Jim Sturgess Talks about Working on the Wachowskis’ ‘Cloud Atlas’


Concept art for Cloud Atlas

Concept art for Cloud Atlas

Over at Jim Sturgess Online they had a chance to speak with Jim Sturgess about several of his upcoming projects including the highly anticipated Cloud Atlas in which he will play multiple characters for directors Andy and Lana Wachowski (The Matrix) and Tom Tykwer (Lola rennt).

Previously, I previewed some quotes from Hugh Grant, Halle Berry and Ben Whishaw who co-star alongside Sturgess in the film, but this interview with Sturgess goes a bit deeper and it appears Sturgess will be one of the few actors to get a role in all six parts of the film with many speculating at least one of those roles being that of Adam Ewing, a character whose part in the story bookends the novel from which it’s based.

The film is based on the novel by David Mitchell in which we meet a reluctant voyager crossing the Pacific in 1850; a disinherited composer living a precarious livelihood in between-the-wars Belgium; a high-minded journalist in Governor Reagan’s California; a vanity publisher fleeing his gangland creditors; a genetically modified “dinery server” on death-row; and Zachry, a young Pacific Islander witnessing the nightfall of science and civilization. Also among the cast are Tom Hanks, Hugo Weaving, Susan Sarandon, Jim Broadbent, Keith David and James D’Arcy.

I’ve included Sturgess’s comments relating to Cloud Atlas directly below and you can read the full interview right here where he also discusses Upside Down with Kirsten Dunset and Ashes.

In Cloud Atlas, we understand that you play multiple characters? Can you tell us about them? What was the hardest part of playing multiple roles in the same film?

JS: Making Cloud Atlas was an amazing experience. I loved every minute of it. It was so ambitious and exciting. Everyone involved all knew that we were working towards something that has not really been done before on this kind of a scale. Whether it succeeds or not, it will definitely be a cinematic event. It was like rep theatre on a massive scale. so really it was almost going back to basics in a way. Using make up and and big spoonful of your imagination to make it work. I love that the audience almost have to participate and lend the film there own imagination for a couple of hours. It’s much more rewarding that way, and much more like watching an old play or pantomime in that respect!

I have so much faith in both the Wachowski’s and Tom Tykwer. They are such forward thinking and visionary artists and so incredible and inspiring to be around. They have really managed to visually enhance the ideas that lie within the book and make it more than just a straight adaptation.

Basically most of the main actors play or ‘appear’ in each story in some way or another. We were always trying to come up with new ways to try and get everyone involved in every story, which wasn’t always possible but was a lot of fun. I can tell you that I managed to appear in all six of the stories which I was really pleased about! I’m not going to tell you how I ‘appear’ or who I play as I really believe that it would ruin part of the fun of watching the film. You have to really look out for it. I understand that people want to find out whose playing who, and I’m sure a lot will be revealed in the trailer, but I honestly believe if you want to get the most out of watching the film the less you know the more fun it will be!

The hardest part was without doubt all the make up. I got off fairly lightly compared with some of the other actors but I was always in the chair for a good 2 hours, and other days for a lot longer. We sometimes jumped from different times in one day which would be a bit confusing. I remember shooting a scene in the future and then having to go and shoot another scene way back in the past…it is the closest I will ever get to actual time travel!

Upside Down and Cloud Atlas, are both films that use green screen and CGI. What made working this way a challenge?

JS: You’d be surprised to hear that there really wasn’t as much green screen as you’d think in either of those films. What tends to happen is that they build these incredible sets and there’s normally a bit of green screen outside the window so that the animator can enhance and further the world outside. In that respect it really isn’t that different. There’s usually enough around you to help with your belief.

The time when a lot of green screen is used is when there’s some big stunt or something like that. I remember in Upside Down having to do a scene with Kirsten [Dunst] surrounded entirely by green standing on a green box holding onto a green rope whilst pretending that people were shooting at us. Of course it makes it that bit harder when there really is nothing to react to but you just have to focus on the person you’re working with and go with your imagination! It’s very childlike and you just have to hope that some talented artist is gonna digitally create something impressive behind you!

Infact a lot of my experience in Cloud Atlas was quite the opposite. We filmed a lot on a ship that sailed through the ocean and when you’re far out to sea like that and all dressed in period costume there really isn’t much to tell you that you aren’t living in the 19th century!

Cloud Atlas will hit theaters this year, but a firm release date hasn’t been established yet though an October date has been discussed for some time.