Sam Mendes recalls ‘parenting my own mother’ following his parents’ divorce at just 3 years old

‘I had to grow up very quickly’: Sam Mendes discusses childhood trauma as he recalls ‘parenting my own mother’ following his parents’ divorce at just 3 years old

Sam Mendes has opened up about his childhood and being raised by a single mother in a new interview this week, following his parents’ divorce when he was just three. 

The film director and screenwriter, 57, admitted that he had to ‘parent’ his own mother, Valerie, from a young age – growing up faster than most as he watched her ‘manipulated’ by men.

And this upbringing was the inspiration for his new and exremely personal movie Empire Of Light, which is based on his mother’s battle with mental health.

'I had to grow up very quickly': Sam Mendes discusses childhood trauma as he recalls 'parenting my own mother' following his parents' divorce at just 3 years old

‘I had to grow up very quickly’: Sam Mendes discusses childhood trauma as he recalls ‘parenting my own mother’ following his parents’ divorce at just 3 years old

Sam was three when his parents, children’s novelist/author Valerie and university professor Jameson Peter Mendes.

This left Valerie a single mother to the budding film buff, who explains that this was also a large role for him to take on as the male of the house.

Talking with The Guardian, he explained: ‘When you’re a child, you deal with what’s in front of you. And what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

‘It definitely gave me resources, but it also turned me into a caretaker. In a sense I was parenting my own mother.’

Mother and son: The film director and screenwriter admitted that he had to 'parent' his own mother, Valerie, from a young age - growing up faster than most as he watched her 'manipulated' by men (pictured together in 2000)

Mother and son: The film director and screenwriter admitted that he had to ‘parent’ his own mother, Valerie, from a young age – growing up faster than most as he watched her ‘manipulated’ by men (pictured together in 2000)

He recalled: ''It definitely gave me resources, but it also turned me into a caretaker. In a sense I was parenting my own mother' (pictured in the early 2000s)

He recalled: ”It definitely gave me resources, but it also turned me into a caretaker. In a sense I was parenting my own mother’ (pictured in the early 2000s)

Touching on his mother, now 83, and her battle with mental health, Sam said: ‘Even as a child, I could see that my mother, when she was medicated or controlled, was being manipulated, mostly by men. 

‘Coming off the medication allowed her finally to tell them the truth. I did feel that was heroic. There was something extraordinary when she turned on them. And magnificent. Her full self was expressed,’ he continued.

He drew on these experiences for Empire Of Light, which is a romance/drama that focuses on a single woman with mental health struggles.

Close connections: Adding another personal touch was the casting of Toby Jones in the film, who met Sam when they were 11 - meaning he also saw the journey first-hand

Close connections: Adding another personal touch was the casting of Toby Jones in the film, who met Sam when they were 11 – meaning he also saw the journey first-hand

Cast: The new release boasts quite the cast, with Olivia Colman, Colin Firth and Michael Ward all taking large roles

Cast: The new release boasts quite the cast, with Olivia Colman, Colin Firth and Michael Ward all taking large roles

Adding another personal touch was the casting of Toby Jones in the film, who met Sam when they were 11 – meaning he also saw the journey first-hand.

Also talking with The Guardian, Toby said: Sam radiates this sort of tremendous self-assurance, qnd he was like that as a boy.’

The new release boasts quite the cast, with Olivia Colman, Colin Firth and Michael Ward all taking large roles.

Sam’s mother Valerie has seen the flick and has given it her stamp of approval, with the director explaining: ‘You are very aware the film is informed by autobiography, and alert to the sensitivities of that. There’s a fragility in certain scenes that you have to honour.’

Plot: Empire of Light is a romance/drama that focuses on a single woman with mental health struggles

Plot: Empire of Light is a romance/drama that focuses on a single woman with mental health struggles

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