September 13, 2012
The world premiere of Cloud Atlas met with a mixed reception, but its star Hugo Weaving isn’t fazed.
IT WAS greeted with a lengthy standing ovation, then just as quickly slammed by critics, following its world premiere at the Toronto International Festival on Sunday night.
Cloud Atlas – the Booker-shortlisted, multi-layered novel that many believed impossible to turn into a film – even has Hugo Weaving donning a women’s fat suit.
Yet the controversial film – a sprawling, multi-story tale of karmic repercussions throughout time and space – also offers its all-star cast, including Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, the chance to have fun and ”play dress-ups”, as actor Jim Broadbent puts it, with its cast playing multiple characters that bizarrely jump gender, race and age.
”I don’t think it’s ironic at all,” Weaving says, of the gender-swapping roles the film’s cast has to perform. ”I think there are certain things that Larry – now Lana – is interested in. A lot of them connect up with his – now her – journey. This feeling of being trapped inside a body since the age of nine, feeling like, ‘I’m not this person, I’m actually that person’, I guess whoever we are, there are certain things that we want to express.
”When I first worked with them, in The Matrix days, they’d finish each other’s sentences, or talk together. They’re incredibly tight-knit. Now, they’re more individual, I guess.”
Their new film, co-directed with Run Lola Run‘s Tom Tykwer, takes the viewer on a lengthy, troubled journey, from the South Pacific of the 18th century through to a post-apocalyptic future rife with warring factions and cannibalism. Weaving’s other characters in the film include a Machiavellian figure named Georgie and Bill Smoke, an authority figure reminiscent of his Agent Smith character in The Matrix. Playing a nurse, though, was more extreme than even he could have imagined.
”The prosthetics came in at a very late stage, so I spent a lot of time in my fat suit just trying to get used to it,” Weaving says of Nurse Noakes, a fearsomely full figure far removed from Mitzi Del Bra, his drag persona in Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert. ”Whenever I look at it, I’m still uneasy about it.”
Weaving joins a substantial number of Australians in Toronto, where local cinema has been enjoying its biggest showing in years. The event – the single largest gateway to the lucrative US market – has premiered Cate Shortland’s Lore and Tony Krawitz’s Dead Europe to great acclaim, in addition to Wayne Blair’s musical smash The Sapphires, the big-wave documentary Storm Surfers 3D and Robert Connolly’s Julian Assange biopic Underground. Catriona McKenzie’s indigenous drama Satellite Boy has rounded out what festival programmer Jane Schoettle describes as Australia’s ”splashiest” showing to date at the event, now in its 37th year and second only to Cannes for market dominance and star-pulling power.
Cloud Atlas, meanwhile, will have a release in Australia early next year, and joins a string of films that have generated Oscar buzz at the festival – an event that provides early indicators for award favourites. Among the most notable is Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines, which stars Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper as a pair of troubled fathers, and features an excellent performance by Australia’s Ben Mendelsohn.
The 2012 Toronto International Film Festival runs until September 16.