Cloud Atlas: Halle Berry and Tom Hanks on Playing Six Parts

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Tom Hanks and Halle Berry have made an indelible mark on film over the years. But, neither can claim they have ever been part of a film as ambitious as Cloud Atlas. The two stars of the film from directors Andy and Lana Wachowski (The Matrix) and Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run), portray six characters across generations, continents and planets. Hanks and Berry are joined in the stellar cast of Cloud Atlas by Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbant, Hugo Weaving and Jim Sturgess.

Halle Berry Tom Hanks Cloud Atlas

Hanks and Berry sat down with Movie Fanatic at the Beverly Hilton recently and talked to us about the effort it took to bring David Mitchell’s epic bestselling novel to the big screen.

Movie Fanatic: Was there a character amongst your six that was more challenging than the others?

Tom Hanks: I thought they were all a bitch, to tell you the truth! They were all tough.

Halle Berry: [Laughs] They weren’t tough at all! Honestly, it was like the most fun to stretch. I got to play a white Jewish woman in 1930 -- like, when would I get to do that [laughs]? I think as an actor, it’s like a smorgasbord which was just fun, fun, fun. We got to be a part of the process with the makeup department. They had these beautiful drawings of each one of our characters. You just don’t get better than having to choose from all these unique people and characters. I’ll never get to be an Asian man again, probably ever! So it was just fun.

Tom Hanks: We did have the luxury of time, because for each of the characters we had multiple days of hair and makeup tests and that means you’re sitting in the chair for a long time, talking to artists as they are applying this to you, making sure the characters don’t bump, like let’s not go too much of a mustache here or too much of a beard there. Two days on each character, eight hours in the chair, then going over to wardrobe, then coming back playing around, it was not a slap-dash production.

Movie Fanatic: You have both said that you don’t think you’ll ever be a part of a movie like Cloud Atlas again. Do you think we will see a movie like this again?

Halle Berry: I don’t know if anything will prevent it. I think in my lifetime it’s going to take someone to be wildly visionary and will take the risks. This movie -- about $100 million, all independently raised money. That was no small feat, and not to say it can’t be done, I just don’t know if the lottery will put my name in another venture like this, where people like Lana, Andy and Tom are going to have such perseverance and such love for something where they are going to spend four years of their lives just hitting the pavement and getting money from anywhere they can get money to just make something that’s in their heart. To be in a movie that’s going to envelop these concepts, where you will need one person to play six people -- I doubt that they’re going to make it again. Luckily for us, we’re getting to do it right now.

Movie Fanatic: Did you ever feel like as you were playing six parts in six different stories… it was like filming six different movies?

Halle Berry: It didn’t feel like six different movies really, I thought it felt like one movie but with six different characters within one movie.

Tom Hanks: It wasn’t hugely different from making a movie that shoots in six very distinctive locations. We did play different roles but those were all thoroughly prepped and researched. We had a lot of time to do it. And a lot was expected of all this. It sounds like this very intimidating, almost impossible to keep track of process but Mom and Dad and Tom, they wrote this I think two years before they even talked to us about it, so they knew exactly what they were doing and we knew exactly what we were shooting.
Movie Fanatic: There’s a clear connection throughout Cloud Atlas as if these characters are all connected, despite their geographical and linear differences. Do you ever give credence to the idea of past lives and the like?

Tom Hanks: There was this amazing series of documentaries I think that was done by either David Attenborough or David Suzuki of Canada. It's just called Connections and it was all about how somebody a hundred years ago figures out that this stuff that comes out of a tree is an indelible blue color and out of that comes India ink, and out of that comes essentially the ability to write words down on paper and parchment. I like the aspect of human history being defined by those very connections. The cosmic aspect of what they did and David Mitchell wrote in Cloud Atlas almost gives the vocabulary to the more ephemeral spiritual sense of that.
Tom Hanks Halle Berry Cloud Atlas

Movie Fanatic: Halle, you broke your foot two days into shooting. Was that the biggest challenge or just one of many [laughs]?

Halle Berry: That changed things for everyone, not just for me but every single person involved in making the movie. They once had some idea of trying to shoot it in some order. That got thrown out of the window two days into shooting.

Movie Fanatic: The part of the film that takes place in the future, your two characters speak a variation of English. Was that fun being able to speak a little differently?

Tom Hanks: We met for the first time officially for working on the movie a few months before we started shooting, and Andy, Lana and Tom were on a monitor in Berlin as they were together piecing the pre-production of the film. We got together for two or three hours because they wanted to figure out how we could say the dialogue and not have it be so silly that people laugh, and not have it be so dense or different that it would be incomprehensible. So we just threw ourselves into it. The early versions of what we were doing, it sounded ridiculous [laughs]. We just played and experimented until we got to something that was going to represent the next evolution of language and yet be recognizable enough. The whole thing was fun.

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First and foremost Cloud Atlas is the most ambitious film we've ever seen. The movie spans generations, continents and universes while...

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