‘Cloud Atlas’ Will Give You Several Tom Hankses for the Price of One

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"Cloud Atlas," the novel by David Mitchell, was heralded when it was released back in 2004, quickly becoming one of those "great book -- no way you could ever make a movie out of it" sort of books. If you haven't read it, perhaps this plot description will explain all:

A reluctant voyager crossing the Pacific in 1850; a disinherited composer blagging a precarious livelihood in between-the-wars Belgium; a high-minded journalist in Governor Reagan's California; a vanity publisher fleeing his gangland creditors; a genetically modified "dinery server" on death-row; and Zachry, a young Pacific Islander witnessing the nightfall of science and civilisation -- the narrators of "Cloud Atlas" hear each other's echoes down the corridor of history, and their destinies are changed in ways great and small.

Tough to adapt for the big screen, right? Well, Hollywood is going to try -- and in pretty intriguing ways.

The Hollywood Reporter spoke with one of the film's producers, Stefan Arndt, who described how the project -- which will star Tom Hanks, Susan Sarandon, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving and others -- would tackle a supposedly unfilmable book. For one thing, "Cloud Atlas" will utilize two sets of directors, the Wachowski brothers and Tom "Run Lola Run" Tykwer. But that's not the most interesting wrinkle:

Part of the concept of the film will see the actors play multiple roles in the various storylines. Tykwer and the Wachowski siblings will shoot parallel to each other using two separate film crews. Arndt wouldn't confirm details but it's expected Tykwer ... will handle Cloud Atlas' period era plotlines while the Wachowskis apply their "Matrix" mojo to the novel's sci-fi settings.

With most of the film being shot in Germany, Arndt is hoping to keep the budget below the $100-$120 million figure that's been floating around. (Budget-tightening seems to be a theme these days, huh?) Though Arndt says that "Cloud Atlas" will be a "linear" film, it certainly sounds much more experimental than that, what with the possibility of multiple Hankses and Berrys bouncing around the screen. Still, this is a major gamble: You're talking about an unconventional narrative being directed by one guy (Tykwer) who's never had a hit and by two brothers (the Wachowskis) whose last film, "Speed Racer," was a colossal commercial bust. Who knows how "Cloud Atlas" will turn out, but we're betting the DVD behind-the-scenes extras will be pretty great.

Wachowskis, Tom Tykwer Set for 'Cloud Atlas' Shoot Mid-September [The Hollywood Reporter]