Facing a roundtable of interviewers in San Francisco, director Danny Boyle's animated and enthusiastic talking about his new science-fiction epic, Sunshine, which follows a group of astronauts on a desperate mission to re-start the sun -- gesturing with his hands to show the narrow story constraints of sci-fi as a genre, leaning back and forth as he relates the differences in tone between his latest film and his previous work. Boyle burst onto the scene with his debut film, 1994's Shallow Grave; he followed it up with an impressive string of projects that leapt from genre to genre: Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Millions. Some of Boyle's films have been considered flops (notably The Beach, the multi-million dollar Leonardo DiCaprio-led adaptation of Alex Garland's novel) , but he's constantly tried to do something different -- a constantly moving point of innovation in a British film industry that too often seems awash in period-piece Jane Austen adaptation and wispy, wistful rom-coms.
Boyle spoke about researching sealed environments ("We couldn't get on an oil rig -- because of security -- but we could get on a nuclear submarine. ..."), putting his actors through a two-week pre-production 'space camp' (" ... I had to promise them that there were no cameras -- that it wasn't a type of Big Brother sort of thing. ...") and much more. Cinematical's questions are indicated.
Cinematical: What was the biggest technical challenge in bringing the emotional arc of the story to life - and what was the biggest story challenge in bringing this very technical piece of 'hard' science fiction to life?
Boyle: They're both the same, really -- They're both about 'Can you create this star -- and not just create it as an impactful wonderful thing to see, but can you sustain it and grow it so it grows as an experience throughout the film so it gets bigger and bigger and more a part of their lives?' Because, in a way, that's the emotional relationship in the film -- their relationship with the sun, what happens with it, how it kills them off gradually, or how they grow into it or learn to accept it, their relationship with it. And it was trying to sustain it. Because you can create impact (claps hands together to suggest a blast of sunlight): WHOOOOM! SSSSCH-OOOOOOWWW! But after about five seconds of that, it's just ... white. And really boring. So one of the basic ways we (built the experience) is that we made the inside of the ship, we made everything non-orange or red. It sounds boring and trite, but it works, believe me. It's an old, old trick: You rob the audience for maybe as long as 15 minutes, they don't get ... (reaches out to grab the hem of an interview participant's red dress) ... there'd be nothing like that allowed in the costume, nothing; everything had to be in the gray-green-blue range, and then you step outside (the spaceship of the film, into view of the sun) and it's like "Oh!" It's like you've been without it, like you've been starved of it.
That was one way that helped sustain it, really. It's the biggest technical challenge, really. Because obviously, you see the film through the actor's eyes, and they cant see anything of what we were creating, because it all took 9 months, a year for the CG. So the biggest technical challenge was creating things for them to look at. And I don't just mean pictures of the sun, I mean things that had a tactile impact on them -- whether light or dust or whatever it was, freezing water for Chris Evans. They're not thinking "He's told me to do it like this because eventually it's going to be like this. ..." It's like "Just react to what happens now to you." So you get a dust storm blown at you ... and then I replaced whatever I needed to replace with CG, but the actors are reacting to something tactile and tangible.