Before filming on ‘Sunshine’ started over one year ago now, director Danny Boyle was keen to give the eight actors a taste of what it would be like to be a real team of astronauts.
As we join the film, these characters have been together for many years- both on their mission in space and previously in training on Earth- and Danny wanted to make sure that when filming started the actors operated as a team. He also wanted to school them in science and sci-fi as well as give them some real flight experience.
All eight actors lived together in one house. They spent 24 hours a day with one another in order to fast track their team bonding. They all learned to SCUBA dive and did some underwater training to give them an idea of what it feels like to float and be forced to move slowly in the way you would do in space. They each learned to fly a plane on a Â£15 million flight simulator. And they were each taken up, individually, in a plane to experience Zero Gravity. It worked. Within weeks they really were thinking like the crew of the Icarus II.
We’ve got a new video showing each of the actors’ reactions to being in Zero G.
There’s a write-up about ‘..Sunshine..’ in the ‘Future Films’ section of this month’s Empire Magazine. It just came out on the stands yesterday, but for you impatient puppies who can’t wait until you get your mitts on it… here is the photo they’ve used in the piece.
Between the moment those three words came out of Alex Garland’s mind and the moment the resultant image goes into yours, they’ve passed through the hands of several hundred people.
I was at my desk when my colleague Phil’s mobile phone rang. When he hung up, he said, ‘That was Julian (Spencer, the Stunt Coordinator). They are going to re-shoot that shot Alwin did the other day. He wants me to go down to Stage 11 to help him out.’
“That shot Alwin did” involved Alwin Kuchler and Cillian Murphy both getting into harnesses connected to a track on the ceiling and being ‘flown’ around the set at very high speed. After watching it back, Danny Boyle wanted to see if they could be flown around any faster. The special effects crew in charge of the wirework tinkered with the rigging for a couple days to speed the whole thing up.
Before the main unit filmed it a second time, Julian Spencer got Kim, one of the stunt women, and Phil to help test out the new, speedy rigging. Whereas Kim is used to and trained in harness work, Phil was a complete novice. He seemed to be enjoying himself, however.
They got Phil and Kim in the harnesses and up in the air. Julian wanted Phil to film the whole thing so that he could show the tape to Danny to see if it was fast enough. Along with being suspended several feet in the air and pulled along several kilometres per hour, Phil had to try to keep Kim in shot, keep the camera steady and stay facing in the same direction.
This wasn’t going to be easy.
The first time they tested it, Phil and Kim ended up rotating about 90 degrees and were travelling sideways rather than forwards. No good. Next, Julian ran alongside them to try and keep them heading straight, but they were started out too quickly which jerked them both forward and up and meant that Phil wasn’t able to keep Kim in shot. No good. They tried again, starting off slowly, but they weren’t moving fast enough. Next, Phil wrapped his right arm around the wire Kim was on to try and keep the camera stable, but their wires were moving in opposite directions so Kim’s wire bumped him around too much to keep a steady shot. They were lowered for a rest while the effects guys thought about what they might be able to do about keeping the camera steady. After a few minutes they decided to connect it loosely to Kim’s wire so that the camera always moved with her, yet Phil had to still make sure she always stayed in shot. Phil and Kim were hoisted up again. They were flown across the studio several more times, Phil filming the whole time. All in all it took about an hour to get about 20 seconds of footage that Julian thought was good enough to show to Danny.
Phil and Kim were lowered and got out of the harnesses. Julian watched the shots back a few times then we all headed to Stage 5 where the main unit was filming. We walked in while they were setting up. About 10 seconds after we arrived, Danny walked by on his way to speak to one of the actors. Julian told him they he’d just done some tests with the new rigging and if Danny had a moment he could watch it. Phil opened up the view finder and Danny watched about 5 seconds and said, ‘Good. Thanks.’ and went back to work. And that was that.
In the end they rigged up the camera to the wire which was holding Cillian and Alwin never went up again- not having two people one the wires allowed Cillian to travel much quicker and get the shot Danny wanted.
The film was processed, synched up, digitised. It will be edited, graded, sound dubbed. It will be duplicated and distributed. It will be threaded into a projector, the lights will go down and for a brief moment in the film you will see Capa fly backwards.
