Empire of Light is a unique entry in Sam Mendes' filmography. Not only is the period drama one of the most personal films that Mendes has ever made, it's the first time that he's directed from a script written solely by himself. At the 95th Oscars, Empire of Light is nominated for Best Cinematography, in recognition of legendary DP Roger Deakins.
Set in a seaside movie theater in 1980s England, Empire of Light centers on the life-changing connection between Hilary (Olivia Colman) and Stephen (Micheal Ward). For Colman, the chance to work with Mendes was all she needed to agree to star in the movie. "We talked nothing about the film. I didn't know what it was," she recalled of their first meeting. "He just said, 'I've been writing something and I'm thinking of you,' and I said, 'Okay, great. Yes.'"
"I realized afterward, 'I probably shouldn't have said yes until I'd read it,'" Colman admitted with a laugh. "Luckily, when the script came through, I was really excited. It was a part that I'd never played before, and it made me nervous, which is always quite a nice feeling, weirdly."
The Oscar-winning actress was joined for an exclusive Academy-hosted panel by producer Pippa Harris and composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Watch the full Academy Conversation below to hear more about how Mendes and his team achieved their vision for Empire of Light.