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THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR

About The Production
NASTASHA
 "I don't believe in love."
DANIEL
 "So...no magic, no fate, no meant-to-be?"
Can a poet and a pragmatist fall in love? What if they only have 24 hours to find out? Something like love at first sight has struck Daniel Bae, but he soon learns he has just one day to not only get Natasha Kingsley to fall for him, but to convince her that romantic love exists in the first place. One day. Because tomorrow she could be gone.

In "The Sun Is Also a Star," opposites attract against the backdrop of one of the busiest and most vibrant cities in the world: New York. And in a city of more than eight million people, what are the odds that anyone will find the one...or that their paths will even cross?

"When I approach any project, I look for what makes it different, or special-why we need to tell the story now," says director Ry Russo-Young. "With this story, I felt that urgency, that ticking clock. I also grew up in New York City, roamed those streets, and fell in love there, so it was personal to me. And to tell an immigrant love story that plays out in one of the most diverse cities in the world was perhaps the most exciting to me, creatively."

The film pits the law of attraction against a U.S. deportation law that will, in just 24 hours, put the character of Natasha and her entire family on a plane to Jamaica, away from everything she knows and loves, everything she considers home.

States producer Leslie Morgenstein, "'The Sun Is Also a Star' has the timeless theme of first love, but is also very topical, weaving in the subject of immigration and deportation with what it's like to be young in America. Ry brought her incredible passion to this story and was also excited to bring New York alive in a way that would be new for audiences."

Producer Elysa Koplovitz Dutton adds, "Ry's vision for turning this timely modern story into a film with classic appeal was something that immediately appealed to us. Immigration is one of the most relevant topics of our time and Nicola's ability to create the story of a budding relationship within the context of this powerful and emotional issue is urgent and very real."

Nicola Yoon, upon whose novel the film is based, was inspired by the serendipity of her own relationship in creating the characters-though she and her husband did not meet at such a problematic time as Natasha and Daniel.

"We did not meet whilst I was being deported, or anything like that," Yoon confirms. "But I'm Jamaican-American and my husband is Korean-American, like Natasha and Daniel, and we did have a lot of the conversations that I included in the book. We talked about philosophical things and I was always the one asking, 'What does it really mean?' which, I'm sure, was kind of annoying. And we did go to karaoke a lot," she smiles. "My husband is a great singer, and so is Daniel."

In conceiving the pair who are both at a pivotal time of life-nearing the end of high school, preparing for college-Yoon drew from her own experiences as a student at Cornell University, particularly from a series of lectures by noted astronomer Carl Sagan. "He was so good at taking complex scientific concepts and making you really feel the human impact of these complicated things. I was also inspired by Big History, a multi-disciplinary method of teaching where, for instance, if you're going to talk astronomy, you also need to talk poetry-what did poets write about the stars? All of this was in my mind when thinking about the forces that push Daniel and Natasha together, and the ones the pull them apart."

Yara Shahidi, who stars as Natasha, observes, "I loved the way Nicola brought such humanity to science, to philosophy, to politics. I'm from a family of immigrants, and there were so many parallels between Natasha, who fears for her future, and my father's own journey of coming to the United States at age eight, living with the fear of the immigration laws changing. It's pertinent to so many people's lives, and she combined it with something like first love, which we all go through. Something that feels so big in the moment, too."

Just as Natasha faces the end of the proverbial American Dream, she meets Daniel, a boy who is doing his best to fulfill his parents' version of it...even if it's not his own. Charles Melton stars as the conflicted young man who, upon spotting Natasha, is suddenly clear about going after at least one thing he wants.

"Daniel's whole life has led to this one day in our story," says Melton. "His parents expect a lot of him and he feels the weight of that pressure, of making them happy. They came to America from South Korea to give their kids a better life, but the life they want for Daniel-to be a doctor-is not at all what he wants. So, he, too, is trapped between two worlds. But then he sees this girl..."

Screenwriter Tracy Oliver says she was already a fan of the author when she was approached to adapt the book. "I'm honored to have gotten the opportunity to adapt Nicola Yoon's beautiful novel about the unlikely love story between two diverse teens, and proud that I could help bring her timely book to life."

Russo-Young offers, "The key things that seemed important to Nicola and myself to maintain from book to screen were a sense of cultural authenticity for both main characters, as well as the love story. Then, in the execution, to get everything right in terms of the chemistry between Natasha and Daniel...well, we couldn't have gotten any luckier than casting Yara and Charles.

BOY MEETS GIRL
 Casting
 Natasha Kingsley believes that logic can be applied to everything, even the most enigmatic of emotions: love. In fact, her key ingredients to achieving the state-mutual self-interest and socio-economic compatibility-are purposefully prosaic, even antiquated.

