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Why Major Gregory From Spencer Looks So Familiar

The life and heartbreaking death of Princess Diana is one of the biggest stories in the history of modern royalty, and "Spencer" brings some of the highs and lows of the Princess of Wales on the big screen. As befits its glamorous, yet tragic subject matter, the cast of Pablo Larraín's "fable from true tragedy" (via The Hollywood Reporter) is absolutely stacked with talented actors. Cesar Award winner Kristen Stewart stars as Diana Spencer, Jack Farthing ("Poldark") is Prince Charles, and the various people in Diana's everyday life are played by folks like Sean Harris and Sally Hawkins. 

The prospect of a lifetime of rigid royal customs might be threatening enough as an abstract concept, but "Spencer" further accentuates the gilded cage by personifying it as Major Alistair Gregory, an impressively dour official who's been tasked with keeping an eye on young Diana, and clipping the wings of any potential scandal. The worried scowl on the Major's face is sometimes so deep that you might almost mistake it for CGI, but the actor behind it has ample experience in bringing all sorts of peculiar characters to life ... and he might just be a lot more familiar than you think. 

Timothy Spall is Peter Pettigrew in the Harry Potter movies

Timothy Spall is a talented and versatile British thespian with bucketloads of awards from roles like the famous painter J.M.W. Turner in 2014's "Mr. Turner," and every single character in the 2016 one-man psychiatric hospital movie, "Stanley A Man of Variety." However, you probably know him best from a role that uses his ability to portray sleazy characters to the fullest. From 2004 to 2011, he played the wily and treacherous Peter "Wormtail" Pettigrew in the "Harry Potter" movies, expertly bringing a truly vile quality to a role that was occasionally quite literally ratty. 

In an interview with The A.V. Club, Spall expressed his appreciation for the role, and marveled at the workload of the franchise's young stars, while also recognizing the irony of being so well-known for such a comparatively small part. "It's been a delight to be involved in such an amazing bunch of films like that, but what's remarkable about that from a personal view is that while it's brilliant and amazing — I've been in about three or four — it doesn't feel like I've been that much involved, because my little contribution doesn't take long, whereas the kids worked on them for 10 years of their lives," he said. "Most of the older actors were just in and out. So while it was a delight to have been in them, what's amazing is that, while it's one of the smallest parts I've ever played in my life, it's the one I'm most famous for."

Timothy Spall is Mr. Poe in A Series of Unfortunate Events

"Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events," or just "A Series of Unfortunate Events," is a 2004 big-budget film based on the first three novels in the darkly comedic children's novel series of the same name. Though the movie stars Jim Carrey at a time when he was coming off a white-hot, decade-long run of popular roles, the superstar is just a part of the film's atmospheric allure — and "A Series of Unfortunate Events" has the awards to show for it, including a Best Achievement in Makeup Academy Award.

Timothy Spall plays Mr. Poe, who's easily the most clueless character in the entire movie, though also arguably the most well-meaning one. Tasked with finding a new home for the three Baudelaire orphans, the banker genuinely means well, but his sheer ineptitude usually just endangers them further. Though Poe is instrumental to the plot, he's far from the most significant character in the movie — yet, Spall plays the part with dedication, lending extra dimension to what could have been a blumbering, one-dimensional character. This is no wonder, judging by the way he discussed his work ethic in a 2007 interview with The Globe and Mail

"As a character actor, your job is to come up with the best possible performance that supports the story," Spall said. "You do see appalling things, someone with a small part overreaching himself, doing cheap things to draw attention, sneaking into the back of shots. As I get older, I want to sneak out of the back of shots, because I want a lie-in in the morning. But if you take it seriously — the work, not yourself — whatever the part is, lead or supporting, is as important as each other."

Timothy Spall is Winston Churchill in The King's Speech

Timothy Spall is a particularly great fit for a movie like "Spencer," since he has previous experience of playing historical characters in movies about the British royal family. In 2010, he tackled the role of one of the most recognizable British statesmen in history, when he played Winston Churchill in Tom Hooper's Academy Award-winning historical drama, "The King's Speech." The story of the conflicted King George VI (Colin Firth) and his speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) may not be the most historically accurate biopic of all time, but it is a great movie that's completely stacked with amazing actors — and Spall still steals the show when he appears onscreen.  

The role of Churchill is one that Spall has returned to on occasion. According to the BBC, he recited a speech from William Shakespeare's "The Tempest" as the iconic prime minister in the 2012 London Olympics' closing ceremony. In the wake of Spall's Best Actor win at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival for his stellar starring turn in "Mr. Turner," NPR's Rajinder Dudrah praised the actor's versatility and his masterly take on Churchill. "This is a Churchill who has given stature. And I think that Timothy Spall there is wonderful at delivering those kinds of lines," Dudrah said.