Timothy Spall’s teenage obsessions: ‘For my art A-level I nailed up apples covered in pubic hair’ | Timothy Spall

My Ziggy Stardust tribute act

David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust in 1973. Photograph: NBC/Universal/Getty

My 13th birthday in 1970 coincided with David Bowie coming out of Place Oddity and turning into Ziggy Stardust. My mate Peter was a dead ringer for Bowie. He experienced the identical haircut and dressed in gold lamé tights and system sneakers. I received a pair of horn-rimmed eyeglasses from a junk shop and this frock coat from Kings Road and we went round jointly as Extrav and Ganza what we viewed as to be a brilliant wordplay on “extravaganza”.

We’d sit on the methods of Chelsea town hall trying to emanate being extremely appealing. Peter – Extrav – was of the zeitgeist: prettier and eminently additional productive. When I, Ganza, was the adolescent Dickensian buffoon.

In afterwards teen years, we would go to the Climbing Solar, a jazz pub in Battersea, and he would improvise these great trad jazz tracks dressed as Bowie. I would bounce all around as section of the act, till any person stated to us: “You’re that guy who sings all all those good songs dressed as Bowie. And you are that person who likes to spoil it.”

My drama trainer

Our Victorian residence in south-west London did not even have a toilet, like some thing from a Dickens novel or a Hovis advert. My brother and I would snap icicles off the within of the window and lick them like lollies. My mum was delighted when we were rehoused in a council block with an within toilet and central heating.

A performance of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in Minneapolis OZ AT THE CHILDREN'S THEATER IN MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA
A US overall performance of The Great Wizard of Oz … actively playing the lion in a school output was pivotal to Spall opting for performing. Photograph: Greg Ryan/Alamy

At Battersea county comprehensive, we were largely taught to go into trade around having aspirations to go to university. I could not be bothered with academia, anyway. By day, I was fast paced seeking to be a surrealist and a dadaist. In the night, I was in the cadets, understanding how to strip Bren guns. I was heading to be an artist or be part of the army.

My English instructor, Keith Kimberley, solid me as the lion in The Wizard of Oz. Later on, my drama instructor, Helena Mietz, claimed: “I’ve in no way told any of my pupils this in advance of since it’s such a horrible business – but I believe you should really be an actor,” and guided me in the direction of the Nationwide Youth Theatre. It is many thanks to her that I’m neither a Dada surrealist nor a tank driver.

Charles Laughton and Maureen O’Hara in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Fascination … Charles Laughton and Maureen O’Hara in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Photograph: Rko Images/Allstar

Charles Laughton and Laurence Olivier

I was fascinated, frightened and heartbroken by Charles Laughton’s Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and terrified by his Captain Bligh in Mutiny on the Bounty. I must have been 13 when I noticed Laurence Olivier taking part in Richard III on the telly and felt nearly physically thrilled. It was not sexual, but one thing so visceral.

My nan lived with us in Battersea, then obtained her very own flat a couple of blocks absent, so I was inspired to walk her property. I was 14 and noticed this outdated guy coming out of a elevate. There was no one particular else about, so I commenced to duplicate his mannerisms, just to feel what it was like currently being him and – I suppose – to sense like Laughton and Olivier, performing these other parts.

Art of punk … the Sex Pistols in 1997.
Art of punk … the Sexual intercourse Pistols in 1977. Photograph: Virginia Turbett/Redferns

The Sexual intercourse Pistols

I failed all my O-concentrations on intent (apart from art, which I took as an A-amount and bought a grade A) because I learned you did not require any skills to go to Rada. So I went to Kingsway Princeton school of more education and learning around King’s Cross to examine drama and retake my English O-level, which I finished up dropping following one term.

I keep in mind acquiring a bacon sandwich from the refectory and observing this extremely peculiar person in a black leather-based jacket, very limited trousers, very white facial area, spiky hair, wanting down on everyone eating with a seem of Shakespearean, malevolent disdain. That was Sid Vicious.

Then, in English, this dude with a Rod Stewart haircut was inquiring these amazing, interesting concerns about Waiting for Godot. I try to remember thinking: “This guy’s dazzling.” He was plainly the most intelligent person in the class. That was John Lydon.

It was not that various to be that angry or outrageous. We have been all doing it. The Sexual intercourse Pistols just occurred to place it in a band who have been naughty and humorous and reacted versus the stop of glam rock in which Marc Bolan had become variety of unwanted fat. Funnily ample, I’ve just accomplished a movie about Bolan [2022’s Bolan’s Shoes].

Abstract take on emotion … Bryan Ferry performing with Roxy Music in 1974.
Summary get on emotion … Bryan Ferry performing with Roxy Audio in 1974. Photograph: Ian Dickson/Shutterstock

Pyjamarama by Roxy Music

My brother completed his go away and returned to the service provider navy, and remaining me this peculiar small file player with speakers on the top. I would kneel on my bedroom ground with the speakers either side of my head and participate in Jimi Hendrix actually loudly. Then I’d put on Handel’s Messiah. I was examining The Lord of the Rings and The Tin Drum, nevertheless sorting out who I was.

I acquired Pyjamarama by Roxy New music and performed it about and about. I knew all the lyrics: “Couldn’t sleep a wink past night time / Oh how I’d really like to keep you tight.” A little something linked: it was the initially time I bought to experience what I favored, not just what I was meant to like.

I went to see Roxy Audio at the Rainbow theatre in north London. It wasn’t just the impression their new music spoke abstractly to people’s emotions. I suppose just about every technology goes into their teenagers seeking for a thing that responds and corresponds to their creating sexuality and intellect. Brian Eno-era Roxy Music was mine.

Penchant for the surreal … Salvador Dalí.
Penchant for the surreal … Salvador Dalí. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Pictures

Dalí, Ernst and Gilliam

I was a large fan of Dalí and pretty turned on by Ernst, and the similarity in between what Terry Gilliam was performing in Monty Python. For my artwork A-level, I built a breakfast out of true food items and caught it on a desk underneath resin. For a further piece, I covered apples in pubic hair and nailed them all above the location. My major piece was referred to as My Mum in Healthcare facility: a lifesize mannequin dressed up as a nurse tending a drip-feed likely into a steak and kidney pie in the top rated of a chest of drawers. And this was in advance of Damien Hirst!

To prepare for taking part in Turner [in 2014’s Mr Turner], I was presented an art basis program. Following playing LS Lowry [in 2019’s Mrs Lowry & Son], I started off doing some painting of my own. The Lowry gallery [in Salford] put some of them on exhibit, then the Pontone gallery offered me a clearly show.

I spent 8 months, nine several hours a day, seven times a 7 days, creating 20 paintings that went on exhibit in London in June this year. It was a sell-out and men and women truly appeared to like it. I just hope I have performed my artwork instructors from university – Linda Black and Norman Barret – very pleased.

The Last Bus is in cinemas now