TORONTO—A lineup of A-list cast members from “Cloud Atlas” took up two rows in the tight press conference room at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 9. Among them were Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, Hugo Weaving, and Jim Sturgess.
The conference began with the whole room breaking out into a cheerful “Happy Birthday” singalong led by Hanks for Hugh Grant’s 52nd birthday. Grant thanked everyone and quipped it was “the first nice thing the press has ever done for me.”
“Cloud Atlas” is an adaptation of David Mitchell’s 2004 novel of the same name.
The film’s three directors—Tom Tykwer, who worked on “Paris, Je T’aime,” and the notoriously private Lana and Andy Wachowski, producers of “The Matrix”—were also at the conference.
Tykwer said it all began when the three first met, calling the encounter “love at first sight.” They decided they really wanted to work on something together, which is when they came across the “Cloud Atlas” novel.
“The novel was the most exciting thing we’d read in a long, long time,” Tykwer said. At that point, the three made an oath to make a close adaptation of the novel that would be approved by the author and retain the original title.
“Cloud Atlas” became a major undertaking, and according to IMDb cost US$100 million to make. It was shot on the shores of Costa Rica, in the U.K., Spain, and Germany.
The film explores the intertwining lives of some dozen characters who are connected to one another lifetime after lifetime. Much like “The Matrix,” it’s a spiritual journey that touches on the topics of simulated realities, good and evil, and “the one” who is willing to fight for the truth.
Hugo Weaving said that when the cast sat down for a first read of the script, they immediately realized that the movie was going to be similar to jumping off a cliff. “It was a leap of faith,” he said.
Tykwer and the Wachowskis decided to stick to the novel in terms of unveiling the characters’ stories simultaneously, rather than chronologically. The first few chapters are confusing; however, the connection between the characters is gradually revealed.
“You become the editor when you read the book,” said Andy Wachowski.
The characters not only change their looks throughout different reincarnations, but also change their race and even their gender with the help of makeup.
On set, the cast had fun not recognizing each other because of the heavy makeup. Susan Sarandon recounted looking in the mirror at one stage and wondering whether she was seeing Christopher Walken’s cousin.
Tykwer said making a film that is mind-opening but also popular with the audience is a central belief for the three directors, something that solidified their vision for the film.
Tom Hanks said that everything, from script to specific directions, was so well prepared that is was like participating in “cinematic literature.” Halle Berry agreed that it was surprisingly easy to work with the three directors, who did not have any conflicts among their specifications during the day-to-day filming.
Even though the Wachowskis are known for their privacy and anonymity, with the addition of Tykwer, who they said is “all press,” the couple finally agreed to appease the media and talk about “Cloud Atlas”—at one of the biggest film festivals in the world, no less.
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