After earning a trio of Oscar nominations for 1917, Sam Mendes has found his follow-up, as he’s set to write and direct Empire of Light, a period love story that will star fellow Oscar winner Olivia Colman.
The project is set up at Searchlight Pictures, where Colman won her Oscar for The Favourite. It will be her first time working with Mendes, who also wrote the script. Though plot details remain under wraps, the setting of the romantic drama involves a beautiful old movie theater on the South Coast of England in the 1980s.
Empire of Light reunites Mendes with gifted cinematographer Roger Deakins, who won an Oscar for his work on 1917. Mendes and Pippa Harris will produce via their Neal Street Productions, and Searchlight executives Matthew Greenfield, David Greenbaum and UK-based Katie Goodson-Thomas will oversee the project on behalf of the studio.
“I have long been an admirer of Searchlight and the dynamic way they have produced and released some of my favorite theatrical releases of recent years,” Mendes said in a statement. “This project is very close to my heart, and I couldn’t be more delighted that it has found its ideal home.”
“Sam has written an exquisite cinematic drama that captured our hearts from page one. He is a masterful filmmaker, and we look forward to working with him, Pippa, and Roger and to reunite with the great Olivia on this truly special film,” Greenbaum and Greenfield added in a joint statement.
Mendes won an Oscar for American Beauty and directed the two most recent James Bond films, Skyfall and Spectre. His classy credits also include Jarhead, Revolutionary Road, Away We Go and my personal favorite, Road to Perdition, which marked Mendes‘ first time working with Daniel Craig. Meanwhile, 1917 was nominated for 10 Oscars and grossed $384 million worldwide.
Colman is currently up for an Oscar for her supporting turn in The Father opposite Anthony Hopkins. Colman will soon be seen alongside Colin Firth in the indie drama Mothering Sunday and she has also wrapped Maggie Gyllenhaal‘s directorial debut The Lost Daughter, which pairs her with Dakota Johnson.
Empire of Light is shaping up to be an instant Oscar contender, but regardless of whether or not it finds itself up for awards, I’m just excited to see Mendes‘ love letter to movie theaters, which certainly meant more to people in the ’80s than they do now, unfortunately. Hopefully, the theatrical exhibition industry will have fully rebounded by the time Empire of Light is ready to shine.