I discussed how difficult it is to make demanding movies these days with the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer as well as life imitating art in Cloud Atlas.
Now that you’ve come out to promote Cloud Atlas, do you enjoy analyzing it?
Andy Wachowski: For me, you’ve got to write the movie, you’ve got to make the movie, you’ve got to edit the movie, so now I’ve got to sit down and explain it to you? What are you actually doing as the audience member? I mean, people that go to movies nowadays just want to turn off. I want to turn on. I want to be stimulated, I want to participate, and I think that movie audiences have gotten a little flabby these days in terms of their critical thinking, and that’s partially one of the reasons why we’re not interested in talking about our films. But this one was special to us — it was a labor of love and we didn’t want to just let it go out there without maybe kicking back a little bit.
Tom Tykwer: We also think an audience is like us, is like you, that also feels undernourished and not fed with stuff that they would like to really soak up and digest. And go to dinner and just have a conversation about what you’ve just experienced or seen. And maybe take it to bed and wake up and still working on it. That’s how we fell in love with cinema, with those movies that stayed with us for quite a while and needed repeat viewing in order to be fully digested. And we know we can’t be alone because we meet people all the time who also suffer from it. Of course, there are a lot of good movies, but it’s our desire to have substance and complexity connected to movies that are really designed for large screens and spectacular experiences. That’s gotten less and less and it’s really hard to achieve because most people give you just a certain amount of money for a film once there’s a superhero involved.
Lana Wachowski: I was going to add quickly that because we love and respect that kind of audience who is so interested in the kind of movie that we’re interested in, you also wouldn’t want to [limit] their experience by essentially offering this instantaneous explanation of what the work of art is. You want to invite them to as wide an interpretation as could be available.
How much opportunity was there to be creative in the moment?
AW: A good portion of it is done in the writing. There were a lot of things that we could’ve put in concrete, but the script was 220 pages, so it would’ve been really heavy to carry around. Really perfect edits like we go from the wave of water rushing over the lens in the Transway chase where Chang [Jim Sturgess] and SONMI [Doona Bae] are going under that hatch to Luisa Rey [Halle Berry] awakening. That was solid. But it was constant throughout all the way from writing to prepping to shooting to editing and you were always finding new things and new ways the pieces could fit together. When you got to the editing room, it was actually surprising how flexible the material was because you had so many different things that could resonate against each other. Having an actor who was playing one part in one story and then the same actor playing another part in another story could suddenly bring these two pieces together in certain ways that you hadn’t thought of before. Like going from Bill Smoke [Hugo Weaving] to the composer Tadeusz Kesselring [Weaving] and suddenly the tone of that shifted slightly, it became a bit more dangerous.
LW: We really like working with actors. We think that it’s an incredibly underrated art form, strangely for this business, but we had this astonishing cast of actors that was capable of so much and we wanted to make sure that we were prepared enough not to be rushed. We could explore and let them play; and try a range inside there. Let them do some variations and solos and that was the most important thing for us in the prep.
Talk about the importance of everyone being connected.
LW: We actually think it’s very interesting that the movie ended up reflecting our experience of making the movie. That was actually more profound than thinking about past lives or potential future lives. That we would find ideas and challenges that were in the book and suddenly materialize and be a part of our lives as we tried to make it. The movie suggests this idea of how one person can come into your life and completely and utterly change the direction of your life. Or we loved the idea that here was [author] David Mitchell, who was like Adam Ewing [Sturgess] on his tiny boat somewhere scribbling this novel; and this novel goes out into the world and Natalie Portman reads it and then I see it and grab it; and then I give it to him and he gives it to him. And the way we met Tom [Hanks] was this instant, profound connection. And we knew that somehow this meeting was going to alter the course of our lives. It was like him coming through that door, to this moment sitting here and talking to you is dramatically different from what you would imagine it would be if he hadn’t walked through that door.