Besides, love, at least the romantic kind, is the last thing on her mind. Russo-Young relates, "At the beginning of the film we learn Natasha and her family are being deported from New York City back to Jamaica the following day." According to the director, because Natasha has spent her formative teen years in the city, she very much identifies as a New Yorker, and though her parents are resigned to leaving, Natasha is doing everything she can to prevent it. "It's an extremely stressful time in her life and causing her a lot of pain, so her mind couldn't be further from the idea of falling in love with someone," Russo-Young continues.

"The one thing Natasha can depend on is that gravity will still exist when she wakes up," Shahidi expounds. "Facts, science...all of it will still be the same, is dependable, and will never let her down. She's very much a realist, and right now she's feeling very disappointed by the world around her, so when she meets Daniel, she is thrown off by how he can live in this world and believe in his dreams."

On the flip side, Daniel Bae is a pure romantic at heart, which he wears proudly on his sleeve. Yet, as free as he is with his emotions, he's cautious when it comes to revealing his true feelings about the future his parents want for him. It is their hearts he fears will break if he follows his own.

"Daniel is about to have a college interview that could clinch his getting into Dartmouth," Russo-Young states. "He sees it as the nail in the coffin for him becoming anything other than a doctor, the profession his parents have chosen for him. He's been living for his parents his whole life, so this is a big day for him, too."

Both characters are beholden to choices their parents have made, and both are measurably unhappy with them. But that doesn't mean some measure of happiness can't be found for them...with each other. "When Daniel and Natasha meet, they are both thinking about radically different things going on in their lives. But falling in love is so much about the timing, isn't it?" Russo-Young smiles.

Melton offers, "It all happens for Daniel in that moment. He's never wanted to let his parents down; it's just the kind of person he is. But on this particular day, he sees this girl. Then he loses track of her, then he finds her again, and he feels like their meeting is fate, ordained by the universe. Talking to her sparks all these different revelations, and he shows his true self to her, even though she's practically a stranger."

Over coffee, Daniel tells Natasha his five key ingredients to falling in love are friendship, chemistry, a moral compass, common interests and the X-factor. She's not certain what that last thing is; he assures her they have it. In fact, so convinced is he in his ability to bring her around to his way of thinking (and feeling), he's even willing to appeal to her scientific side, recounting the details of a laboratory study involving a series of questions designed to ferret out couples' reciprocal fondness-or not.

While the science-minded Natasha doesn't believe in love at first sight, even she can't deny the immediate chemistry she has with Daniel. Shahidi and Melton may make it look effortless, but that was only part of the reason Russo-Young knew each was right for their role. "The magic was there," the director states. But even on their own, she says, "It was easy to see why Charles instantly rose to the top of the list as the person who was right for Daniel- he's charming, passionate, and has a big heart. And Yara was the first person I thought of to play Natasha. She's a force of nature, wise beyond her years, and she brought all of that to her character."

Shahidi explains, "One of the things that drew me to Natasha is how grounded she is and remains. She and Daniel both challenge each other's perspectives on life in a way that is helpful to their personal journeys. She reminds him that he does have some control over his destiny, and he reminds her to believe in the universe-not just the stars in the sky, but the power of it over her.

"They don't make each other compromise, either," Shahidi continues. "It's not as though she falls head over heels in love and, with that, goes all of her logic. If anything, it's a relationship based in this logic, based on everything she believes in and loves, and that made her so captivating to me."

Nicola Yoon was impressed with Shahidi's take on the character right away. "Ry and I spoke quite a bit before she cast the movie, and I felt her choices were brilliant. Yara's fantastic, a brilliant actress, and also a great activist for young black women, which was wonderful to bring to the role," she says. "Being on set and watching her take over Natasha but still really maintain the spirit of her from the book...I couldn't have been any luckier."

"We had been watching Yara for years on 'Black-ish' and were fans when it came time to cast the movie," says Morgenstein. "Like Ry, Yara was at the top of our list. And we were aware of Charles through 'Riverdale,' too, so when we started thinking about who could play Daniel, he was already on our radar when we learned that he was interested in the role."

The author was equally over the moon about Charles Melton. "I love his energy. He's always moving, he's so enthusiastic and game for the next thing. I remember watching one scene-an emotional scene-and it was a real location so there was a lot of ambient noise, a lot happening around us, and he was crying. And then I was crying. And I thought, 'How, in the middle of all this, is he make me cry right now?'"

