It is not unusual for big budget films to choose a Christmas release. This year, we have a half dozen potential blockbusters opening over the next few weeks. “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” opens today, with “Bumblebee,” “Aquaman,” and “Mary Poppins Returns” all on the horizon. While most of these are not big players in the Oscar race this year (“Mary Poppins” may become one), Universal is looking to stake their claim on the holidays next season. Sam Mendes has been hard at work on a World War I drama, titled “1917,” and Universal thinks they can make a play with the film. With a Christmas day release, Universal is betting the film can make waves in the Oscar race, before it expands in January of 2020.
According to Deadline, the Steven Spielberg production company, Amblin Partners, won the bidding against Sony, Paramount, and New Regency. Spielberg has long been a strong supporter of Mendes, including Dreamworks pushing “American Beauty” on to a Best Picture win. Spielberg’s own World War I film, “War Horse” received a Best Picture nomination.
Mendes co-wrote “1917” with Krysty Wilson-Cairns and will direct the feature. At the moment, there are not any additional details about the plot other than the World War I setting. George McKay from “Captain Fantastic” and Dean-Charles Chapman from “Game of Thrones” have been set to star. Mendes rarely make poor films, but he is coming off a misstep with “Spectre” from a couple years ago. That said, “Skyfall” was a potential Best Picture player, and “American Beauty” captured Mendes a Best Director win. Few filmmakers can mix big budget action with character pieces like Mendes, and “1917” could bring him back to prestige filmmaking.