‘Cloud Atlas’ Five Film Facts

Adam Pockross
Movie Talk

One of the most ambitious films of the year, and possibly ever, "Cloud Atlas," opens wide this weekend. Three directors and an all-star cast featuring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant and many more bring this genre, gender, and time-bending epic to life. We all know "Cloud Atlas" aims high, but here are five facts about the film you may not know.

Book Club

1. While filming "V for Vendetta" (2005), Natalie Portman became completely immersed in David Mitchell's novel, "Cloud Atlas." The Oscar winning actress gave the book to "V" co-producer and writer, Lana Wachowski, who is best known for making "The Matrix" trilogy with her brother Andy. Lana loved the novel and immediately shared it with Andy. Soon after, the Wachowskis implored writer/director Tom Twyker to read Mitchell's tome, as the siblings had wanted to work with Twyker since falling in love with his Independent Spirit Award winner "Run Lola Run" (1998). Twyker took the book with him on vacation, read it in a "stressed and inspired" frenzy, and called Lana in the middle of the night to sign on to co-direct, write, and produce alongside the Wachowskis.

[Related: Get local showtimes and movie tickets for 'Cloud Atlas']

'Cloud Atlas' Filmmakers Introduction...

One Hot Mess

2. Next came the difficult job of adapting what Mitchell himself thought to be an unfilmable novel. Written in six separate genres, six distinct main characters star in six decidedly different narrative threads, which span 500 years of past, present, and future. Instead of thinking of the film as six disparate stories, though, the Wachowskis and Twyker needed to simplify matters. "The key is to abandon the idea that it's six stories. It's one," says Andy. "Each of the pieces and time periods reflects upon the others throughout the movie. As all these souls evolve, you see the connections between them, and follow their chronologic progress."  Of course, it still wasn't an easy task, especially since the Wachowskis and Twyker agreed they would scrap the project without Mitchell's approval. You can see all three directors talk about the scope of "Cloud Atlas" in the filmmaker's introduction above.

[Related: Indie Roundup TIFF: The Wachowski's ambitious epic 'Cloud Atlas']

Grant's Cannibalistic Sensibility

3. Somewhere in the development process, the directors realized they could further express the novel's theme of inter-connectedness by using the same actors throughout each of the six time periods. So, many of the actors played multiple parts — often against type, against gender, and against race. For example, bi-racial Halle Berry plays a white woman in one narrative thread, and an old Korean male doctor in another. While most everyone plays against type at some point, no one does so as much Hugh Grant. "I was quite intrigued by the story, which is brilliant, but I would have done it just for the chance to be a cannibal chief who does a lot of pillaging and throat-slitting. There wasn't much throat-slitting in 'Sense and Sensibility,'" explains Grant.

'Cloud Atlas' Theatrical Trailer...

Multi-Talented Twyker

4. Co-writer, co-director, and co-producer Tom Twyker also co-scored the film. It's uncommon enough for a director to score his own film, but what's also unusual is the fact that Twyker composed the music before the "Cloud Atlas" was actually shot. "In this way," says Twyker, "the music becomes an atmospheric note or sublevel not only for the film, but as inspiration to the cast, making the score a part of the experience." You can see right away the large part music plays in the film from the trailer above.

[Related: Halle Berry, Xun Zhou racially transform in 'Cloud Atlas' ]

Fun For All

5. Hanks doesn't usually have anything bad to say about anything (except for the occasional F-bomb), but he's downright effusive while talking about "Cloud Atlas." "Take the word fun and infuse it with as much importance and delight as possible. Quite frankly, eating pizza is fun. But for everybody, this was part of being in the greatest repertory theater company imaginable," Hanks recently told Collider. Unfortunately, studios couldn't see the fun in the movie, or at least not enough so to bet on its creation (though Warner Bros. did bet on its distribution). The filmmakers were forced to raise the $100 million budget through private financing, much of it from the Wachowskis themselves.

[New on Yahoo! Movies: Exclusive clips from 'Sky Fall' & 'Fun Size']