Sir Sam Mendes’ latest film about childhood memories that ‘haunted’ him

Oscar-winning filmmaker Sir Sam Mendes said his upcoming project Empire Of Light was inspired by childhood memories “growing up with someone who was having a mental breakdown”.

His film, starring Olivia Colman, Michael Ward and Colin Firth, had its European premiere at this year’s BFI London Film Festival and marked Sir Sam’s first foray into the frontier. solo drama.

Set in an old movie theater in an English seaside town in the early 1980s, the film explores human connection and romance.

Bond film director Sir Sam, 57, told the PA news agency that Empire Of Light is “very autobiographical”.

He said, “Although I don’t appear in the film as a character, it was really inspired by childhood memories growing up with someone who had a mental breakdown while trying to raise a child. nurture me.

“Those memories have haunted me and I have been trying to figure out how to express them and make them into a story for a long time.

“At the same time, teenage memories grow up in the early ’80s, the early ’80s movies, the music and politics, and the racial divisions of the time.

“And so I wanted to find a way to talk about those things. When I got the idea for the cinema, it drew everything together and it was clear that it was written at a time when we were worried that cinema was gone forever.

“So it’s lovely to be here and celebrate.”

Sir Sam said it was “wonderful” to work alongside Oscar-winning actors Colman, who plays Hilary Small, and Firth, who plays Mr Ellis.

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He said, “The more humble an actor becomes, the more humble his presence on set becomes.

“That was definitely the case with the two of them. Olivia I wrote it for, I never had anyone else in mind. I told her I wrote it for her and I’m glad I did.

“Colin, in my wildest dreams, I wouldn’t have imagined that Colin would show up to play a role like this, but I hope and he does, so I was lucky.”

The cast also includes Toby Jones, Tom Brooke, Crystal Clarke and Tanya Moodie.

Sir Sam won Best Director at the 1999 Academy Awards for his first film, American Beauty, and he co-wrote, directed and produced the Oscar-winning film 1917 in 2019. was inspired by his grandfather’s World War I stories.

Producer Dame Pippa Harris, who founded Neal Street Productions in 2003 with Sir Sam and produced in 1917, joked that she was “never able to leave him”.

She told PA: “We really grew up together. I think I met him and strangely Toby Jones, the three of us met when I was about 11 and they were about 13 on a disco.

“It would be nice to produce another of his films, the last one being 1917, a completely different kind of film.

“I think everyone knows that he grew up in a family where his mother had mental health problems and was about to fall apart during his teenage years, in and out of mental hospitals.

“I think for him, he poured all of those memories into this movie, to the point where I continued to shoot one day, where Hilary was arrested by the police and the set decor was a copy. stars almost what his house has. looks like it was in that era when we were kids, and it’s really, really annoying to see it. “

Dame Pippa has described the two central characters, played by Colman and Ward, as “infidels”.

“Both have faced adversity, Hilary with mental health issues, Michael with overt and covert racism in his face, but that’s how they formed a bond. , a very special relationship.

“And it’s also about the community around them, in the cinema, supporting the two and how they tie their lives together and find at the end of the movie, really, a better, more distant future. much more for both.

“In the end, it was very uplifting,” she said.


Director Sir Sam Mendes and Michael Ward (Vianney Le Caer/AP/PA)

Ward, who plays Stephen in the film, said of his character: “I feel like the reason why it’s important to tell the story is because we haven’t really seen a guy like this in film or TV yet. , so many. of hope, a lot of promise. And also willing to do a lot to help people.

“As a lot of people want to get out of this situation, Stephen needs and wants to learn and wants to help people, so I think that’s very important.”

Empire Of Light will hit theaters in the US on December 9 and in the UK on January 13. Sir Sam Mendes’ latest film about childhood memories that ‘haunted’ him

Fry Electronics Team

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