"I read the book twice as soon as I found out they were making it into a movie," recalls Melton, "and I thought, 'I'm Daniel Bae, I have to play this guy!' He's kind of goofy, funny, romantic, very serious and passionate, and I connected with all those things. The story really touches on so many issues of the day and gives you a different perspective-a human perspective-that comes out of falling in love amid the beautiful diversity and multiculturism that exist in our country now. I don't know if this is quite how it felt for Nicola and her husband, but when Daniel sees Natasha, it's like his world stops and he just...wakes up. He awakens to this special moment, when everything changes for him."

An accidental catalyst for Natasha and Daniel's extended meet-cute is Jeremy Martinez. Played by John Leguizamo, he is an immigration attorney who, as we learn, is having quite a challenging day himself. And rounding out the cast are Jake Choi as Daniel's prickly older brother, Charles; Keong Sim and Cathy Shim as Daniel's hardworking parents; Camrus Johnson as Daniel's good friend, Omar Hassabala; and Gbenga Akinnagbe, Miriam A. Hyman and Jordan Williams as Natasha's dad, mom and little brother.

I ♥ NEW YORK
 Production Design/Locations/Costume Design
 Like many iconic cities around the world-Paris, London, Tokyo, Shanghai, Sao Paulo- New York serves as a dynamic and diverse backdrop for romance, and the filmmakers wanted to capture as much of it as possible: it's well known spots, well-worn paths, and hidden gems.

Russo-Young and her team, including director of photography Autumn Durald Arkapaw and production designer Wynn Thomas, were seeking to showcase its authenticity, those parts of the city that are both a little gritty as well as beautiful.

"Wynn was such a gift to this movie," Russo-Young states. "We talked, then I let him go work his magic. He was so inside the story and adept at making the little connections between the settings and characters and expressing it all visually.

"Similarly," she continues, "Autumn and I had all the same references in mind for shooting in a big city, and she really was able to capture that scope visually and translate it to that epic feeling of falling in love."

Durald Arkapaw says it was Russo-Young's viewpoint that drew her to the project. "Ry had such a sophisticated vision, that's what attracted me: her stylized, mature sensibility for a film about a young love," the cinematographer offers. "And to be photographing New York in the summer, with the locations we were able to procure...what a dream." Durald Arkapaw also notes that, thanks to the way the story is told, "we could work in handheld, Steadicam, dolly... I tend to gravitate toward the kind of photography that's a mix of camera work. We framed for 2.55:1, which is a bit wider than the current standard, but that was actually one of my favorite aspects of this project, shooting with that scope and then showing these two characters get closer and closer."

Durald Arkapaw and her team utilized Panavision C-series lenses from the 1970s, which, she explains, "help with texture; I like the older lenses because they allow you to add some personality to the digital image. I also enjoyed the stylized lighting we implemented on this one, our day exteriors were softer, making it more filmic, especially when you add a little grain in post."

One of the most recognizable New York locations included the main floor of Grand Central Terminal, underneath its stellar sky. Durald Arkapaw reflects, "It was a big deal for us to be able to film in such an iconic space, so I felt I had to do it justice. I referenced historical photos of what Grand Central was like in the 1920s, before being surrounded by skyscrapers, and brought that sun back in through the lighting. The movie is called 'The Sun Is Also a Star,' after all, and the locations and brilliant actors deserved to shine."

Places that will also be familiar to New York natives and visitors alike are the Hayden Planetarium within the American Museum of Natural History's Rose Center for Earth & Space on the Upper West Side; JFK Airport's Terminal 4; and the Roosevelt Tram, connecting Manhattan and Roosevelt Island, a narrow piece of land in the East River.

Because the story covers a lot of ground (literally) in one day, the cast and crew navigated all over the city, primarily throughout the length of Manhattan-from Washington Heights to Wall Street-also touching down more than once in the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens. Numerous moments in the story occur outdoors, and the production utilized streets in Manhattan's Chinatown, the Financial District, SoHo and the Lower East Side, including the LES Coleman Skatepark and the Bowery subway station. In addition, interiors were shot at practical sites as well, such as the coffee shop scene at Greenwich Village's Cafe Reggio, where Daniel raises the question of a scientific survey that can lead to love; the karaoke scene in a West 32nd Street noraebang in Koreatown; the Bae family business at Harlem's Hair Care Store; and various classroom scenes at the City College of New York in Hamilton Heights, also in Harlem. Scenes inside Jeremy Martinez's office, though set downtown, were filmed Midtown in a building along Fifth Avenue.

Parts of Flushing, Queens, including 24th Avenue, Union Avenue and Northern Boulevard, served as the Bae family's neighborhood. Various streets in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, stood in for the Kingsley family's home and its surrounds. Also in Brooklyn, the Kings County Supreme Court substituted as the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigrations Services) office where Natasha has her first important meeting of the day.

