Timothy Spall will star in the untitled project, set to begin lensing in the spring for a 2014 release.
The film is produced by Georgina Lowe (“Another Year”) and executive produced by Gail Egan. Production partners include Film4, British Film Institute (BFI), Focus Features International, LipSync and Xofa Prods.
Leigh has been granted access to some of Turner’s works in The National Gallery, Tate Britain and the Royal Academy.
“Turner as a character is compelling,” Leigh said. “I want to explore the man, his working life, his relationships and how he lived. But what fascinates me most is the drama that lies in the tension between this driven eccentric and the epic, timeless world he evoked in his masterpieces.”
Leigh announced the project and Spall’s casting on Feb. 8. Focus Features International is handling worldwide sales starting at Cannes in May.