The BFI London Film Festival has announced that this year's American Express Gala film will be Empire of Light by Sam Mendes. The film marks the first time the Academy Awards and BAFTA winning filmmaker has penned a script solo.
The film will receive its European Premiere on Wednesday 1 October at the Southbank Centre in the Royal Festival Hall, with director Mendes in attendance as well as roducer Pippa Harris and key cast including Olivia Colman, Micheal Ward, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Tanya Moodie, Tom Brooke and Crystal Clarke.
Set in an English seaside town in the early 1980s, Empire of Light is a powerful and poignant story about human connection and the magic of cinema. The film will also reunites Mendes with Academy Award winning cinematographer Roger Deakins who was DoP on the filmmaker's 1917 and Skyfall.
The film is produced by Mendes and Pippa Harris’ Neal Street Productions, in partnership with Searchlight Pictures and will release theatrically in the US on 9th December, 2022 with a UK release on 13th of January, 2023.
Sam Mendes said: “I’m absolutely delighted to be included in this year’s BFI London Film Festival as the AMEX Gala screening. Empire of Light is a very personal movie for me, and I can’t wait to show it in my home town.” The film will mark the return of Mendes to the BFI London Film Festival, after he first attended in 1999 with his directorial debut, American Beauty.
Tricia Tuttle, BFI London Film Festival Director, added: "When I read that Sam Mendes' next project was centred around a cinema, I was so excited about the possibility of being able to present it in the BFI London Film Festival. Mendes is a masterful storyteller and here vividly captures a sense of the South coast of England, in the 1980s. Empire of Light explores the importance of community, the power of storytelling and of the movies, specifically the thrill of watching a film in a dark cinema, and the tactile pleasures of celluloid. And these are themes so close to our hearts at the BFI. The entire ensemble cast is truly exceptional, with Olivia Colman and Micheal Ward offering stunning central performances. We are so looking forward to presenting the European Premiere of Empire of Light as the American Express Gala at the 66th BFI London Film Festival".
Sam Mendes is one of the world’s most acclaimed film and theatre directors, achieving huge critical and commercial success across his 30-year career. He has directed and produced multi-award-winning productions for stage and screen, including the BAFTA and Oscar-winning Skyfall, the Tony Award-winning The Lehman Trilogy and most recently the BAFTA and Oscar-winning box office hit 1917, for which he also co-wrote the screenplay.
Previously announced BFI London Film Festival titles include the opening night film Roald Dahl's Matilda the Musical starring Emma Thompson, Lashana Lynch, Stephen Graham, Andrea Riseborough, Sindhu Vee and introducing Alisha Weir as Matilda, as well as their Closing Night film, which will be Rian Johnson’s Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery starring Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Jessica Henwick and Madelyn Cline with Kate Hudson and Dave Bautista.
The festival will run from Wednesday October Sunday 16th October, 2022. For more info, check out their website.