It has been ten years since Sam Mendes directed a feature film outside of the James Bond franchise and he has assembled quite the cast for his World War I drama 1917, which has added Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong, Richard Madden and Oscar winner Colin Firth.
George MacKay (Captain Fantastic) and Dean-Charles Chapman (Game of Thrones) are set to star as two young British soldiers, and the film will follow them over the course of a single day at the height of WWI. I imagine that Mendes will employ Cumberbatch, Firth and Strong in a way that’s similar to how Christopher Nolan used Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance and James D’Arcy in the WWII movie Dunkirk — which I suppose would make Madden this film’s Tom Hardy.
The rest of the supporting cast includes Cumberbatch’s Sherlock co-star Andrew Scott, who worked with Mendes on Spectre, as well as Daniel Mays (Rogue One), Adrian Scarborough (Christopher Robin), Jamie Parker (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child), Nabhaan Rizwan (Informer) and Claire Duburcq.
Steven Spielberg‘s DreamWorks Pictures is teaming with Universal on the project, which will begin shooting next week on location in England and Scotland. Spielberg, of course, knows a thing or two about wartime pictures, having directed Saving Private Ryan. Mendes is directing from a script he co-wrote with Krysty Wilson-Cairns (Penny Dreadful), and he’s also producing the film with his Neal Street Productions partner Pippa Harris, as well as Jayne-Ann Tenggren and Callum McDougall. Michael Lerman will serve as a co-producer on the project.
Meanwhile, acclaimed cinematographer Roger Deakins has also come aboard 1917 along with Dunkirk editor Lee Smith, Joe Wright‘s go-to costume designer Jacqueline Durran (Darkest Hour), production designer Dennis Gassner, who worked with Mendes on Road to Perdition, and composer Thomas Newman, who created the scores for six Mendes films, including Best Picture winner American Beauty.
Universal will give the film a limited release on Christmas Day in North America, and studio sources suggest it will be a prime awards contender, given the pedigree of the filmmakers. If Dunkirk can manage eight Oscar nominations without much of an emotional core, I truly believe 1917 could be a major Oscar player this season, as emotion has always been Mendes’ strength. And you’d better believe that Skyfall and Spectre prepared him for the scope and scale of this film, which will go wide on Jan. 10, 2020.