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Timothy Spall: “England is a much less equal society than it was in the 1960s – it is worrying”

Timothy Spall: “England is a much less equal society than it was in the 1960s – it is worrying”

W“What I have to remember to tell you,” says Timothy Spall, “is that I… I be Christmas. My father's mother's name was Margaret Christmas, so there you go. I'm on a video call with one of the great British actors. He's at home in central London, wearing a black blazer, surrounded by books and paintings, the sunlight from a high window stumbling toward his face. He's in a fun mood. I realize that I have probably spoken to him more times than any of his contemporaries. “Well, we should have a high level of tolerance for each other,” he joked.

Over the course of his long career, Spall seems to have played every type of character imaginable, from the malicious Peter Pettigrew in the Harry Potter films to Britain's last executioner in the 2005 film. Pierpointfrom painters JMW Turner and Els Lowry to football coach Peter Taylor in… Damn United (2009), from Winston Churchill in King's speech (2010) To Holocaust denier David Irving in denial (2016). He's performed with Bernardo Bertolucci, Tim Burton and Mike Leigh, and acted with everyone from Judi Dench to Tom Cruise to Sting (in 1979). Quadrophenia). But this Christmas, at 66, he's playing a version of Santa for the first time. “A lot of great actors have played him before me,” he says, “and he's a bit like Churchill. You go, 'Whoa, what am I.' in You intend to do?'”

He stars in Sky Max's long-running drama Christmas Eve Theft before Christmas. The film is set near Belfast, where single mother Patricia (Laura Donnelly) struggles to earn enough from her job at the local Stuff Pound store to celebrate Christmas at all. Her youngest son's dream of a bike is out of reach, while his 12-year-old brother, Mickey (Bumper Todd), has given up belief in miracles and is seriously off the track. When Mickey sees a man dressed as Santa (James Nesbitt) robbing a bank and fleeing into the woods with a garbage bag full of cash, he comes up with a plan and follows suit. But there, in the snow, he encounters another Santa (Spal) who appears to speak Norwegian and claims to have fallen out of his sleigh. The two men find themselves pitted against good Santa/bad Santa.

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