Perhaps the actor most closely associated with director Mike Leigh, Timothy Spall has acted in productions for the director on both the stage and screen. Spall made a particularly strong impression in Leigh's Life is Sweet (1991), which cast him as a socially awkward gourmet chef, and Secrets & Lies (1996), in which his starring performance as a portrait photographer struggling with marital problems earned him award nominations from the British Academy and the London Film Critics Circle.
In addition to his work with Leigh, Spall has appeared in a number of disparate productions. He made his film debut with a supporting role in the Who's Quadrophenia in 1979 and spent the next decade splitting his time and energy between the stage and screen. He acted extensively for the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre, and he also did acclaimed work on television, most notably as Mr. Venus in the BBC production of Charles Dicken's Our Mutual Friend, for which he received a BAFTA Best Actor nomination.