Atlantic City Weekly
October 17, 2012
A trio of directors and the stars talk about bringing a complex novel to cinematic life.
One of the great pleasures of going to the Toronto International Film Festival, beyond getting a sneak peak at the next big movies of the fall, is hearing filmmakers and actors talk about their process. This was particularly true when it comes to the incredibly complex and delightfully quirky sci-fi film Cloud Atlas, coming out Oct. 26.
Directed by German director Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) and Lana (formerly Larry) and Andy Wachowski (The Matrix) and based on the novel of the same name, the film stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Jim Broadbent, Jim Sturgess, Susan Sarandon and Hugh Grant. The actors play multiple characters in elaborate makeup in six different story lines that travel back and forth in time. The deeper we go, the more these different threads wind together into a tale of humanity’s flaws and the search for meaning in the universe. It is a lot funnier (in a good way) then the summation suggests.
On adapting the complex novel, Tykwer notes, “The novel was the most exciting thing we had read in a long time. It had [elements] that made it attractive as a joint experience. We swore an oath that we wanted to adapt it only if the author [David Mitchell] that we so respected loved it. We went to a beach in Costa Rica and after putting the novel in a lot of little pieces, tried to rearrange them in a way that made sense as a film.”
Lana Wachowski explains, “The book was written as a series of short stories. It’s more acceptable in literature to have the anthology format. For a movie we thought it would be too hard for the audience to have six different stories. As you read it your brain begins to make connections. We wanted to make a movie based on what your brain does when you read it.
“David [author David Mitchell] said, you do this amazing thing. You take highbrow ideas and take them into lowbrow entertaining motifs and you combine them into a one-brow experience. We don’t like that whole market-driven idea of splitting movies up into art house or mainstream.”
Now it was time for the actors to weigh in. Tom Hanks was intrigued by, “This united nations approach of filmmaking. It sounded like everything that acting in movies is supposed to be, going to a cool place and having brilliant fun. It will be hard work on occasion and we will have to go into an emotional trench to get [the complexities] right. I’m in.”
Huge Grant injected some humor. “I bitterly regret making this film. I thought when they offered these parts, well yes; it will show that I have more strings to my bow than just one. Then all that make-up is applied and I was very bad tempered. Talking about this nice atmosphere on the set … I tried to make it nastier.”
Hugo Weaving adds, “One of the things I remember was when we were doing the make-up tests and bumping into people and not recognizing them. When we got together for that first read-through it was an extraordinary day when we all realized we would have to take a jump off a cliff. That leap of faith galvanized everyone.”
Susan Sarandon adds that her favorite character to play, “was being a man. When I looked in the mirror I couldn’t even see myself. I looked in the mirror and said, ‘Is that Chris Walken’s cousin?’ It was a startling experience.”