Timothy Spall has revealed his working relationship with director Mike Leigh stretches back even further than his relationship with his wife.

The London-born star has collaborated with the Vera Drake film-maker on seven films and admitted that their partnership was one of the great joys of his life.

The fruits of the duo's labour can currently be seen in Mr Turner, a movie about the last quarter century of the life of painter JMW Turner, for which Timothy has already received critical praise and a best actor award from the Cannes Film Festival.

Speaking on the red carpet at the Los Angeles premiere of Mr Turner at AFI Fest, ahead of the film's American release, Timothy said: "In a sense the film itself is a celebration and a great sense of my personal union and achievement with Mike.

"The lady with me today happens to have been my wife for 33 years. We celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary in October, I met my wife 33 years ago and I met Mike Leigh 33 years and a month ago.

"I've been married to my dear wife and working with Mike for 33 years. I don't see him as much as I see my wife but I was a massive fan even when I was a drama student before the Boer War so to be able to have a long-term professional, artistic, collaborative relationship with somebody I respect but also who is one of the great British film-makers of all time is one of the great, heartfelt joys of my professional life."

Timothy posed for photographs wearing a navy blue waistcoast and silver pocket watch on a chain, which he explained had special significance.

"It was made in 1851, the year that Turner died and I bought it as a talisman before we started shooting and have worn it ever since to keep the good will up. I tend not to wear it in the bath though."

On bringing to life the guttural grunts and exclamations Turner became known for, Timothy said: "I suppose I had to cook it up, I tend to use words to express myself. Turner does use words, he speaks very beautifully at times, but he's the sort of guy that thought a million things and rather than share them he turns it into a grunt.

"I didn't realise there are 120 different types of grunt and exclamation in this film. Somebody sat down and did a lexicography, I thank them very much but it was someone with too much time on their hands."

Mr Turner is in UK cinemas now.