Timothy Spall thought he was going to die when diagnosed with cancer 27 years ago
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Timothy Spall said he thought he was going to die after being diagnosed with cancer 27 years ago.
The actor, 66, who is starring in the BBC’s new acclaimed drama The Sixth Commandment, was set to attend the 1996 Cannes Film Festival to promote his film Secrets & Lies when he was told he had acute myeloid leukaemia.
Spall was 39 years old at the time and was forced to cancel his appearance at the festival to undergo chemotherapy treatment.
The Harry Potter star reflected on his diagnosis during an interview on The Graham Norton Show in 2014.
“I was diagnosed with Leukaemia the day I was supposed to go to Cannes and when I saw everyone coming down the red carpet I was having my first chemo stuck directly to my heart when I was watching this all going on,” he shared.
“It was nice because they were winning prizes while I was sort of doing an impersonation of not trying to peg it which I valiantly managed to achieve.”
The BAFTA-winning actor was given three days to live when he was diagnosed and knowing he was close to dying gave him a feeling of ‘profundity’, but he soon grew bored of it.
“When you’re in a state of not knowing whether you’re going to live or die or not, you’re in a state of profundity,” he explained. “So I remember going out to the park in between treatments and looking at a tree and for the first time really thinking what an amazing thing it was.
“And for about 10 minutes I thought that is a really nice tree. And then after a while I did it again and after a while I thought, ‘you know, this profundity thing is a bit overrated’.”
Spall realised he was on the mend when he noticed he was starting to act ‘petty’ with his family and friends.
“So when I got better and started being petty and snapping at the people I loved and shouting at people in traffic jams and being ridiculous, funny and scatological, I knew I was getting better,” he explained.
“Because when you’re dying you tend to be profound. So never fear being a petty fool. It means you ain’t dying.”
Spall’s latest project, a chilling, four-part BBC drama, has received the utmost praise from viewers.
The show is based on a true story and stars Spall as Peter Farquhar, who was a former teacher that was conned by a student called Ben Field (Eanna Hardwicke) who abused two of his neighbours and murdered one.
One person wrote: “How good was that? Timothy Spall is brilliant.”
“Timothy Spall at his very best with a majestic cast and superb writing,” another viewer gushed.
A third said: “Wow, just watched the 1st episode of The Sixth Commandment on BBC1 and it is genius.
“Timothy Spall gives the performance of his life. So moving! A frightening story.”
Symptoms typically include looking pale, feeling tired or weak, easily bruised skin, unusual and frequent bleeding (such as bleeding gums or nosebleeds) and night sweats. You can find out more information about leukaemia symptoms and treatments on the NHS website.
The Sixth Commandment is available to watch on BBC iPlayer now.