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SUNSHINE

Preparing For The Film
Once the filmmakers lined up the cast of SUNSHINE, the actors were put through their paces, each asked to immerse themselves in their characters' specific fields of expertise. Thus it was that Cillian Murphy, preparing to play Capa, accompanied physicist Brian Cox to his work place at CERN in Geneva, with Murphy noting: "He's very nice man who put up with all my idiotic questions!” Meanwhile, Michelle Yeoh, in search of biological knowledge, spent time at the Eden Project in Cornwall, the world's largest conservatory, where more than 5,000 species of plants from around the world are studied. At the same time, to better understand the ship's engineer, Mace, Chris Evans met with NASA astronaut Daniel W. Bursch in the U.S. before joining the production in England.

To further inspire the cast, Danny Boyle screened for them a variety films including the fact-based story of NASA's first space launch, THE RIGHT STUFF; the definitive Apollo missions documentary FOR ALL MANKIND; the heart-stopping submarine classic, DAS BOOT; the relentless 1953 thriller WAGES OF FEAR, about men transporting deadly nitroglycerine through the jungle; and the mind-blowing sci-fi films ALIEN and 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY.

As rehearsals got under way, the process involved far more than the usual linereadings and expanded to include scuba-diving lessons, lectures by specialists in Astronomy and Physics, stunt training, flight simulation and, most nerve-wrackingly, a trip in a light aircraft to experience zero gravity.

Cillian Murphy describes the Zero-G experience as being "quite interesting, sickening, horrifying, and exhilarating all in the same time”. Adds Michelle Yeoh, "That moment of zero gravity is quite phenomenal, it takes your breath away. But when you experience several Gs… it's not nice. Your head hurts, your chest hurts, and it feels like the whole world is sitting on you. It sounds horrifying but it is still exhilarating, and after a few moments of sheer terror you get used to it.”

Lastly, Boyle insisted his cast all live together for two weeks to build up that intense kind of familiarity only intimate living can create among a group, which is so key to the film's riveting psychological tension. "In the film, we join the crew when they have been living together on the space ship for 16 months, so one of the key things for us was to get the cast to bond as quickly as possible and to break down any barriers,” Boyle explains. All eight Icarus II crewmembers crammed into sparse student dormitories in the East End of London. "I thought we were going to go and live in a big house together and cook meals and have a great time,” recalls Cliff Curtis. "But no, we got put in student accommodation where we had a cell-like room with a single bed, our own shower and toilet, and a very basic kind of kitchen.”

Yet the experience was invaluable. "There's a certain kind of chemistry that you can't act,” explains Murphy, "It's just in the room, in the chemistry between people, that familiarity or irritability or whatever it may be.”

This early bonding experiment became emblematic of Boyle's approach to all of SUNSHINE – upping the realism in the visuals, design and characters to make the story's extraordinary circumstances that much more provocative, harrowing and intense. Sums up Chris Evans: "There was so much research done for this film. Everyone involved really got our hands dirty to understand what these characters are going through and what the movie is about. Because of that, it was a wonderful, unforgettable experience.”

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