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SUNSHINE

A Q & A With Danny Boyle
What was it about Alex Garland's SUNSHINE script that attracted you?

I'm a great believer in continuity and I felt that we should follow up 28 DAYS LATER by working together again, and the premise of the script was so intoxicating. I think it's true, nobody's made a movie about the Sun, and it is the single thing that's more important than any other thing. If it blinks out, we're all dead in eight minutes and yet nobody's made a film about it. And I thought, that's fantastic. Obviously there's also the idea of the psychological effects of that on these people and what they see as they draw close to the source of all life in the universe. That always got me.

Are space films a genre that interests you?

I love space films. I'm not a STAR TREK kind of movie person, but I am what I would call more elegant space films. I found myself at CONTACT and I found myself at ALIEN 4 when it opened. What you and Alex did so successfully with 28 DAYS LATER was take the horror genre and put your own spin on it. When you're making a space film, a genre that has produced such classics as ALIEN and 2001, how do you, as a filmmaker, go about making it your own?

I don't think about them that much when I'm making the film, even though we're looking at them and we screened them, we screened all sorts of films.

You try and set off as innocently as possible and occasionally you collide with films and you think, better not do that or oh yeah, that would be good to actually gesture towards it. So you suffuse yourself in them and then you try and leave them behind a bit. The stricter premise, the reference premise is more what our production designer Mark Tildesley says, "It's that 50 years thing.” Fifty years ago in London there were red buses, and you still see red buses today, and yet the place is completely different. And so there's enough in the film that you feel familiar with, it's not gone STAR TREK, and so we based our research on NASA's kind of outreach program, and so the Icarus II has plants to give oxygen, because that's one of the biggest issues of space travel, how will we create oxygen to sustain life in space or on other planets, and that's plants.

How did the film's "more NASA than STAR WARS” approach develop?

We did everything from meeting specialists, like our scientific consultant Brian Cox, to Richard Seymour who's a futurist designer, he's a blue skies thinker for people like Ford and Phillips, and he invented the cordless kettle 20 years ago and he's invented stuff that he thinks in 20 years time will be as familiar to us as the cordless kettle has become. He gave us an image of the future, a kind of 50 years image of the future. Andrew, Alex and I went to meet him, and we talked to him and he showed us stuff and then he talked to the actors about it. Mark designs it but you steep yourself in lots of stuff from everybody, and gradually things begin to emerge.

This idea of the shield came out of very basic thinking about protection and then NASA research about materials and how you'd protect yourself from heat, from radiation, and that was gold leaf. It's no good protecting yourself with solid lead, it would just melt straightaway, whereas gold leaf dissipates the heat away from the ship behind it. I remember that being a big discovery that seems terribly obvious, and then that led to the space suit, you think that's got to be gold, it wouldn't be white like the NASA suit and then you get courage from that and you think, let's change the helmet.

What did you learn from your visit to a nuclear submarine?

Obviously DAS BOOT was a big influence and initially we thought we'd make the Icarus II quite claustrophobic. But we didn't make it claustrophobic in the end in the way DAS BOOT is, because your instinct tells you No, these guys are going to be out there for three y

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