Andy and Lana Wachowski have never been the type to shy away from an overly-ambitious project; however, they're actually collaborating with another filmmaker, Tom Tykwer (Run, Lola, Run), in order to handle their latest cinematic venture: an adaptation of David Mitchell's complex novel, Cloud Atlas.
Production on Cloud Atlas is slated to begin in mid-September 2011, with the high-pedigree cast - which includes celebrities like Tom Hanks and admired character actors such as Hugo Weaving - playing multiple roles in the film's six different narrative threads.
THR reports that "some 80 percent" of Cloud Atlas will be shot in Germany's Studio Babelsberg in Berlin. There's not (officially) an exact budget figure yet, but it's expected to be lower than the previous estimates of $100-120 million. In comparison, the Wachowskis' Speed Racer cost at least $120 million to make, and their Matrix sequels were $150 million a pop.
Cloud Atlas is composed of six separate storylines, which can be summarized as follows:
- A naïve clerk traveling on a Polynesian voyage in the 19th century
- An aspiring (British) composer who takes up residence with a brilliant composer who has syphilis in the 1930s
- A journalist investigating a California nuclear power plant in the 1970s
- A 21st century publisher who gets his hands on a novel that could change the world
- A human clone designed for slave labor in the future
- A Hawaiian tribesman who has survived the apocalypse and recounts aloud the history of the world from a remote island
Each storyline addresses issues related to the power struggle between various members of society, and how the ruling class often re-fashions history as it sees fit. The Cloud Atlas film adaptation will further connect these stories by having cast members play different roles in each one.
The Cloud Atlas cast includes (see below, clockwise): Tom Hanks, Ben Whishaw, Susan Sarandon, Hugo Weaving, Halle Berry, and Jim Broadbent.
It's expected that Tykwer will direct the pre-21st century storylines in Cloud Atlas, while the Wachowskis tackle the futuristic portions. That's all the more fitting, since Tywker has experience with recreating period settings (see: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer), while the latter are best-known for their ability to craft eye-catching visuals of a post-apocalyptic world.
Speaking of the Matrix series: the Wachowskis clearly overstretched themselves when they tackled the second two entries in that franchise. Just re-watch Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions sometime (if you dare) and it's all the more obvious how both visually and thematically repetitive those movies are.
Point being - Cloud Atlas has a whole lot of story and strikingly different settings to cover; plus, with Tykwer helping out, the Wachowskis are better positioned to deliver a creative interpretation of David Mitchell's original literature. This could also be a surprisingly loyal adaptation, as far as cinematic versions of "unfilmable" books go; after all, say what you want about the Wachowskis' Speed Racer, but it really was pretty true to the style and tone of its inspiration.
Cloud Atlas could reach theaters by October 2012. We'll let you know when an official release date has been settled on.