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How Did the Wachowskis Make Cloud Atlas? Barely

(L-r) TOM HANKS as Dr. Goose and JIM STURGESS as Adam Ewing in the epic drama “CLOUD ATLAS", distributed domestically by Warner Bros. Pictures and in select international territories.

Cloud Atlas has faced a lot of bumps on the road to movie-dom, all of which are lovingly enumerated in a profile of Lana and Andy Wachowski in this week's New Yorker. It's a tough book to adapt in the first place; financing was a nightmare; the shoot itself was plagued by illness and injury. And yet what's clear from the story is that Cloud has one final — major — hurdle standing between it and success: Everything about it sounds insane.

Around Thanksgiving, I visited the set in Babelsberg and sat behind the Wachowskis as they shot a scene from the post-Fall story line, in which Hanks’s Zachry takes Meronym (Berry), one of the last of a tribe known as the Prescients, people who still have some access to pre-Fall technology, to a defunct satellite-communication center, where she hopes to put out a call for salvation for her people. Old Georgie (Weaving), a hallucinated devil whom Zachry can’t shake, urges him to kill her. (In addition to Zachry and the malevolent Dr. Goose, Hanks also plays a thieving hotelier in the thirties, a nuclear scientist in the seventies, a memoir-writing thug in the present, and an actor who plays Timothy Cavendish in a movie in the twenty-second century.)

Once upon a time, The Matrix sounded insane too. But Cloud Atlas could be good! Or it could be a noble fiasco, or a total failure, or any number of other outcomes. But whatever else it is, this movie will indeed be a tough sell.

Photo: Jay Maidment/Warner Bros.