Sir Sam Mendes said actress Olivia Colman was embarrassed to perform sex scenes in his upcoming film Empire of Light alongside her younger co-star but he had wanted to see the characters’ ‘physical desire’.
The new film from James Bond director Sir Sam is set in an old cinema in an English seaside town in the early 1980s and explores human connection and romance.
It marks the Academy Award-winning filmmaker’s first foray into solo screenwriting and was inspired by his childhood growing up around someone who suffered from mental illness.
Sir Sam discussed the ‘strange’ stigma attached to mental illness, and ‘how there’s still a cloak of darkness that’s thrown over it’.
‘My goal primarily in the movie was to try and dramatise the effect and what it is to live through bipolar and manic depression, rather than to explain it,’ he said in an appearance on Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg.
Oscar-winning actress Colman, 48, best known for The Crown and The Favourite, stars in the romantic film alongside 25-year-old Jamaican-British actor Micheal Ward.
Sir Sam said it was often the case that actors embarrassed over sex scenes (Picture: Ash Knotek/Shutterstock)
The 1917 director said of working with Colman: ‘She was very embarrassed about performing the sex scenes, as is often the case. You’re seeing people at their rawest, at their most emotionally vulnerable.
‘It’s like anything, you’re trying to push a little further into the places that you’re not normally allowed to go into, you’re going behind the curtain as it were, and I wanted to see their physical desire.’
Colman recently admitted to feeling mortified after a remark that Ward made to her while they were filming a sex scene.
Colman stars with Ward, who is 23 years younger than her (Picture: Getty)
‘There was one particular moment when I was astride Micheal in a compromising and slightly embarrassing situation and he said, “It’s my mum’s birthday today”,’ Olivia recalled on The Graham Norton Show, when discussing awareness of their age difference.
‘When he said she was 43, I was like, “Okay, stop talking!”.’
Elsewhere in the interview, Sir Sam, who called the possibility of having gender-neutral awards at the Oscars as ‘inevitable’ and said he had ‘total sympathy’ with the idea, also said he felt the great era of going to the cinema is ‘dying’.
Director Sam Mendes with stars Olivia Colman and Toby Jones and producer Pippa Harris ahead of the Empire of Light gala screening on Sunday (Picture: Scott Garfitt/Invision/AP)
Sir Sam, Colman and Jones pose outside the Margate cinema (Picture: Ash Knotek/Shutterstock)
The director also said that he felt the cinemagoing era was ‘dying’ (Picture: PA)
‘I look back at my films and I think American Beauty, Revolutionary Road, Away We Go, these would all go to streaming now and that makes me sad,’ he shared.
‘I think those middle-budget movies don’t get made for cinemas anymore and you look at the multiplexes and people go, “There’s six screens” and then you go to those six screens and it says, “Screen one Avatar, screen two Avatar, screen three Avatar” – that’s not a six-screen cinema; that’s just six screens showing the same movie.’
He called it a ‘different understanding of why those buildings were created in the first place’.
‘What it means is filmmakers have to accept and embrace the ambition of a big screen and make things that need to be seen on the big screen, or they accept that they’re going to be seen by millions of people on streaming, which is no bad thing.
‘But the 20th century, the great era of movies, the great entertainment form – which was going out to the movies – that is dying.’
Empire of Light is out in UK cinemas on Monday, January 9.
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‘You’re seeing people at their rawest, at their most emotionally vulnerable,’ the director added.