Simply watch the Cloud Atlas trailer and try to put into words what you have been teased. The wildly inventive film from Tom Tykwer, Andy and Lana Wachowski crosses eras and planets while its stars play multiple roles. Tom Hanks, for one, tackles six different screen personas.
"These guys had gone off (pointing to the Wachowski siblings and Tykwer) and were aiming at this piece of cinematic literature,” Hanks said to the press gathered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), including Movie Fanatic.
“All I had to do is read the blueprint to see what was expected of me and I said: Well, that sounds like all the things that acting in movies is supposed to be! It's going to be brilliant fun. We're going to get to go to cool places. It will be very, very hard work on occasion. I mean, (expletive), that's what I do for a living!"
As he always can be, Hanks is humorous when it comes to describing the ends of the earth he will go to for his craft… including flying to Toronto to talk to a salivating group of international journalists. “If I truly had power, I’d be waterskiing right now,” Hanks said as his cast laughed.
Halle Berry chimed in and reported that she was thrilled simply to be considered for Cloud Atlas. “First of all, I was very grateful that they even thought of me,” she exclaimed as the gathered erupted in a collective groan. “It's true!”
“Right away, I was on board,” she added seriously.
“What was so beautiful about it is that Lana and Andy speak as one person. They finish each other's sentences. Their thoughts are the same, and they talk about this so long that the vision is clear and there is a safe feeling that comes with that. It was always joy -- a fun, fun, fun experience. While it was big and overwhelming and daunting to them, they never let it trickle down to us."
Lana Wachowski was asked about how the filmmakers managed to combine genres as far reaching as a historical drama, murder mystery, comedy, slick sci-fi romp and a romance. She credits the novel by David Mitchell.
“The book feels a little more like an anthology and it’s a little bit more acceptable in literature to write a book like that,” Wachowski said.
What was also striking on this gorgeous Toronto day is how Lana was not afraid to address the elephant in the room regarding her sex change. “I did feel some responsibility to GLBT people and a lot of people have been asking me to be more public,” said Wachowski, who was known as Larry before sexual reassignment.
The filmmaking duo behind The Matrix has previously kept to themselves, something that is not new. But Lana felt some responsibility to speak up of late. “We love anonymity. We love our privacy. We don’t really think celebrity does much to improve your life,” Wachowski admitted. “We think it actually worsens your life. So it was a big decision. It took a long time. It took a lot of years.”
Eager to lighten the mood, Cloud Atlas star Hugh Grant showed his sense of humor.
“I bitterly regret doing the whole film,” he said. “Everyone talks about the nice atmosphere in the set, but I tried to make it nastier.”
It is the U.K. actor’s birthday, which spawns a spontaneous and rousing rendition of Happy Birthday by the TIFF press corps after he spoke.
“Very, very nice, thank you very much -- that’s the first nice thing the press has ever done for me,” Grant said as the entire room laughed.
Clearly another birthday has not made Grant any less self-deprecatingly humorous.
“When they offered these parts, I thought, 'Yes! I might show people I’ve got more strings to my bow than just one.' But A) I was wrong and B) It’s just sitting in makeup with plastic applied to your face for hours and hours,” Grant said of the prosthetics needed for some of his Cloud Atlas parts.
As quickly as Grant was to extol his praise on the gathered press for our birthday wishes, the nicest man in Hollywood -- Hanks -- recalled a story detail in Cloud Atlas to put things in perspective.
"Don't take this the wrong way," Hanks said, about to describe the scene in the film where one of his characters brings a journalist's demise. "He got to throw a critic off a balcony -- to this horrible crushing death. Oh God, how I love it. That was my favorite.”