BERLIN — Cloud Atlas, the ambitious literary adaptation being co-written and co-directed by The Matrix siblings Andy and Lana Wachowski and German helmer Tom Tykwer (Run, Lola, Run, The International) is set to begin shooting mid-to-late September at Germany’s Studio Babelsberg.
The mega project, which stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Susan Sarandon, Ben Whishaw and Jim Broadbent, has been delayed sightly as Berlin-based producers X Filme close financing and contract negotiations with talent. X Filme topper Stefan Ardnt said the budget for Cloud will be “definitely lower” than then $100 million – $120 million that had been floated as an estimate in the past but he would not be drawn into giving an exact figure. Ardnt did confirm that the bulk of Cloud, “some 80 percent,” will be shot in Babelsberg, Berlin and the surrounding area.
The film is based on David Mitchell’s epic novel, which follows six story-lines, each set in a different place and era. The novel’s timeline and geography stretches from 19th century Australia to a post-apocalyptic Hawaii.
“Many have called the novel unfilmable, but Tom [Tykwer] and the Wachowskis have found a way to tell these stories in an amazing, linear and very cinematic way,” Arndt said.
Part of the concept of the film will see the actors play multiple roles in the various storylines. Tykwer and the Wachowski siblings will shoot parallel to each other using two separate film crews. Arndt wouldn’t confirm details but it’s expected Tykwer, whose credits include the 18th century-set Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, will handle Cloud Atlas‘ period era plotlines while the Wachowskis apply their Matrix mojo to the novel’s sci-fi settings.
Ardnt said he was particularly proud that Cloud Atlas was a “truly German production” and not, like so many of the big budget films that shoot at Babelsberg, including actioners Hannah or Unknown, a Hollywood import. “It’s always been a dream of mine to shoot at Babelsberg,” said the producer of The White Ribbon and Goodbye, Lenin!. “It shows we can do more here than just small German films or service production for big Hollywood ones.”
Ardnt said Cloud Atlas would not have been possible without a unique financing arrangement from Berlin bank IFB and German regional film funding body, the Medienboard, which threw in together to provide X Filme with a low six figure sum to develop the project.
“This is first time we’ve done development funding in this way together with a bank,” said Medienboard managing director Kirsten Niehuus. “But it is a model that could be interesting for specific projects, particularly ones with international potential, like this one.”
X Filme is lead producer on Cloud Atlas and acquired and developed the property. Grant Hill of Anarchos Pictures in the U.S will also get a producer credit. Focus Features is handling worldwide rights to the title, which Warner Bros. will release domestically. Berlin-based A Company is a co-financier of Cloud Atlas and has taken rights in Russia and Eastern Europe.