The Times of India have interviewed Timothy Spall, who played the twisted Beadle Bamford in Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. In the interview, Spall explains his love of playing despicable characters, working with Johnny Depp and Burton, and more:
Your role in Sweeney Todd... has been much-appreciated. Congrats!
Thank you. I’m very happy with the kind of response the film has garnered. Roles like these are quite interesting and it’s not everyday that one gets to work with such a fabulous team — a superb director and such brilliant co-actors.
You are playing quite a wicked man in Sweeney Todd...
Oh yes. You’d love to hate me. I play a lonely parish, who thinks he’s the most irresistible sexual object, and in an amusing way thinks he’s very beautiful. Whereas, the truth is that he’s a despicable person. He’s a bully and a sexual pervert.
How was it being directed by Tim Burton?
I have been a huge fan of Burton’s work and hoped to be directed by him someday. It’s a pleasure working with him and working with Johnny is yet another thing I was looking forward to.
And how was it finally working with Depp?
It was a fantastic experience. He really enjoys what he’s brought to do. He’s a delightful and pleasant man and I have been a huge admirer. Every woman is in love with Depp, but he’s a very down-to-earth guy.
What was the most challenging thing about doing a musical?
Musicals by terms of their sheer design and magnitude are altogether a different world to be explored. They tend to transform the world and that is a huge challenge. But the way Tim has handled it, he’s using the music and songs to take the action forward. He’s got some great screen actors, but he doesn’t over do it. It’s a fascinating melange of ‘Singlish’ that’s singing in English. And acting while dancing and singing doesn’t come easy.
How do you manage to be so convincingly despicable on screen?
Now that’s a trade secret I can’t share (laughs).
What do you look for in a role?
I look for roles that stimulate my appetite for good work and stir the actor within. But more than anything else, I absolutely love playing evil and disgusting characters. They evoke a stronger reaction than good characters and to bring about a certain meanness is more challenging for an actor. I love being hated and look forward to people coming up to me and telling me what an evil man I am (laughs).
Like your character Peter Pettigrew in the Harry Potter series?
Yes, very much like that. That was again one role I’m going to cherish forever. Though my grandchildren hoped that I’d not betrayed the Potters (laughs). But I am proud of that role and my grandchildren are proud that their grand-dad’s a part of the Potter family.
But what is Timothy Spall like off the screen?
Oh, I’m a very easy-going person. A normal guy, living a very normal life. I have kids and grand kids. Life’s been good to me and I am enjoy everything it has to offer me.
You’ve watched quite a few Bollywood films...
Yes and I loved the experience. I mean they are so much fun. And they are all so good at singing and dancing. Wow! I have even tried Indian cuisine and simply loved it.
So any plans of coming to India?
I would love to. In fact, I have been to Pakistan, but missed India. That’s high on my list of hot travel destinations. And once there, I’d certainly look forward to meeting all you guys.