Toronto 2012: 'Cloud Atlas' Director Lana Wachowski on Making a 'Monobrow' Film

The Matrix director said highbrow ideas and lowbrow entertainment tropes merged to turn David Mitchell's best-selling novel into the Halle Berry and Tom Hanks-starrer.

TORONTO - The Wachowski siblings and Tom Tykwer on Sunday revealed how the three directors turned David Mitchell’s best-selling novel Cloud Atlas and its six storylines into a genre, globe and century-spanning epic.

“We try to make monobrow movies,” Lana Wachowski (The Matrix trilogy) told the Cloud Atlas press conference Sunday at the Toronto International Film Festival, as she revealed the secret of combining highbrow ideas and lowbrow entertainment tropes to make blockbuster movies.

“We don’t like the whole commercial, market-driven thing of splitting movies up into arthouse or mainstream,” Wachowski added.

Fellow director Tykwer (Run Lola Run) agreed the challenge with Cloud Atlas and its 163-minute was to entertain and engage with an ambitious international co-production, reportedly budgeted at $100 million, that examines the question of spiritual connectivity.

“One of the things that unites us very profoundly in our idea of what we’re doing is it can be so crazy and experimental and mind-opening, and yet so popular,” he insisted.

“Our idea of cinema is… to really involve you on many levels and have you be struck by its ideas, and yet be hugely entertained,” Tykwer added on how his filmmaking collective with the Wachowskis assembled and paced Cloud Atlas.

Adding to the complexity of the project is 13 principal cast members, including Tom Hanks, Hugh Grant  and  Halle Berry, who played multiple characters during production and had the red carpet outside the Princess of Wales Theater on Saturday night, and the press conference Sunday, teeming with bodies and activity. 

Three directors and the giant cast had two rows of chairs assembled during Sunday's press conference, and the assembled media restricted to one question each.

Cast member Susan Sarandon said the Cloud Atlas shoot was filled with “complexity, but joyful,” as the Wachowskis and Tykwer finely balanced the three-ring circus that became their directing duties.

That effort was rewarded Saturday night with a lengthy ovation by the TIFF audience for the Cloud Atlas premiere, even as eventual cinema-goers at the local multiplex will eventually turn thumbs up or thumbs down to the movie based on their ability to be alternately engaged or confounded by its ambition.

Tom Hanks added he jumped at the chance to work on a "German blockbuster written in Costa Rica," where the Wachowskis and Tykwer in 2009 shared a secluded house to adapt the 500-page Mitchell novel.

“I’ve never heard of such a bodacious United Nations approach to making a film before. This was a fully realized vision that was presented to us from the get-go,” he insisted.

Hugh Grant couldn’t resist injecting his trademark brand of irony/sarcasm when recalling his star-turn in Cloud Atlas.

“I bitterly regret doing the whole film,” he insisted. “Everyone has talked about the nice atmosphere on set. I tried to make it nastier. I kept telling the American set that the German set was more interesting and faster, and vice versa."

  The Toronto International Film Festival runs to September 16.