EXCLUSIVE: Amblin Partners has won a pitched spec package battle and will finance Oscar winning director Sam Mendes’ World War I film 1917. The film will begin production next April, for U.S. release December 2019 through Amblin’s distribution partner Universal. Mendes wrote the original script with Krysty Wilson-Cairns. Mendes will produce with his Neal Street Productions partner Pippa Harris.
The package was shopped by CAA Media Finance Group, and the goal was to get a financing commitment and a worldwide distribution deal. Sources said that Paramount, Sony and New Regency was among the parties chasing it before Amblin made the commitment that got the deal closed. The log line is being kept close to the vest.
It will mark Mendes’ first directorial feature since back to back James Bond films Spectre and Skyfall. It also brings him back with Steven Spielberg’s Amblin. It was Spielberg who worked closely with Mendes on his feature directorial debut American Beauty, which won five Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director. Mendes followed by making two more for Spielberg’s DreamWorks: Road to Perdition and Revolutionary Road.
The project marks Mendes’ first film as credited screenwriter. He teamed on the script with Wilson-Cairns, a writer on the Neal Street-produced TV series Penny Dreadful. She wrote the script for The Voyeur’s Motel, a film adaptation of the Gay Talese book about a proprietor who sets up a hotel so he can surreptitiously observe his guests in sexual encounters. Mendes set that up with DreamWorks with the intention to direct the movie. But he withdrew abruptly when he discovered that a documentary that Talese took part in told the same story. The docu Voyeur, came out on Netflix, and a $1 million book rights deal fell through for Talese when DreamWorks dropped out before money changed hands. She also adapted The Good Nurse for Lionsgate with Darren Aronofsky producing and Mastermind at FX with Noah Hawley and the Russo Bros producing.
Mendes set himself to co-write the 1917 script while preparing to direct the London stage debut of the Jez Butterworth play The Ferryman, which won three Olivier Awards including Best Director. Mendes brings the play to Broadway in October.
Both Mendes and Amblin confirmed the 1917 deal to Deadline.
Said Sam Mendes: “I couldn’t be happier to be back working with Amblin and Steven Spielberg again, alongside Donna Langley and all at Universal. I’ve been working on this script for over a year, so it’s very exciting to start making the movie itself a reality.”
Said Steven Spielberg: “Our company has been a home for Sam since his first film. I am so happy to have him back here in his old room spinning new stories – especially this hugely daring and ambitious new movie.”
CAA Media Finance packaged the film and brokered the deal; Mendes is repped by CAA; Wilson-Cairns is CAA and UK-based United Agents and attorney Tara Kole at Gang Tyre.