"Shooting in a city like New York was amazing because there is story and texture and reality on every corner, everywhere you look, and this film provided amazing opportunities to show parts of the city audiences don't normally see," Russo-Young says. "As a New Yorker and a filmmaker, to then go to these little pockets and see them through the eyes of these two young New Yorkers-one first-generation, one fighting to stay-was really incredible."

DEUS EX MACHINA!
Costumes
 When we first meet Daniel in "The Sun Is Also a Star," he's beginning his day with an inspired thought, scribbled in a notebook: Deus Ex Machina! Then, when he spots Natasha in the middle of the main floor of Grand Central Terminal, he's not only struck by her beauty and the fact that she's looking up at the "stars" above her; he's dumbstruck by the words on the back of her satin jacket: Deus Ex Machina. And a bit later, after Daniel has convinced Natasha to spend an hour with him, over coffee he turns her innocent remark about his plaid tie into a memorable moment.

With essentially two hero looks in the film, both which would need to suit those key character moments as well as about 90 percent of the rest of the movie. Costume designer Deirdra Elizabeth Govan knew it was critical to make each look incorporate its standout piece, without looking too remarkable.

"The story does have some flashbacks, some flash forwards, some dream sequences, so you see them in different looks, but essentially their hero look is what audiences will see throughout the film," Govan relates. "So, it's through those two looks that we get some insight into who these characters are at that moment in time. Ry had very specific ideas, and I knew and understood that we had to build a bridge between what fans of the book would expect and not being too on-the-nose."

Daniel is clearly not dressed in his daily attire but rather for a college interview: suit and tie. Govan observes, "It's like his mom wanted him to look his best, so he's dressing to fill the part, which ultimately means to fill the role his Korean parents believe is his destiny. His family is not wealthy, so we wanted a more off-the-rack look for him. I sourced and purchased several suit options. Once the selection was made, we did various alterations. And of course the 'red' tie is such a strong call-out in the book, so although ours is plaid in the movie, I shopped many different tie options and finally found one with gradations of red, to stay true to the original story."

Though Natasha's jacket may look like it came from some cool vintage shop in the Village, Govan designed every stitch of it, including the color palette: gold and blue, a nod to the sun and sky. "Natasha's jacket was my primary focus because it is so significant to the narrative," she says. "We did not have a lot of prep time, just roughly two weeks to solidify the jacket silhouette and settle on the font style and graphics. I wanted to create a typeface that resonated on the back and see what Ry responded to. To meet this goal, we created several graphic mockups and built several jacket bodies to fit and see what would look best on Yara."

Through her design, Govan sought to not only be true to the book and do justice to Yoon's creation, but to create a piece that would reflect the film version of Natasha, what's going on in her life and, like all costumes do, help define her character. Finally, it had to draw Daniel's eye- in a good way.

Govan attests, "I think the jacket turned out to really work with Natasha's overall look and to be a strong identifier without being intrusive, drawing attention to her, without drawing it away from her."

I DON'T HARDLY KNOW HER ♫ BUT I THINK I COULD LOVE HER
 Music
 Early in the film, Natasha moves through her morning, rushing, headphones securely in place. What music she's listening to we don't know, but what she doesn't hear are the street noises all around her, including a speeding car.

When Daniel, who has been trying to catch up to his mystery woman, spots her heading right into traffic, he runs toward this total stranger, knowing if he doesn't, he may never get to know her at all. A little later, he knows her-a little-but that doesn't stop him from serenading her at a karaoke bar with "Crimson and Clover." An enigmatic title that simply stands for two of the songwriter's favorite things, it's a romantic gesture worthy of the hopeful Daniel as he strives to charm the girl who has enthralled him.

For the score, the director collaborated with young Icelandic composer Herdís Stefansdottir to capture the immediacy and the romance inherent to the film's themes. And from a much-covered classic to more contemporary material, Russo-Young sought to broaden the musical offerings with music supervisor Warren Fischer.

"'Sun' is a story told in the language of the young, romantic and staunchly metropolitan perspectives of our two heroes," says Russo-Young. "The music we chose for the film reflects their experience, while finding a modern take on what a long song can be."

The filmmakers hope the themes in the film will also inspire audiences to ask themselves what love looks like to them. "In this story, falling in love helps these characters realize their true selves," offers Russo-Young. "That's why stories like 'The Sun Is Also a Star,' about young adults finding their own voice in this world, are so resonant; love is a great impetus for speaking up and speaking out. Amidst the noise, the hustle and bustle, and the bureaucracy of this big, crazy world, no matter what we do or where we go, there's a kind of clarity that appears when you find someone you love."

"All we have is a single day."

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