‘Cloud Atlas’ explores how the actions and consequences of individual lives impact one another throughout the past, the present and the future. Action, mystery and romance weave dramatically through the story as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero and a single act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution in the distant future. Academy Award winners Tom Hanks and Halle Berry lead a top-notch international cast that includes Oscar winner Jim Broadbent, Oscar winner Susan Sarandon, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, James D’Arcy, Zhou Xun, Keith David, David Gyasi and Hugh Grant. Each member of the ensemble appears in multiple roles as the stories move through time.
‘Cloud Atlas’ is written for the screen and directed by Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer and Andy Wachowski. The Wachowskis previously teamed as writers/directors of the groundbreaking ‘Matrix’ trilogy, which earned more than $1.6 billion, combined, at the worldwide box office. Tykwer won an Independent Spirit Award and earned a BAFTA Award nomination as the director/writer of Run Lola Run,’ and more recently directed the award-winning thriller ‘Perfume: The Story of a Murderer.’ ‘Cloud Atlas’ is based on the celebrated best-selling novel by David Mitchell. The film arrives in cinemas October 26th in the US and March 22nd, 2013 in the UK (hopefully that date get moved up!). Look out for a more in-depth interview with both Tom Hanks and Halle Berry for ‘Cloud Atlas’ in October.
What was the experience like making this movie? Considering the complexity of what everyone was doing, placing yourself within this multi-dimensional world, contributing to the narrative through various parts….
Tom Hanks: When I heard they were gonna make a German blockbuster written in Costa Rica I said, “I’m in!” Because I’ve never heard of such a bodacious United Nations approach to making a film before (laughs). This was a fully realized vision that was presented to us at the get-go. These guys had gone off and were aiming at this sort of piece of cinematic literature, and all we really had to do was read the blueprint to see what was expected of us. I said, “Well, that sounds like all the things acting in movies is supposed to be. It’s going to be brilliant fun, we get to go to cool places, it will be very very hard work on occasion – and we’ll go through some sort of emotional trench to get at the moments that a very well highlighted in both the book and the screenplay.” I jumped at it.
How about you Halle, working on a film with three directors and playing multiple characters over various time periods?
Halle Berry: First of all I was so grateful that they even thought of me, right away I was on-board. And what I take away from this experience was that people have said to me, “You were directed by three people!” You have to be nuts, playing all of these characters.” But I will echo what Tom says about it, and what was so beautiful about it is Lana and Andy speak as one person. They finish each other sentences, they’re thoughts are the same, they’ve talked about this for so long that the vision is clear and there’s a safe feeling that came with that. I would have tried anything they said because I figured, “If I hadn’t thought about it, I knew they had, and it just might work.” So there was safety. And Tom, it was the same way. I felt the same comfort with him, safety. It was always joyful, he was happy to see me everyday – and I really appreciated that (laughs). It was a fun, fun, fun experience. And I think everybody on the film will say that from top to bottom, that while it was big and overwhelming and daunting – even to Tom, Lana and Andy, they never let it trickle down to us. I think we all had a good acting experience were we got to play.
Without giving much away, there’s a particular line you speak in Spanish that is stunning – and I thought your Spanish was amazing. How did you work on that, I can imagine that was an important detail for you?
Halle Berry: Why, thank you! I worked with a dialect coach named Peggy Hall-Plessas, and I was very serious about it, I wanted all of the Spanish speaking people of the world to say I did good (laughs). So it was very important for that line, which I’ll never forget until the day I die – I was reciting that line in my head over and over and over. I’ve taught that to my daughter already. So, those are the little details that I think are really important if we were going to suggest that that was the characters heritage, to be able to throw that out in a moment of real need. I thought that was a little detail which brought some authenticity to the character. I wanted to do the whole character with an accent but the bosses said no (laughs).
Did you have a favourite character to play, one that particularly fascinated you?
Halle Berry: I would say probably the white, German, Jewish woman. I was having a fitting, and I remember Tom said to me – when I was trying on these beautiful dresses, trying to figure out what looked best on her, and Tom said, “Have you ever done a period piece before?” And I said (hesitant), “Well, yeah.” And he asked, “Have you ever worn clothes like this in films?” So I said, “Tom, think about it for a minute,” and when he thought about it, it was painful at the moment but then we laughed about it after (laughs). For me to have played in that time period I was probably a slave or close to it, and not dressed up. So for us, it was one of those heavy moments, but we found a way to laugh about it and I thought, “Great, that’s why I get to do this, to play something that I would never get to play in life, I would never get to dress up like that and be that character if I was really me.“ So that was very poignant for me as an artist to get to do that.
For me, ‘Cloud Atlas’ is film that an audience member can take so much away from – and take away as much, if not more, on your second and third viewing….
Tom Hanks: Yeah. I think much like the film itself, the initial seven pages or so of the screenplay raised questions (laughs). As in, “Who are these people and what’s going on?” But it’s kind of like a hug that gets tighter and tighter. A light-bulb goes off in your individual head and you go, “Ok, I understand that these relate to each other but I’m not sure what the connection is.” And then the connection becomes evident and the artistic struggle becomes evident. The fight for survival and the choices that they make become such that by the time I was reading the last 40 or 50 pages of the screenplay, I was completely involved in each of the individual struggles and understood that these were characters that were having to make the choice between cruelty and kindness, and that decision was going to change the world from thereon in. It was there in the architecture of the screenplay.
I think it is a perfect blending of the literature of David Mitchell and the cinematic power of Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski. I think, if you could use a term of what this type of movie is, it’s not six different movies, it’s not even two different movies, it is one example of cinematic literature that examines the connectedness of the human race through all of time. And I think by the time you got to the end of the screenplay, you knew what it was about. And it was all totally worth it….only to see, Hugh Grant as a Cannibal walking around the film studio during the makeup session (laughs).