Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell’s 2004 novel that won the British Book Awards Literary Fiction Award as well as being short-listed for the 2004 Booker Prize – has confounded and fascinated readers ever since its release. The book is built around a time-traveling plotline, sections of which are cut off in mid-story, sometimes even in mid-sentence.
Can you really make a movie out of such a story? Andy and Lana Wachowski ("The Matrix") and Tom Tykwer ("Run Lola Run") are going to try. Their film adaptation boasts a starry cast that includes Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Susan Sarandon and – as announced this week – Hugh Grant.
The book won acclaim on its release for its unusual plot devices and intriguing premise.“Like Scheherazade, and like serialised Victorian novels and modern soaps, [Mitchell] ends his episodes on cliffhangers and missed heartbeats,” A.S. Byatt wrote in a review of "Cloud Atlas" for The Guardian.
Though the novel consists of six storylines taking place at different points in history, each are linked with connections that are obvious as well as those that are harder to decipher, like characters in each narrative that share a comet-shaped birthmark. The book begins with the story of Adam Ewing, an American lawyer who is traveling across the Pacific in the 1800s, continues with the story of a British composer in the 1930s, then travels through the 1970s and ‘80s, introducing separate characters along the way. The story finally lands in a future where a cloned slave named Sonmi-451 is testifying before she is executed. Woven in throughout is the story of a man named Zachry, who lives in the Pacific area that Adam visited – but only after civilization as we know it has ended.
Now the movie, directed by the Wachowski sibling team and Tykwer, is set for an October 2012 release. Filming is scheduled to start this month in Glasgow, Spain, and Germany, according to an Associated Press article.
It has not yet been announced which A-list actor is playing which part, though it is known that Hanks will be playing the mysterious doctor Henry Goose, who Ewing meets during his storyline, and actress Bae Doo-na is reported to be playing clone Sonmi-451.
Berry is rumored to be playing Meronym, who pops up during Zachry’s storyline. But we have yet to find out what characters Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Sarandon and Jim Broadbent will be playing, though Weaving told Australia's Herald-Sun that each actor would have multiple roles in the film.
Molly Driscoll is a Monitor correspondent.