Hanks refuses to play it safe

September 10, 2012

Actor-director's risk pays off in Cloud Atlas.

When it comes to films, Tom Hanks does what he what he wants when he wants.

After back-to-back Oscars for Forrest Gump and Philadelphia, and the recent box office clout that arrived with the hits The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, Hanks enjoys the lofty Hollywood status of the decider.

The good news for fans is that the 56-year-old refuses to play it safe with his decisions.

Take, for example, his multiple roles in the challenging film version of the complex David Mitchell novel Cloud Atlas, which was a featured attraction at the Toronto International Film Festival Saturday and opens in theatres Oct. 26.

At a media gathering on the weekend, Hanks said playing different characters in a film is what every actor dreams of.

In the time-shifting movie examining the impact of destiny, Hanks portrays assorted good and evil roles, including a tribal warrior in a post-apocalyptic world, a 1970s scientist, a 19th-century doctor and a murderous thug who becomes an author. Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Jim Sturgess, Zhou Xun and Hugh Grant also have multiple parts in the interconnecting stories.

Also co-starring in the ensemble cast are Hugo Weaving, Keith David and Susan Sarandon, but Hanks is at the forefront.

Written and directed by Andy and Lana (formerly Larry) Wachowski and Tom Tykwer, most studios passed on the picture, which combines science fiction with mystery, comedy and melodrama.

The Wachowskis, best known for The Matrix trilogy, have been obsessed with the project since they finished 2008's Speed Racer.

At a suite in Toronto's Shangri-La Hotel, Lana agreed that it was an epic journey to get the film made.

Before Hanks signed to do it, Lana said, "(studios) were slamming the door shut." After Hanks came on board, studios were gently closing the door.

In fact, the day they met with Hanks to discuss Cloud Atlas, a major studio withdrew an offer to distribute the picture. The meeting with Hanks turned out much better. He told the Wachowskis, "I'm in."

Andy Wachowski said he figured that meant, "You have your people call our people." It didn't. What Hanks said was what he meant. Lana Wachowski said, "That never happens."

Funding finally did come together, and Hanks was thrilled. And despite the complexity of Cloud Atlas, he said he understood the Wachowskis and their partner Tykwer had a clear concept for the film's presentation.

"They had a fully realized vision presented to us at the getgo," Hanks said.

However, he did reject the notion that his attachment to the film allowed the Wachowskis to get it made. "If I had power, I'd be water-skiing right now," he said.

Hanks did confirm that the challenge of taking on multiple parts in a complex narrative was one of the main attractions for all of the actors.

"I was so grateful they even thought of me," said Berry who added that she enjoyed working with the Wachowskis because "Andy and Lana speak as one person."

By Bob Thompson

Source : The Windsor Star