Director Sam Mendes, actress Olivia Colman, cinematographer Roger Deakins and the cast of “Empire of Light” talked at length about the inherent escapism that films can present.

“It’s not really just an ode to movie making, it’s movie watching, movie showing, going to the movies,” Mendes said at the Variety Studio presented by King’s Hawaiian at TIFF. “I think when we were all in lockdown and during COVID fearing that this would go forever, that we would never be in this situation again… being able to sit with people in the dark and be taken on an adventure.”

The meditation on returning to the cinema makes sense as “Empire of Light” is a love story that takes place in an English coastal cinema during the 1980s.

Mendes elaborated further that eyeing Colman to play the film’s leading role came about naturally during quarantine, where he watched episodes of Colman playing the late Queen Elizabeth II on Netflix’s “The Crown,” seeing similar qualities in the lead role he was writing for “Empire of Light.”

“First of all, getting a Zoom from Sam Mendes was so exciting that I would have said yes to anything,” Colman said of being approached to play the role of Hilary Small in the film. “The chance to play things I haven’t played before, [being] a bit scared of it, which was quite exciting, I sort of knew just from our Zoom conversations that I’d be in safe hands.”

Meanwhile Deakins had a new challenge on filming “Empire of Light,” finding the right theater to shoot in: “At first, you think something is going to be incredible difficult, like we did with ‘1917,’ but this was also [difficult] in its own way, because we had to find a theater that really worked for the script in terms of its magic and everything else.”

Watch the full conversation with the “Empire of Light” talent above.