Sunshine: the A-list stars you forgot were in the Danny Boyle movie

Sunshine kicks off our Danny Boyle season in fine style on May 7th. For just £5 a ticket, you can venture into the cosmos with the crew of the Icarus II spaceship who are on on a visually staggering and philosophically fascinating mission to reignite the sun with a nuclear payload. Their mission: to save the Earth.

Boyle's typically luminescent visuals mesh with a piercing Alex Garland script and a raft of solid performances, all of which compel us to question our place in the vastness of the universe.

The film's formidable technical qualities range from Mark Tildesley's claustrophobic production design to Alwin W. Kuchler's retina-scorching visuals and John Murphy's soaring, yearning score that he co-composed with the group Underworld.

Given Sunshine was originally released in 2007, it may be a while since you've seen it. Do you remember the following A-list actors featuring in the ensemble cast? Some of them may take you by surprise...


Cillian Murphy

Oppenheimer Oscar-winner Cillian Murphy plays lead physicist Robert Capa. Sunshine was Murphy's second collaboration with Danny Boyle following 28 Days Later (2002). Prior to filming the actor hung out with physicist Brian Cox to better understand how a scientist would behave.

“He’s not your quintessential physicist by any stretch of the imagination," Murphy said of the one-time D:Ream keyboardist turned braniac. "But he’s so bright and so approachable. I hung out with him for some time and pestered him with idiotic questions about life, the Universe and everything.”

The release of Sunshine coincided with Murphy's emergence onto the Hollywood A-list: just prior to this he had played the Scarecrow in Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins (2005), a role he would reprise in Nolan's The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012). Murphy's later collaborations with Nolan were Inception (2010) and Dunkirk (2017), prior to his award-winning triumph in the director's atomic epic Oppenheimer.

Chris Evans

Before he was Captain America in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Chris Evans played the stolid engineer James Mace. Of course, around the time of Sunshine's release, Evans had already secured himself as a comic book movie star: he played the Human Torch in the 2004 Fantastic Four movie and its 2007 sequel Rise of the Silver Surfer. 

After Sunshine, Evans cemented his comic book status in Push (2009) and Edgar Wright's cult classic Scott Pilgrim vs the World (2010). One year later and he was cemented as Captain America in Marvel's The First Avenger (2011). The rest, as they say, is history.

Michelle Yeoh

Oscar-winner Michelle Yeoh plays the Icarus II's biologist and botanist Corazon. Yeoh is now best known for her multifaceted and emotional role in the multiversal smash-hit Everything Everywhere All At Once (2002) for which she won the aforementioned Oscar. However, the Malaysian-born actress was already established as a massive star in Hong Kong prior to Sunshine's release and she also played Wai-Lin opposite Pierce Brosnan's 007 in James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies (2007).

Yeoh recalls it was she who pushed Boyle to include a globally diverse cast: "I said to him, 'Why do you think at that time it's still the Russians and the Americans going to space? Wouldn't you have more Japanese, Chinese, and it would be a more united group going up to save the earth. It's not like a mission to Mars on your own, right? It would be a more collaborative effort."

Rose Byrne

After her appearance in the Brad Pitt historical epic Troy (2004) but before her memorably catty turn in the Paul Feig/Kristen Wiig/Melissa McCarthy hit Bridesmaids (2011), Rose Byrne played the Icarus II pilot Cassie. Just one month after Sunshine was released, Byrne starred in the Boyle-produced 28 Weeks Later (2007), the sequel to the director's groundbreaking 28 Days Later.

Hiroyuki Sanada

Renowned Japanese actor Hiroyuki Sanada has appeared in a wide range of projects from the chilling Japanese horror Ring (1998) to the Tom Cruise samurai epic The Last Samurai (2003). Sunshine gives Sanada one of his best roles as the Icarus II captain Kaneda.

In an interview with Empire, it was revealed that esteemed director Wong Kar-wai (helmer of the sumptuous In the Mood for Love, 2000) had recommended Sanada to Boyle. Originally, the role of captain was written as American but was later changed to Japanese.

Benedict Wong

Appearing in Sunshine as Icarus II navigator Trey, Benedict Wong, like fellow cast member Chris Evans, has subsequently graduated into the MCU. He's now become famous as Wong, the sidekick of Benedict Cumberbatch's cape-swirling Doctor Strange in the two Doctor Strange films (2016 and 2022) and also Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Avengers: Endgame (2019) and Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021).

Wong's other roles include the Ridley Scott movies Prometheus (2012), the prequel to Scott's classic 1979 sci-fi horror Alien, and The Martian (2015).

Cliff Curtis

Acclaimed for his role in the New Zealand drama Once Were Warriors (1994), Curtis appears in Sunshine as the Icarus II doctor Searle. Following Sunshine's release Curtis has balanced domestic New Zealand roles in the acclaimed likes of The Dark Horse (2014) with Hollywood fare like The Meg (2018) and Meg 2: The Trench (2023).

Sunshine burns brightly at Cineworld on May 7th. Click the link below to book your tickets.