THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR
About The Production
"I don't believe in love."
"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
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
and most vibrant cities in the world: New York. And in a city of more than eight
what are the odds that anyone will find the one...or that their paths will even
"When I approach any project, I look for what makes it different, or special-why
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
she knows and loves, everything she considers home.
States producer Leslie Morgenstein, "'The Sun Is Also a Star' has the timeless
first love, but is also very topical, weaving in the subject of immigration and
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
into a film with classic appeal was something that immediately appealed to us.
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
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
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
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
In conceiving the pair who are both at a pivotal time of life-nearing the end of
school, preparing for college-Yoon drew from her own experiences as a student at
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
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
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
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
after at least one thing he wants.
"Daniel's whole life has led to this one day in our story," says Melton. "His
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
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
maintain from book to screen were a sense of cultural authenticity for both main
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
BOY MEETS GIRL
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.
relates, "At the beginning of the film we learn Natasha and her family are being
New York City back to Jamaica the following day." According to the director,
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
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
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
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
found for them...with each other. "When Daniel and Natasha meet, they are both
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
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
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
deny the immediate chemistry she has with Daniel. Shahidi and Melton may make it
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
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
Shahidi explains, "One of the things that drew me to Natasha is how grounded she
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
and he reminds her to believe in the universe-not just the stars in the sky, but
the power of it
"They don't make each other compromise, either," Shahidi continues. "It's not as
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
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
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.
always moving, he's so enthusiastic and game for the next thing. I remember
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,"
Melton, "and I thought, 'I'm Daniel Bae, I have to play this guy!' He's kind of
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
perspective-that comes out of falling in love amid the beautiful diversity and
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
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
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
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
Russo-Young and her team, including director of photography Autumn Durald
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
work his magic. He was so inside the story and adept at making the little
the settings and characters and expressing it all visually.
"Similarly," she continues, "Autumn and I had all the same references in mind
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.
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
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
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
closer and closer."
Durald Arkapaw and her team utilized Panavision C-series lenses from the 1970s,
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
One of the most recognizable New York locations included the main floor of Grand
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
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,
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
all over the city, primarily throughout the length of Manhattan-from Washington
Wall Street-also touching down more than once in the boroughs of Brooklyn and
Numerous moments in the story occur outdoors, and the production utilized
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,
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
inside Jeremy Martinez's office, though set downtown, were filmed Midtown in a
Parts of Flushing, Queens, including 24th Avenue, Union Avenue and Northern
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
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
reality on every corner, everywhere you look, and this film provided amazing
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!
When we first meet Daniel in "The Sun Is Also a Star," he's beginning his day
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
With essentially two hero looks in the film, both which would need to suit those
character moments as well as about 90 percent of the rest of the movie. Costume
Deirdra Elizabeth Govan knew it was critical to make each look incorporate its
without looking too remarkable.
"The story does have some flashbacks, some flash forwards, some dream sequences,
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
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
Though Natasha's jacket may look like it came from some cool vintage shop in the
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
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
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
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
and to be a strong identifier without being intrusive, drawing attention to her,
it away from her."
I DON'T HARDLY KNOW HER ♫ BUT I THINK I COULD LOVE HER
Early in the film, Natasha moves through her morning, rushing, headphones
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
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
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 HerdÃs
Stefansdottir to capture the immediacy and the romance inherent to the film's
from a much-covered classic to more contemporary material, Russo-Young sought to
the musical offerings with music supervisor Warren Fischer.
"'Sun' is a story told in the language of the young, romantic and staunchly
perspectives of our two heroes," says Russo-Young. "The music we chose for the
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
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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