Written by Steven Chupnick
Danny Boyle has taken the sci-fi space genre to a whole new level in his new film, Sunshine.
It’s one of the most amazing films I’ve ever seen – visually, it’s stunning; concept, it’s incredible. And the cast – an ensemble group who transform into astronauts and scientists trying to save the world; it includes Cillian Murphy, Rose Byrne, Michelle Yeoh, and Chris Evans.
Sunshine is about the beginning of the end of the world; the sun is dying and a team must travel to space to give a jolt to the star. Their mission is the second attempt; the first appeared to have failed. The adventure takes a turn for the worse when they run into the first ship.
The first thing Danny did to do research for to look at the sun. “I immediately started looking at it, with books and photographs; that’s what I tend to gather and spend a fortune collating them. I have a huge kind of collection, so I either resource through them or go out and buy new; and it was through that – as soon as you start to delve into it, you start to feel yourself get lost into it and that’s a good sign. Cause that’s one of the things the film is about is your mind as you try to take on board the enormity, the power, the extraordinary thing it is. If the Earth was frozen solid, and only parts of the Earth were inhabitable because of a new ice age, what would you do? So yeah, that’s how it starts.”
Coming from the world of Trainspotting and the independent world, Sunshine takes a dramatic switch for Danny. And you can tell that he took full advantage with the sets, which are absolutely amazing; but he still remained very humble after seeing the movie. “It’s so much agony making these films; you have no idea how difficult they are and the standard that you expect. And to be frank, there are certain films that have been made, sci-fi films, that don’t meet the standard; I think Sunshine meets the standard. But there are certain films that don’t meet the standard, and I’ve watched them and I think ‘that’s not good enough; that’s not good enough. I don’t quite believe that.’ But I’ve never done a genre where that critical line is so acute of ‘I don’t quite believe that.’ You have to be above that line for people to go ‘ok’ and then they judge the story; then it’s different. Do you judge the story, do you like the story, do you like the characters – that’s different. But that technical level, and to get to there, is terrifyingly difficult, really. And it’s different than a kid in a candy store; it’s absolutely dragging people by their teeth, grabbing them and forcing them to make it better every time you do it. Cause it just desiccates inside of you if you get it wrong, even slightly wrong. There’s so much latitude for a film set on Earth; there’s so many ways you can get around things – the spotlight’s really intense.”
And for the actors, the set was very intense; Chris Evans says it was Danny who really kept everything in place. “I can't say enough about Danny; it was just an unbelievable experience. You work with good directors in the hopes that the process of filmmaking will be what you want it to be because the process is always a tricky thing. I come from a theatre background, you come from a theatre background; we showed up in London over a month before we started shooting just to rehearse and this is the way Danny works. It's unbelievable, it's so giving for actors; we ran lines every day like it was a play. We moved in together in the dorm rooms to get the sensation of shared space, we did SCUBA diving, we went to lectures, we saw film, we did the British Airways flight simulators. This is the back story that Danny wants his actors to have; it's not just giving the actors a foundation to work with, but it's getting everyone on the same page. Danny's responsibility is to be able to communicate what he wants, just using words; there's nothing tangible we can use and Danny has a way of getting everybody, from his actors to his crew, on the same page. By the time we started shooting, it felt like we had such a good foundation; we were all so ready to begin, and it's such a reward, such a treat, as an actor. And Danny has such a way of speaking where he can just use one sentence, and you don't get lost in translation.”
And with the casting, Danny looked for the best possible actors to be in his movie, and he found them. In certain instances, he found certain quirks to the actors to put into the characters. “I didn’t try to address them individually ever almost; we had individual sessions to do with their back stories. Some of them were interested in their back stories – and some of them interestingly act as their likeness. And some of them don’t want to know their back story – like Rose (Byrne) didn’t want to know her back story at all, although she had an amazing back story, she didn’t want to ever know it. So they’re interesting like that. Other than that, I tried to inspire them as a group that they would take what they wanted to being exposed to. We had three weeks of lectures, scientists explaining the physics, and me explaining what I thought about the projects – and they can take what they want from that, take what inspiration they want from that, what bits they pick up from hearing it. But they all did individual things – Cillian went off to this cern, this particle incinerator in Switzerland and came back with all these mannerisms that they had all these people. And there’s some of that in the film, he does these things with his hands, that all these mathematicians would do with their hands looking at an equation. They’re full of all these little details like that. And Chris Evans met this astronaut, which was really good for Chris, that really grounded Chris in how applied this guy was to the problem – and that’s Chris’ character. It doesn’t matter what, he doesn’t want anyone crying, whatever’s going on, he just applies himself to the problem – never mind the rest of it, just get on with this. And I love that about his character; but it would vary.”
Sunshine will blow you away with its incredible and beautiful art, acting, and story. It opens in select theaters July 27th and expands to the rest of the country in the coming weeks.