December 6, 2011
Apart from a few set images in September we haven’t heard or seen much from the movie adaptation of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, which is being directed by The Wachowskis (The Matrix) and Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run), and stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Keith David, Jim Broadbent, Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw, Hugh Grant and Susan Sarandon.
Well a new article by The New York Times takes a look at how the producers raised the $100+ million budget outside the studio system (the movie was deemed too risky by American studios to finance) with backing from China, Korea, Singapore and Germany. It also includes new details from the set, and interviews with Halle Berry, Warner Bros. executive Jeff Robinov, and UK distributor Victor Loewy.
The film follows six storylines ranging from the South Pacific in the 19th Century to California in the 1970s to a post-apocalyptic future, and most of the cast will be playing multiple characters, swapping race and gender in the process.
The article opens with a description of the set in Germany.
…craftsmen on Stage 15 in the Babelsberg studio were hard at work on a recent afternoon building a dystopian Korean slum, the thud of a nail gun and a whiff of sawdust in the air. Next door, Andy and Lana Wachowski, the American-born team behind the “Matrix” movies, were filming black-clad storm troopers from an imagined future…
Those familiar with Cloud Atlas will recognize this from the 5th tale of David Mitchell’s novel which follows Sonmi~451, a genetically-engineered clone (to be played by South Korean actress Doona Bae) who rebels against the capitalist totalitarian society that created and exploited her kind. It could be a movie in itself, but it’s a single (key) segment in the overall story.
Halle Berry was spotted filming scenes in Scotland with Tom Tykwer and Hugo Weaving in September, which confirmed she’d be playing Luisa Rey, a journalist in the 70s who discovers that a much hyped local nuclear power plant is not as safe as it seems. She will also play Meronym, a member of the last remnants of technologically-advanced civilization in the 6th tale, and Berry revealed to the NY Times that her third role will be “a Jewish woman in the 1930s”, which is likely to be a small part as Ben Whishaw takes the lead as penniless musician Robert Frobisher in that one.
In the article Berry spoke about the new experience of working with “two different film units and two different film crews and to go between the two from one day to the next”. She also said it became hard to recognize her fellow cast members due to the extensive make-up (yes, this is Hugh Grant).
“Some days I go into the trailer, I’ll be having a conversation — I won’t even know it’s with Hugh Grant until five minutes in,” Ms. Berry said.
“It’s sort of like guerrilla filmmaking in a way, even though there seems like there’s a lot of money, it’s not opulent. All the money’s going into the screen.”
While Warner Bros. will be distributing the movie in the US sometime next year, Warner Bros. executive Jeff Robinov admitted that taking on “the whole movie, given the expense, would have been a very risky proposition for us.” Earlier this year Tom Tykwer described Cloud Atlas as a “big-scale adult movie”, and with studios rarely putting big money behind projects that don’t attract the young 16-35 male audience it’s understandable why the producers had to find financing elsewhere.
Still, outside financing isn’t a bad thing as The Wachowskis and Tykwer will have a lot more creative control than if a studio was involved (Jim Broadbent said the running time may end up close to 3 hours, though in some places they’ll probably have to wait for the DVD to see the full version). The Wachowskis also got a positive reaction after showing six minutes of footage at the American Film Market in Santa Monica last month.
“It looks phantasmagorical,” said Victor Loewy, a seasoned international film distributor who bid on the United Kingdom rights after watching the clip. “It’s so unlike anything I’ve seen in 40 years in this business.”
I recommend reading the whole article over at The New York Times if you’re interested in how films are financed and made. We can expect to get our first look at Cloud Atlas sometime next year, and filming will wrap later this month.