Neal Street News

Neal Street begins production on “Empire of Light”

Sam Mendes’ first solo screenplay stars Olivia Colman, Micheal Ward, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Crystal Clarke and Tanya Moodie with Tom Brooke and Hannah Onslow also joining the cast.

Principal photography started today on Sam Mendes’ (1917, Skyfall, American Beauty) feature film Empire of Light, starring Academy Award winner Olivia Colman, Micheal Ward, Academy Award winner Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Crystal Clarke and Tanya Moodie. Tom Brooke and Hannah Onslow join the previously announced cast.  Produced by Academy Award nominee Pippa Harris (1917, Call the Midwife, Penny Dreadful) and Mendes under their Neal Street Productions, the film will be released theatrically by Searchlight Pictures.

Empire of Light is set in and around a beautiful old cinema on the south coast of England in the 1980’s. The film will shoot in Margate, England and along the Kent coastline through May. 

“I’m really thrilled to be working with so many wonderful collaborators across both cast and crew on such a personal project,” said Sam Mendes. “It’s a particular thrill to be working for the first time with Olivia Colman, and to be working once again with my long-term collaborator Roger Deakins.”

Producer Pippa Harris adds, “We are delighted to be working with Searchlight on Empire of Light, and couldn’t hope for better partners. They have been incredibly collaborative and supportive as we embark on this new venture together.”  

“This is a dream partnership for us, between the singular Sam Mendes, Pippa Harris, and the outstanding cast led by Olivia, Micheal, and Colin,” commented Searchlight Presidents Matthew Greenfield and David Greenbaum.  “We’re very excited for the road ahead.”

Tom Brooke recently starred in “The Crown” for Netflix, BBC/Netflix’s “The Bodyguard”, “Preacher” for AMC Networks, A24’s How to Talk to Girls at Parties and The Death of Stalin for IFC Films.  Hannah Onslow is currently starring in AMC Networks’ “This Is Going to Hurt” and was previously in PBS Masterpiece’s “Ridley Road”.  Brooke is represented by B-Side Management and Management 360, and Onslow by Gordon and French.

The filmmaking team includes longstanding Mendes’ collaborators including Academy Award nominated Producer Pippa Harris, Academy Award winning Director of Photography Roger Deakins (1917, Blade Runner 2049, Skyfall, The Shawshank Redemption), who reunites for his fifth collaboration, Academy Award nominated Hair and Make Up Designer Naomi Donne (The Batman, 1917, Skyfall), Academy Award Winning Editor Lee Smith (1917, Dunkirk, Inception, The Dark Knight), Academy Award Winning Sound Mixer Stuart Wilson (1917, Star Wars VII – The Force Awakens, Skyfall) Casting Director Nina Gold (The Power of the Dog, 1917), Executive Producer Michael Lerman (1917, Spectre, Skyfall), Executive Producer Julie Pastor (1917, Informer), and Co-Producer Lola Oliyide (1917, Britannia).  

Joining the team are Production Designer Mark Tildesley (No Time To Die, Phantom Thread, In the Heart of the Sea, 28 Days Later), Costume Designer Academy Award winner Alexandra Byrne (Emma, Dr Strange, Guardians of The Galaxy, Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth The Golden Age), and Co-Producer Celia Duval (Belfast, A Boy Called Christmas).  Empire of Light is being overseen by Searchlight Pictures’ Head of Film Production and Development, Katie Goodson-Thomas, Director of Development and Production, Pete Spencer, and Creative Executive, Cornelia Burleigh.


About the cast:

- Olivia Colman - The Lost Daughter, The Favourite, The Crown.

- Micheal Ward - Small Axe: Lovers Rock, Top Boy, The Beautiful Game.

- Colin Firth - The Staircase, Supernova, 1917, The King’s Speech, A Single Man.

- Toby Jones - First Cow, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

- Tom Brooke - The Crown, The Bodyguard, Preacher, How to Talk to Girls at Parties, The Death of Stalin.

- Hannah Onslow - Ridley Road, Call the Midwife, This is Going to Hurt.

- Tanya Moodie - Motherland, A Discovery of Witches, Star Wars Ep IX – Rise of the Skywalker.

- Crystal Clarke - Sanditon, The Electrical Life Of Louis Wain, Ordeal By Innocence.