2014 Update: Here’s a behind-the-scenes video on stunts featuring Julian Spencer
It can take literally hours to light a scene. In order to light it properly one needs to have someone actually standing there to light. Rather than have the actors waiting around, getting exhausted and bored, they use stand-ins.
Stand-ins are not doubles, they don’t necessarily look like the actor they are standing in for, but they tend to be roughly the same height and are issued with a copy of the costume the character is wearing in that scene. All of the stand-ins have been members of the crew- Runners, an AD, even someone from Craft Services have been stand-ins. It honestly isn’t the most exciting job- standing there for hours and hours while Alwin Kuchler works his magic.
Anna, Floor Runner, “lying-in” for Rose Byrne.
On any given day you can tell immediately who is a stand-in. The costumes are so recognisable that you don’t even need to see someone close up to know that they are ‘in costume’ and you can often tell instantly who they are standing in for by what they are wearing. The outfit Sue, the 3rd Assistant Director, is wearing in this photo tells me instantly she’s standing in for Michelle Yeoh.
Sue, 3rd AD, looking cool as Corazon.
Last week, I was walking along outside the main building when about 30 metres ahead of me I saw Dan, Cillian Murphy’s stand-in, walking towards me. Dan had to get extensions so that his hair resembles Cillian’s more. Dan isn’t particularly pleased with his hair and can usually be seen wearing a hat. As he was walking up to me, I realised that he didn’t have his hat on and wondered why that might be. Could he have lost his hat? Did he run off set so quickly he forgot it? Could someone have taken it? As he got closer to me I realised… it wasn’t Dan. It was Cillian.
Dan, Floor Runner, with hat covering his Capa-like extensions.
The “helmet cam” is located inside the characters’ spacesuits. Along with getting the actors’ close-ups, it’s getting everything that each character can see outside during a spacewalk. And there’s a lot going on. For more than a week they’ve been filming very technical shots with stunt doubles on wires who have certain cues to hit whilst ‘floating’ in space and several major scenes which are very physically and emotionally draining on the actors. And throughout it, of course, there is the ever-present Sun.
The other day they created the most amazing Sun-plasma effect just using orange lights, reflective material and a fan. Of course, visual effects will probably re-do it in the final shot, but it created the correct reflections on the actors’ faces and, I would guess, helped them with their performances.
I was watching a monitor as Cillian Murphy was doing one of the big scenes during which this effect was used and by the end of it I noticed I was biting my lower lip extremely hard and my forehead was all tensed up. Very harrowing stuff. And that was only about 10 seconds of the film.
Everything seems to be going rather well and the tension from last week has cleared. Just after lunch, Danny Boyle was talking with a couple of the runners about the cricket- it’s looking like England is going to win the Ashes- before he went off to get ready to start again.
Earlier today I was adding some songs to my ‘Sunshine Playlist’. I’ve decided to only listen to music that is about the Sun while I’m working.
I noticed a new thing in my iTunes window. It said ‘Cillian’s Playlist’. Cillian Murphy had started broadcasting from his laptop. I couldn’t resist, I had to have a look.
We had lots of the same music- Air, Beach Boys, Beatles, Aretha Franklin are a few I remember. He also had some MP3s of two of my favourite comedians, Bill Hicks and Chris Morris. He also had some Captain Beefheart, who as a Frank Zappa fan I should have, but don’t.
I decided to click on one of the tracks and a window popped-up asking for a password. Fine. I couldn’t listen to his music… but then I noticed that the window had his email address on it.
We are based at a studio where several other things are being filmed besides this. I didn’t think he’d want to be broadcasting his email address to just anyone.
I jumped up immediately and started to search for Cillian.
I found Carlos Fidel the 2nd AD, told him what was happening. As we were walking towards Cillian’s dressing room, Cliff Curtis walked past us on his way to make-up and I heard some wild whoops coming from one of the rooms. ‘Table tennis,’ said Carlos just before he knocked on Cillian’s door.
Cillian was asleep on the sofa, listening to music. As he rubbed his eyes and sat up, I introduced myself and told him what happened. He said he didn’t mind broadcasting his music, but agreed that perhaps his email address being available wasn’t exactly ideal. I went into his iTunes and de-selected ‘Share My Music’.
Now, how am I going to get those Captain Beefheart songs he had?