Sam Mendes begins shooting WWI epic 1917
by David Katz
- An all-star British cast including Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth and Richard Madden lead Mendes’ first film since leaving the Bond franchise
Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures have announced the start of principal photography on 1917, a World War I drama that marks Sam Mendes’ first film since his financially and critically successful James Bond sequels, Skyfall [+see also:
film profile] and Spectre [+see also:
Exact plot details are scant, but the film is said to follow two young British soldiers (Captain Fantastic’s George MacKay and Game of Thrones’ Dean-Charles Chapman) over the course of a single day at the height of the Great War. As in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk [+see also:
film profile], these up-and-comers will be joined on screen by British acting royalty in supporting roles: Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game [+see also:
film profile], Sherlock), Colin Firth (The King’s Speech [+see also:
interview: Tom Hooper
film profile]), Richard Madden (Bodyguard, Game of Thrones), Andrew Scott (Sherlock, Spectre) and Mark Strong (The Imitation Game, Zero Dark Thirty) are all present and accounted for.
The First World War has been depicted far less frequently in cinema than the Second; the 1931 Hollywood adaptation All Quiet on the Western Front is often considered the definitive filmic take on the conflict. Aiming to mark their territory, Mendes and his regular cinematographer Roger Deakins (recently crowned with an Oscar for Blade Runner 2049 [+see also:
film profile] after being nominated 13 previous times) are planning to shoot the entire film as one mocked-up long shot – the same technique used in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman and the opening Day of the Dead sequence in Spectre.
1917 will be Mendes’ first official writing credit; his co-writer is rising screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Cairns (Edgar Wright’s upcoming Last Night in Soho, Penny Dreadful). In line with its producer Steven Spielberg’s recent accelerated production turnarounds, it is hoped that principal photography will wrap later this summer for a December awards-season rollout. The battle sequences are being shot on Salisbury Plain, England (not far from Stonehenge), and Hankley Common in the Scottish Highlands.
On behalf of Amblin Partners, Spielberg said: “Our company has been a home for Sam since his first film [American Beauty]. I am so happy to have him back here in his old room spinning new stories – especially this hugely daring and ambitious new movie.”
“I couldn’t be happier to be back working with Amblin and Steven Spielberg again,” said Mendes. “I’ve been working on this script for over a year, so it’s very exciting to start making the movie itself a reality.”
1917 is being produced by Mendes and Pippa Harris for the former’s own UK outfit Neal Street Productions. Callum McDougall and Jayne-Anne Tenggren are also credited as main producers. Amblin Partners is the main US producer, and Universal Pictures holds the worldwide distribution rights.
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.