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‘Empire of Light’ Teaser: Olivia Colman Stars in Sam Mendes’ Awards-Bound Searchlight Drama

The Oscar winners return with an emotional reflection on cinema set in the '80s and co-starring Micheal Ward, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, and more.

Empire of Light

“Empire of Light”

Searchlight

Academy Award winner Sam Mendes tackles the subject he knows best in “Empire of Light”: a meditation on the powerful emotions cinema can reflect — and inspire — in audiences.

Set in a seaside English town in the 1980s, the upcoming drama stars Oscar winners Olivia Colman and Colin Firth, as well as Micheal Ward, Tom Brooke, Tanya Moodie, Hannah Onslow, Crystal Clarke, and Toby Jones, who plays a film projectionist and narrates the teaser.

“Film: It’s just static frames with darkness in between,” the character begins in a remarkably meta moment of marketing that still doesn’t reveal much about the movie’s secretive plot. “But there’s a little flaw in your optic nerve. So if I run the film at 24 frames per second, it creates an illusion of motion, an illusion of life. So you don’t see the darkness. Out there, they just see a beam of light. And nothing happens without light.”

“Empire of Light” is set to make its debut at the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival (held September 8 through 18), where Mendes will be honored with the festival’s Ebert Director Award. Past recipients include Martin Scorsese, Claire Denis, Ava DuVernay, Wim Wenders, and the late Agnès Varda. Mendes made his directorial debut at TIFF with “American Beauty” in 1999. Mendes and “American Beauty” went on to clinch eight nominations with five wins, including Best Picture and Best Director at the 72nd Academy Awards.

“From his first appearance at TIFF with ‘American Beauty,’ director Sam Mendes brought his exacting and lyrical vision of cinema to Toronto,” said TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey in the Ebert Director Award announcement. “We are delighted to honor his unique voice and body of work with this year’s TIFF Ebert Director Award.”

At the 92nd Academy Awards in 2020, Mendes’ war epic “1917” earned the filmmaker nods for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay which he shared with co-writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns. (Mendes lost out to Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite” in every category.) “Empire of Light” marks the first title written and directed exclusively by Mendes. He reunites with Oscar-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins for the occasion. The pair previously collaborated on “1917” and “Skyfall.”

“Empire of Light” hits theaters December 9. Watch the trailer below:

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