November 2, 2012
A version of this story appears in Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman. To read my review of “Cloud Atlas,” click here.
Susan Sarandon and Hugo Weaving embrace the fun and camaraderie of “Cloud Atlas”
The seasoned actors eagerly accepted the challenge of playing multiple roles when they joined the gender- and race-bending ensemble of Lana and Andy Wachowski’s (“The Matrix”) and Tom Tykwer’s (“The International”) sweeping big-screen adaptation of David Mitchell’s acclaimed 2004 novel.
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — For seasoned actors Susan Sarandon and Hugo Weaving, working on the epic film “Cloud Atlas” was as groundbreaking as “2001: A Space Odyssey” and as fun as summer camp.
“There was such an unusual repertory feeling going on that I’d never experienced on any film and probably won’t again,” Sarandon said in a recent interview at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
“It was great to see people taking a chance and to just be part of this and to forget, I mean, Tom Hanks is iconic, and to put that aside and just join the fray is really inspiring. It reminds you how great actors are and how great collaboration is and how much fun it can be and how spectacular it is when you’re surprised. And people were running into each other and not knowing who they were. Everyone was putting on noses. It was like a camp or something.”
Like the rest of the film’s star-studded international cast, Sarandon, 66, and Weaving, 52, eagerly accepted the challenge of playing multiple roles when they joined the gender- and race-bending ensemble of Lana and Andy Wachowski’s (“The Matrix”) and Tom Tykwer’s (“The International”) sweeping big-screen adaptation of David Mitchell’s acclaimed 2004 novel.
Both the book and film span centuries and continents to tell six interconnected stories. Weaving’s roles ranged from a menacing female nurse at a present-day nursing home to a ruthless assassin hunting down an investigative journalist (Halle Berry) in 1973 to the devil inside the head of a decent but cowardly goatherd (Hanks) living in a post-apocalyptic Hawaiian village.
“That’s so true that thing about the repertory because actually like some people had maybe two or three characters; other people had one in each story. And the actors who were like doing three were going ‘Hey, Tom, hey, Lana, can I play another role?’ And it actually became this kind of scrabble to be in more stories and it didn’t matter what it was,” said the Australian actor. “It was really fun.”
“You can forget sometimes to have fun, and I think that what’s really extraordinary were, you know, big-name Tom and Halle to jump in and take all different kinds of parts. Some of us consider ourselves more character actor-y, so you’re used to big, small, whatever, but to see Tom Hanks and Hugh Grant and everybody (do that) … I just knew something special was going on,” Sarandon added.
“I kiddingly keep saying that I would have done craft service, but I would’ve for them if they’d asked me.”
The Wachowski siblings introduced the Oscar winner to Mitchell’s book while they were all finishing production of their big-screen live-action version of “Speed Racer.” But Weaving, best known for playing the ominous Agent Smith in the filmmakers’ blockbuster “Matrix” trilogy, actually got to discover the Max Booker Prize short-listed novel along with the Wachowskis.
“We’d been doing ‘V for Vendetta’ with Lana and Andy in Berlin, and Natalie Portman was reading it and raving, absolutely raving, about it. So then we all jumped on it and read it. Yeah, it quite quickly became absolutely in my top 10 books that I’ve ever read in my life. I so loved it, right from the first sentence … about walking along the beach in the footprints,” Weaving said.
“When I knew that they were doing the screenplay, I was just really fascinated to see how they were going to restructure it.”
While Mitchell likens to his six intertwined stories to nesting dolls, the Wachowskis took a mosaic approach to turning “Cloud Atlas” into a movie. Sarandon’s pieces in the mosaic ranged from a cameo as an Indian man to a substantial role as the spiritual leader of a primitive village.
“The first five minutes, it’s clear this isn’t a film like any film you’ve ever seen. Now, if that bothers you, you might have a problem. But if you can, you know, say, ‘Wow, what is this new thing?’ I think that it unfolds in a way (that) … I compare it somewhat to ‘2001.’ I think it breaks ground in a way that’s really, really special. And to be part of it in any way, I’m just so pleased that they invited me,” she said.