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Casting The Film
The filmmakers cast a wide net to find the five actors to portray the competitive young medical students. "This is an ensemble piece and because of this, it was crucial to find actors who hopefully complemented one another," says Mark. "Each of our cast brings something unique and distinctive to the party."

Ellen Page, who was nominated for an Academy Award for her breakout role in Juno, was chosen by the filmmakers to play the role of Courtney, a complicated young woman who convinces her colleagues to follow her in her quest for knowledge of the afterlife.

"Ellen's character lights the fire that sets the story in motion - and fortunately, she is a galvanizing actress," says Mark.

"Courtney's a troubled woman," explains Safran. "She is haunted by the guilt she feels from having been driving when her younger sister was killed in a car accident ten years earlier; she carries the weight of that with her. That's what drives her fascination with the afterlife - she wants so much to know that her sister is at peace that she's willing to go to that ultimate level of experimenting on herself. Ellen Page brings an intellectual gravitas and acting prowess to the role; she embodies beautifully the weight that Courtney has, the suffering she feels over the death of her sister."

"Ellen brings an emotional credibility and depth to the character," says Oplev. "It's compelling to see her take her character into dark corners - you can call her the ringleader; she influences the others to go along with her."

Page says the project spoke to her on a number of levels. "I was intrigued by the way the film deals with our innate, primal fascination, fear, denial of whatever it is about the inevitable," says the actress. "The character of Courtney felt like a character I hadn't really played before. She's a bit of a mystery and I was interested in the mystery of her - she's had an extremely difficult, traumatic past, she's struggling with a horrible guilt and it's definitely shaped who she is today. To play someone who has been through a lot and to get to explore that was really exciting to me."

That wide range continues as Page's character begins her dangerous experiments. "Before she flatlines, she's very closed off from the intensity of her feelings about her past - she protects herself from those feelings," says Page. "Right after she flatlines, she has a moment of bliss - that euphoria you feel just after you've gone through a difficult time. She cracks open - she starts to feel strength and freedom, but she also starts to tap into everything she's feeling inside, and her faƧade starts to unravel."

To play the role of the intensely private and complex character of Ray, the filmmakers turned to Diego Luna.

"Ray is the only one of the group with real life experience," explains Mark. "He's older than the others, and he's somewhat rougher around the edges. He didn't grow up privileged, didn't attend an Ivy League School. He was a fireman who saw a lot of pain and suffering. At first, he has trouble understanding why his colleagues would want to experiment in a way he finds cavalier and reckless - but he ultimately can't help participating - especially when his fellow students need him and his experience to revive them."

"Diego imbues Ray with a multi-levelled sensitivity that you get right from the beginning," comments Safran. "Yet when he has to step up to the hero role, he has that force of personality to make it feel real. He has this wonderful smoldering way of stepping into a scene and taking control of it."

"Because Ray is a few years older than the others, he brings more life experience and credibility to the idea of flatlining. Diego has that aura of experience," adds Oplev.

Luna, well-known for roles in such films as Y tu Mama Tambien, Milk and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, says he immediately connected with the character. "Ray is a very pragmatic character," explains Luna. "He's a guy that is in school for a reason and he doesn't want to risk that at all. But, at the same time, he's a doctor and his curiosity gets the better of him, the idea of being part of a project that is so risky intrigues him. Ray has no interest in flatlining, but bringing these people back from death is exciting to him; it makes him feel powerful - he gets hooked. This film is all about playing with fire, playing with something you can't control."

Nina Dobrev plays Marlo, a character she says spoke to her immediately upon reading the script. "I listed the pros and cons of the character on two pieces of paper," says Dobrev. "By the time I finished, I realized there were really no cons - I had just written down so many things I loved about her and her arc throughout the film."

"Marlo is a great character," states Safran. "She's the girl that you want to hate because she really has it all - she's beautiful, she's smart, and she's clearly well off - but she brings a humor to everything that she does, so it's impossible to hate her. A lot of that is because Nina Dobrev is also that girl; Nina is just somebody you want to hang out with; she's just a charming person and she brings that charm to the character of Marlo."

British actor James Norton plays the fun-loving and charismatic Jamie. "Jamie is a loveable rogue," says Norton of his character. "He's not the most serious of students, he likes to party, he likes the girls, he's full of bravado and confidence and makes no bones about the fact that what he's really after is recognition - he wants to be a celebrity doctor."

"There's a recklessness to his character," says Oplev. "He's a trust fund kid, more interested in girls and parties than in medical school. There's a reason why Courtney chooses him: yeah, I think he'd be the one that would press the button and start the whole thing up."

Kiersey Clemons, best known for her breakout role in the critically acclaimed Sundance hit Dope, was chosen by the filmmakers to play the role of Sophia.

"Sophia is an interesting character because she clearly deserves to be at medical school by virtue of her intelligence and her hard work and diligence, but she lives under the oppressive rule of her single mother who has given up everything to put Sophia through medical school and expects her to succeed and excel," comments Safran. "And that pressure is something that clearly weighs heavily on her shoulders, but in terms of is she letting her mother down, or is she letting herself down. Is this what she really wants to be doing? It's a very complicated and complex character and Kiersey Clemons plays her perfectly."

"I think for Sophia it was always about being the best and the smartest and the top of her class because it was what was expected of her," says Clemons of her character. "So when she decides to flatline she has this experience of liberation, she's claimed her own identity by doing something her mom would never want her to do."

From the very beginning the chemistry and camaraderie between the five actors was strong both on and off screen. "We all got along from the moment we met," says Dobrev. "Everyone has such a different personality but together it's like a puzzle - we all kind of fit and everyone brings something new to the table."

Adds Norton, "In any movie, any performance, the trust involved between a group of actors is immense. You have to open yourself up and within a few days show your soul and become incredibly vulnerable with strangers. And that takes an enormous amount of trust. So it's no surprise that actors generally become very close very quickly. And that was what happened on this movie, which was great because this movie is all about trust. These characters are literally putting their lives in each other's hands and saying, 'Get me back, take me back from death.' So the fact that we all got on so well, that we all trusted each other off camera meant that the relationships and the stories of our friendships on camera was much easier."

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