If you're unfamiliar with David Mitchell's novel, it tells six separate but overlapping stories across hundreds of years, structured with half of the first five novels leading up to the entirety of the sixth at the book's center, then the second half of each completing the novel. The Wachowskis and Tykwer are dividing the responsibility for different stories.
In order to dramatize the ensemble of characters, some of whom just might be reincarnated or recurring variations on the same soul, these directors have a core group of actors playing different roles in multiple stories. The images below, which debuted at Entertainment Weekly, are from the second and sixth segments, respectively. In the first, we get a look at Ben Whishaw as Robert Frobisher, the rakish, manipulative, thieving, yet talented and strangely charming young composer who manages to become the apprentice to Arys, a decrepit Belgian composer in the early 1930s played by Jim Broadbent.
Then there's the second still, which reveals that one of Tom Hanks' roles is Zachry, the lead in a story set on Hawaii in a far-flung post-apocalyptic future. A member of a small, loosely agrarian primitive society, Zachry forms a strange relationship with Meronym, a representative of a more advanced culture played by Halle Berry.
To my maybe faulty recollection, Zachry in the novel was a younger character, one you wouldn't picture Hanks playing, but if you're going to portray a character differently than we expect, you can do a lot worse than getting a two-time Oscar winner to play him. Hanks will also be playing, amongst other roles, Patrick Ewing, the gullible lead in the first story, while Berry will take the reigns as Luisa Del rey for the third story, a 1970s detective story set in the fictitious California city of Yerba Buena. Broadbent, meanwhile, will star in the most overtly comedic story, "The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish."
We just learned this week that Cloud Atlas will play at the Toronto International Film Festival in early September. The film played for very select audiences at Cannes in May, and "curiosity" doesn't do my feelings justice on this one. There's potential for something truly special here, and even if it doesn't fully work, that Cloud Atlas is even being attempted is fascinating.
The cast also includes Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, Keith David, Doona Bae, and Jim Sturgess.
Cloud Atlas arrives in theaters on October 26th.