LONDON — Oscar- and BAFTA-winning British director Sam Mendes returned to the big screen on Wednesday evening with his new emotionally charged autobiographical film “Empire of Light,” starring Olivia Colman, Micheal Ward and Colin Firth.
“It’s particularly lovely and moving to be back with this movie, which is profoundly British,” said Mendes, adding that it felt like coming home for him.
The film is inspired by the director’s mother and his childhood memories growing up in Margate, the southeast coast of England.
“It’s about mental illness, race and outliers and how if you’re broken, movies, music and art can help put you back together again,” Mendes said.
“I want to say thank you to my mom, who grew up struggling and fighting heroically with mental illness while trying to bring up an annoying, noisy little boy all on her own.”
Colman wore a black beaded cape dress by Jenny Packham from the designer’s pre-fall 2022 collection to the screening and private Amex party that was hosted to celebrate the film. Her costar Ward wore a navy suit from Dolce & Gabbana.
“They really look after each other in that little cinema,” said Colman, explaining that on set it also felt like a little family.
For Ward, he said it’s the first time that he’s read a script where a character has so much hope and promise.
“To see a character like Hillary [played by Colman] deteriorate and he leans in rather than going away — this is a man that just wants to show love and help people, for me to see that narrative with a young Black man, I was so so excited to tell that story,” he added.