Sam Mendes' latest film and first original screenplay, "Empire of Light," will premiere in limited release in the United States this week. It's the story of a small movie theater in a coastal town in England in the 1980s. Olivia Colman ("The Crown") stars as Hilary, a troubled woman working at the theater, and Michael Ward ("The Old Guard") is Stephen, a new employee fascinated by the theater and dealing with the racism of the era. They find themselves in an unlikely (according to the standards of what we're often shown on film) love story, changing each other's lives.

In a scene breakdown with Vanity Fair, Mendes, Colman, and Ward talk about an abandoned part of the building that the characters enter, where Stephen finds a wounded pigeon. In the video, we learn that Ward was actually afraid of pigeons and didn't reveal that before he was cast. Not only that, but Colman gives us a (probably not true) pigeon fun fact to take to all our holiday events. She says that a pigeon will always clutch one male and one female egg. Look, it doesn't make sense, but if Olivia Colman says it, I want it to be true.

Colman explains that the cast and crew had no idea that he was afraid of them, and as Ward adds, "all animals, really." Fear of birds can go deep, and as someone who loves them very much but was also covered in them once while feeding animals in a park, I get that. You rarely see just one, and a whole pile of them, as we see in this scene, can be a bit much.

Flights Of Fancy

In the video, Michael Ward explains, "I waited to sign my contract before I told Sam [Mendes, director] because I didn't want to tell him and he goes, "Alright, let's find someone else who's actually confident with a pigeon.'" He continues:

"So I waited and told my agent, 'Hey, yo, I don't know if I'm going to be able to do this.' And I was coming up with loads of ideas, you know, an animatronic pigeon, hypnotizing myself so I could get over the fear."

If you look at the picture above, there is a pigeon sitting on a shelf in the upper right corner, and while he wasn't the animatronic pigeon that Ward was hoping for, he was fake. Later, they explain the fake one was replaced in close-ups by a little guy named Pops, who was reportedly very calm and chill. Ward did end up falling in love with one of them, according to Olivia Colman. This one was called Coco, and one day when Colman walked in, Coco was sitting on Ward's head. Fear conquered! However, they had to use Pops (Coco's brother) in the actual scene because Colman says she was a bit too feisty. It's nice to know that our feathered friends have a new fan in Ward.

"Empire of Light" also stars Colin Firth ("The Staircase"), Toby Jones ("Finding Neverland"), and Tanya Moodie ("The Clinic"). The film will hit U.S. theaters in limited release on December 9, 2022, and in the U.K. on January 13, 2023.

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The post Empire of Light Star Michael Ward Had to Overcome His Fear of Pigeons for the Movie appeared first on /Film.