowe producing and Gail Egan exec producing. The film will begin production in spring 2013 for a 2014 release. Production partners on the film include Film4, British Film Institute (BFI), Focus Features International, LipSync and Xofa Productions. The National Gallery, Tate Britain and the Royal Academy have granted special access to some of Turner’s original works.

“Turner as a character is compelling,” Leigh said in a statement. “I want to explore the man, his working life, his relationships and how he lived. But what fascinates me most is the drama that lies in the tension between this driven eccentric and the epic, timeless world he evoked in his masterpieces. I also see rich tragic-comic potential in his often turbulent relationship with the English Art Establishment, especially in his later years, when his increasingly radical work was misunderstood and derided.”

SPC partners Michael Barker and Tom Bernard released Leigh’s Another Year, and they continue to do repeat business with prestige filmmakers from Oscar-winner Michael Haneke to Woody Allen.