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The Cast And Characters
On board the Icarus II is a crew of 8 brave men and women – an unusual mix of scientists and astronauts willing to attempt this last-ditch, long-shot mission to save the Earth. In imagining what the crew would look like, Danny Boyle took into consideration current predictions that, over the next 50 years, Asia will continue to expand in both economic and social power in close competition with the U.S.. Notes Boyle, "The Icarus II has a largely American and Asian crew because we felt that in 50 years time the Chinese and American space programs would be the most developed and only they would have the economic power to bankroll such an endeavor. Ideally we were looking for actors from all around the world.” To that end, auditions were held in Los Angeles, New York and London, with Boyle eventually bringing together actors hailing from America, Japan, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and Britain.

Much of the film unfolds through the eyes of the Icarus II's physicist, Capa, played by Irish actor Cillian Murphy, who came to the fore in 28 DAYS LATER. The only crewmember who really knows how to operate the incredibly sophisticated bomb the ship is carrying, Murphy describes the character as an "outsider.” "He's a scientist who is into a level of physics that is way beyond normal comprehension and that does something to his mind in a way,” says Murphy. "He doesn't have great people skills, though, which keeps him slightly removed from the rest of the crew.”

Says Boyle of Murphy: "We were looking for a lead actor on whom the audience could project their hopes and fears throughout the film, and Cillian has that rare quality. For those who think he's a bit good-looking for a physicist, the uncanny thing is that he looks remarkably like our science advisor Brian Cox which was not intentional.”

Capa often finds himself at odds with the ship's brash engineer, Mace, played by American actor Chris Evans, who recently made a lasting impression as the Human Torch in the hit comic book adaptation the FANTASTIC FOUR sequel. Evans notes that his character contrasts with Capa as a more typical "man of action.” "Mace hails from a military family and background, so he's very cut and dry, and morally uncomplicated,” explains Evans. "He is the guy on board who is always able to perform under the most pressure-filled situations.”

"Chris is tremendous as Mace,” says Boyle. "When we met him we just knew he was the real thing – a serious, thoroughbred actor, prepared to do anything. I liked him immediately and cast him very quickly. He has the confidence to play this role and I think he is someone who's on the brink of something quite big.”

The filmmakers searched for an Asian actor to play the most experienced astronaut among the crew, Icarus II's Captain Kaneda. Boyle had seen Japanese actor Hiroyuki Sanada in Yoji Yamada's highly acclaimed, Oscar-nominated THE TWILIGHT SAMURAI and was bowled over by his presence.

"He gives this extraordinary and majestic performance,” Boyle recalls. "When I met him I felt he had that kind of natural authority that makes people respect him automatically, which was crucial for the character.”

For Sanada, playing Kaneda was a huge challenge, with SUNSHINE only his second English-language feature. "I love Danny's films, they have good tension and rhythm in the world he creates,” says Sanada. "The script has great human drama. It is not only great entertainment but also has very profound meaning and a deep soul.”

Also joining the crew is Asian superstar Michelle Yeoh as Corazon, the biologist in charge of the Icarus II's oxygen garden — the ship's primary source of oxygen and fresh food. "Even while reading the script, I knew I wanted Michelle to be in the film,” Boyle explains. "Before I'd seen CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, I'd seen her in TOMORROW<

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