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This very special issue introduces you to the world of only Empire’s third ever guest editor. Sam Mendes sits in the hot seat once occupied by Messrs Spielberg and Jackson. He got a nice cup of tea every once in a while and access to the Empire biscuit jar; you get an unparalleled, access-all-areas pass to his latest Bond movie, Spectre, and a stack of incredible access to his sets in Mexico, Pinewood and the Alps.

From their first pairing on The Road To Perdition to this latest 007 collaboration, Sam Mendes and Daniel Craig have grown to be bosom buddies, albeit bosom buddies who “blow up at each other” on set from time to time. As an intimate centrepiece of Empire’s Spectre coverage, the director and star united for a chat about their time together in the high-pressure bubble of Bond.

Among this month’s repository of chin-stroking critiques – i.e. the bit where we go and watch movies and tell you if they’re any good or not - there’s a stranded spaceman, a blood-soaked Scottish nobleman, a lot of Mexican cartel types, a drugged cyclist and some trippy flying ships from the pages of J.M. Barrie. That’s a lot of psychologists’ bills right there. For different reasons, The Martian, Pan, Macbeth, Sicario, The Program et al represent some of the most significant releases of the year. Find out what to see and what to miss right here.

Disney’s exceedingly good 1967 adaption of Kipling’s The Jungle Book is beloved by a bazillion kids, old and young. Jon Favreau, then, has to make lightning strike a second time when he steers his take on the boy-out-of-water yarn onto the big screen. Empire catches up with the director to hear what he has planned for his blend of live-action and state-of-the-art animation. Nice man that he is, he also shared a world-first look at the movie. Look out for Baloo (Bill Murray) and Mowgli (newcomer Neel Sethi) enjoying those simple bare necessities.

What does Steven Spielberg keep in his pockets? Is Joss Whedon a tea or coffee man? What’s the best advice Sofia Coppola has ever been given? When you have a contacts book like Sam Mendes, a directors’ Q&A becomes a rare insight into some of the world’s leading filmmakers. This one - we’re calling it ‘Auteur Theories’ - is genuinely unmissable.

Say hello again to the Burnhams, the snarling, vitriolic couple at the heart of Sam Mendes’ Oscar-gilded suburban drama. As American Beauty celebrates its 16th birthday - the age of consent, see - Sam Mendes reassembled its cast, including Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening Wes Bentley and Thora Birch - and reopened his (drive-thru) memory banks to tell the story of a movie that often teetered on the edge of disaster but came together, well, beautifully.

Hanks and Spielberg: so treasured in the movie firmament, they hardly even need first names. Bridge Of Spies, a Cold War drama that takes the world to the brink and back, is the pair’s fourth collaboration. It will add espionage thrills to con-man capers (Catch Me If You Can), immigration woes (The Terminal) and, of course, absolute bloody carnage (Saving Private Ryan). Empire travelled to Tom Hank’s Playtone headquarters to chat with the pair about the movie and their more-than-fruitful partnership.

If you’re a blockbuster filmmaker who needs a building exploded, a high-speed lorry unarticulated or the conventional laws of gravity defied for a helter-skelter fight sequence, the chances are Chris Corbould’s number is the first you’ll dial. Sam Mendes certainly had him on speed dial for a number of in-camera action sequences in Spectre, including the biggest explosion in movie history. We went round to his house, chancing his revolving Inception corridors the process, to find out what makes him tick, tick, tick… boom!

New bessie mates and the talk of Comic-Con after their Hall H bromance this summer, Victor Frankenstein’s Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy reunited for an Empire interview that had the pair shooting the breeze about everything from Mary Shelley’s Gothic yarn to their dream mutant animal hybrid. “I’d go for the head of a wolf,” says the erstwhile Harry Potter, “and the arse of an elephant”.

Already the Uber of telly, Netflix is now branching out on the big screen. That noise you hear may be the big studios gulping. The pedigree of its projects and its ability to attract talent with edgy projects is exemplified by Cary Fukunaga and Idris Elba’s Beasts Of The Southern Wild. The movie, set in an unnamed civil war torn African nation, will be on the big screen as well viewable via the usual streaming release. That gulp just got even louder. Empire tells the story of how Netflix continues to shake the tree.

Landa. Schultz. Oberhauser. Not the name of a hugely expensive European law firm but three characters that will act as waymarkers in Christoph Waltz’s steepling ascent to the Hollywood heights. The German actor takes his craft seriously and doesn’t court stardom but is full of trenchant observations and insights into the world of moviemaking, as our interview with him reveals.

A likely contender for film of the year come December time, George Miller’s rather awesome Mad Max: Fury Road joins the more sedate pleasures of another George - Clooney - and Tomorrowland, as well as John Wick and San Andreas in this month’s round-up of home viewing pleasures. As added bonus material, we’ve united two Knights for a chinwag. Ian McKellen and Anthony Hopkins stopped in for a chat about The Dresser, and a lot more besides.


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Brad Bird talks through his sci-fi adventure, scene by scene

Empire Meets Ridley Scott
The great director on The Martian, Blade Runner 2 and the Prometheus sequels

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Falcon quad copter? BB-8 Sphero? We’re already asking for pay raises…

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