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Empire of Light cast share their most important cinema experiences (exclusive)

Olivia Colman, Micheal Ward and Tanya Moodie discuss the movies that encouraged them to fall in love with the cinema experience.

Watch: Olivia Colman and Micheal Ward reveal favourite cinema experiences

Empire of Light star Micheal Ward has revealed that seeing 2008's dance franchise sequel Step Up 2: The Streets helped him to fall in love with the movies.

The 25-year-old star told Yahoo UK that being able to share in the film's joy with his friends after the credits rolled was hugely important to him.

"We used to go [to the cinema] on non-school uniform day, me and my friends and stuff," said Ward.

Read more: How can we fix the cinema experience?

He added: "We came out dancing and everyone was picking a character, someone would be popping and locking and someone would be all over the floor.

"We were literally coming out of the cinema doing this and even on the bus on the way home.

Micheal Ward and Olivia Colman play cinema employees in Sam Mendes drama Empire of Light. (Searchlight Pictures)
Micheal Ward and Olivia Colman play cinema employees in Sam Mendes drama Empire of Light. (Searchlight Pictures)

"When something affects you like that, it was special to you. It really was special to us. I used to love that film so much.

"I went to the cinema to watch that with my friends. It felt like something we could actually do together. It was special."

Read more: Sam Mendes is 'scared' for the future of cinema

Empire of Light follows Ward as a new employee at a seafront cinema in Margate in the 1980s, facing the threat of racist violence as well as forming a romance with duty manager Hilary (Olivia Colman).

Colman's choice of a transcendent cinema experience was rather different to Ward's, with the Oscar-winner citing Lars von Trier 1996 drama Breaking the Waves as a formative movie.

Step Up 2: The Streets and Breaking the Waves are a pair of very varied cinema experiences. (Pathé)
Step Up 2: The Streets and Breaking the Waves are a pair of very varied cinema experiences. (Pathé)

"I watched it when I was a drama student. I never want to watch it again. It was so upsetting," she said.

Colman added: "Six of us went to watch it — five of us were crushed by it and one didn't really get it. I couldn't cope with their reaction to it.

Read more: Olivia Colman makes rude revelation about her Oscar win

"But it was amazing how we all watched the same film, and yet there's those conversations that happen afterwards when one person doesn't feel the same.

"I remember where I was and even the seat I was in in the cinema in Bristol. That was an incredible moment. I wanted to do work like that, or that affects people like that."

Olivia Colman plays cinema duty manager Hilary in Empire of Light. (Searchlight Pictures)
Olivia Colman plays cinema duty manager Hilary in Empire of Light. (Searchlight Pictures)

Tanya Moodie appears in Empire of Light as nurse Delia — mother of Ward's daughter — and said she has had a huge variety of emotional experiences at the cinema.

She said: "I see a lot of things and I'm in pieces. For example, Monsters Inc. I was in pieces. I was in bits and had to go to the loo, sobbing. I also had that from Thelma and Louise, sobbed.

"I had that with The Father recently with Olivia. That's one of the first things I said to her [when they met for Empire of Light]. I cried so hard my family had to leave me in the cinema."

Read more: Can you recreate the cinema with a home projector?

Empire of Light director Sam Mendes cited Steven Spielberg's sci-fi classic Close Encounters of the Third Kind as one of the movies which triggered his affection for the multiplex.

"My dad took me to see it in Leicester Square. I remember the sheer scale of it," he said.

Spielberg classic Close Encounters of the Third Kind had a huge effect on a young Sam Mendes. (Sunset Boulevard/Corbis/Getty)
Spielberg classic Close Encounters of the Third Kind had a huge effect on a young Sam Mendes. (Sunset Boulevard/Corbis/Getty)

Mendes added: "As the movie starts, it goes to black and there's a sound that gets louder and louder and the floor started moving and rumbling. You could just feel the fact that no one in the audience was breathing.

"That was pretty exciting. I often think about that when I think about why does one want movies still to exist on a big scale, and why does one still have a romantic notion about watching it with other people?

Read more: Sam Mendes wants streaming services to help save theatres

"There's nothing quite like it. It's a different experience to watching at home. It's not better or worse. It's just completely different and it's something we don't want to lose."

Empire of Light is in UK cinemas now.

Watch: Trailer for Empire of Light