Features and Columns · Movies

23 Things We Learned from Danny Boyle’s Sunshine Commentary

By  · Published on December 22nd, 2016

“Hope is pulled away from her at the most cruel moment, but that’s film-making I guess.”

Sunshine (2007)

Commentator: Danny Boyle (director)

1. The opening Fox Searchlight logo is played backwards so that it ends on the sun hanging over the hills.

2. He was intrigued when Alex Garland brought him the script in part because he couldn’t think of any other sun-related movies. “I think there’s a bit in Lost in Space where they pass through the sun and go ‘phew! that was warm,’ but that’s it really.”

3. They were asked why the ship is called Icarus, and he says the original script included dialogue meant “to remind Earth and the people on the mission of their humanity and their humility.”

4. The ship’s computer is voiced by Chipo Chung (In the Loop). The casting director saw her in a play and thought she’d be perfect for the role, and they had her on-set through production so she’d feel more like a live presence.

5. They learned from NASA that a long mission like this would see the astronauts growing and making meals instead of simply using freeze-dried, pre-made pouches.

6. They were inspired by Andrew Smith’s book, Moondust: In Search of the Men Who Fell to Earth, as its theme was the disturbance astronauts felt in being away from the Earth.

7. The idea behind the diverse crew comes from Boyle’s belief that “the economies that would be able to pay for this kind of space travel would be the Asian economies.”

8. Boyle first saw Michelle Yeoh in Tomorrow Never Dies. Hopefully he’s seen her in Supercop by now too.

9. The three serious sci-fi films hanging over this one are 2001, Solaris, and Alien.

10. Boyle and Garland both love Apocalypse Now, and he says the inspiration is obvious in their three shared films ‐ 28 Days Later, The Beach, and this one.

11. He had the cast live together in student accommodations in East London before production to build a group dynamic. “I think they were a bit shocked, I think they were expecting to stay in the Dorcester and in fact they were in Mile End by the canal.”

12. The script went through thirty or so drafts, and one of the earlier versions featured a “sex in the oxygen garden” sequence between Robert (Cillian Murphy) and Cassie (Rose Byrne) ‐ but they couldn’t make it believable. Who would possibly believe that someone would have sex with Rose Byrne or Cillian Murphy? (He doesn’t explain this conclusion very well at all.)

13. Underworld and John Murphy share score duties with the former doing a pass across the entire film and writing “weird, wonderful, experimental music” and then handing it over to Murphy who wove a more classical approach throughout.

14. They originally planned to build a second Icarus set for the other ship and design it so the characters were walking on its walls and ceilings ‐ both to acknowledge its current state and to differentiate it visually from the main ship ‐ but they couldn’t afford the cost of construction. Instead they settled on covering the new ship’s interior with dust.

15. He thinks the four character vote scene is the best thing Garland’s ever written.

16. Some viewers apparently miss the detail that two blades are missing from the drawer which is meant to suggest that Pinbacker (Mark Strong) has taken them ‐ one to kill Trey (Benedict Wong) and make it look like a suicide, and one to use on Robert.

17. He laughs when Corazon (Yeoh) finds the small, budding plant amid the charred garden, saying the “the guys at Fox in America couldn’t believe we offered a moment of hope like this… and then she dies so soon afterwards.”

18. Mace’s (Chris Evans) death and Robert’s realization that he’s gone prompts Boyle to say “I always thought that was a very homoerotic moment there.”

19. The scene where Robert falls down while in the suit sees him struggling to get back up, and Boyle helped Murphy’s performance ‐ unbeknownst to the actor at the time ‐ by having crew members pressing down on the suit. “It’s fantastic.”

20. He points out the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it visual reference to Icarus at the 1:33:50 mark ‐ feathered wings are briefly visible in the golden circle before the ship explodes.

21. The end sequence set outside a snow-covered Sydney Opera House was filmed in Stockholm, Sweden.

22. The ending credits features footage from the film replayed in the hopes that viewers will keep watching and perhaps notice some of the talented crew who helped make the film.

23. Robert’s sister is played by Paloma Baeza who Boyle credits with having first introduced Murphy to him back when he was casting 28 Days Later.

Best in Context-Free Commentary

“This is a classic kind of eating scene.”

“You can gather a lot of really good actors, ambitious young actors, and you can kill them in any order you want.”

“One of the amazing nightmares about doing a sci-fi film is what do you do with a space helmet?”

“I love music probably more than anything really.”

Sunshine [Blu-ray]

Final Thoughts

This sci-fi flick remains one of Boyle’s best, and his enthusiasm for it is clear throughout the commentary. It’s a terrific tale of sacrifice in the face of extinction ‐ a struggle to survive that ensures their own extinction ‐ and he’s right about the strength of his ensemble cast. His talk leans heavier on detail and explanation over on-set anecdotes, but it’s an engaging listen all the same.

Read more Commentary Commentary from the archives.

Related Topics: , ,

Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.