‘Cloud Atlas’ explores how the actions and consequences of individual lives impact one another throughout the past, the present and the future. Action, mystery and romance weave dramatically through the story as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero and a single act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution in the distant future. Academy Award winners Tom Hanks and Halle Berry lead a top-notch international cast that includes Oscar winner Jim Broadbent, Oscar winner Susan Sarandon, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, James D’Arcy, Zhou Xun, Keith David, David Gyasi and Hugh Grant. Each member of the ensemble appears in multiple roles as the stories move through time.

‘Cloud Atlas’ is written for the screen and directed by Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer and Andy Wachowski. The Wachowskis previously teamed as writers/directors of the groundbreaking ‘Matrix’ trilogy, which earned more than $1.6 billion, combined, at the worldwide box office. Tykwer won an Independent Spirit Award and earned a BAFTA Award nomination as the director/writer of Run Lola Run,’ and more recently directed the award-winning thriller ‘Perfume: The Story of a Murderer.’ ‘Cloud Atlas’ is based on the celebrated best-selling novel by David Mitchell. The film out now in the US, while it’s set for a Febuary 22nd, 2013 release in the UK. My individual interviews with Halle Berry and Tom Hanks can be read here and here.

I can imagine that the script was daunting at first, playing multiple characters, figuring out who’s who, the various eras…?

Halle Berry: Thankfully the script came with a “cheat sheet” from the directors that helped people who couldn’t quite get it the first time – which would be me (laughs). It helped us read it more clearly, because there’s so many characters and sometimes they’re interchangeable from character to character. So when they said, “Here’s the people you’re going to be playing,” I had a hard time, the first time, weaving it all together. Scripts are sometimes flat, and actors come along and bring them more to life. They make them more palpable for audiences to understand. But when we read things sometimes as scripts, screenplays – unlike books, they don’t often have the colour that books have. But this one did.

Tom Hanks: Yeah, with scripts, sometimes the narrative can be hard to follow. With this ‘Cloud Atlas’ script, I went through so many things where I was using different colour pens for the parts that were me. But then I was looking at the “cheat sheet” to keep track of who Halle was, and who other people were. But then after a while you got really used to it. It’s like doing taxes (laughs).

How was it working with the prosthetics, make-up and costumes? And also working with your fellow actors, some of which I’m sure you admired, looking unrecognisable?

Halle Berry: There was a time where I had a whole conversation with Hugh Grant and five minutes into it I was like, “You’re Hugh! Oh God!” (Laughs) Tom would sometimes come out with his big teeth on and the whole deal….

Tom Hanks: Halle was in there one morning as a white lady, I was just drinking my coffee, and I hear, “Hi Tom.” I was like, “Oh my God, it’s Halle. For crying out loud.” (Laughs) I thought, “I’ve got to get used to this process.” You never knew who you were going to be passing. Sometimes we were shooting on the same lot and you’d see the people from the other story walking by and you were like, “Which year are you? Sturgess, what are you shooting? Then, now, in the future? Who are you?”

Although you play multiple characters, you had to play them as one common line. How was that?

Tom Hanks: They laid it out for us, and they reminded us periodically when we were shooting, that you have to be in this evolutionary step. You can’t go in with a natural behaviour aspect, you’ve got to remember that your character is on this upswing, you’re going through something in order to get to the next character. Thank goodness they thought about it as much as they did, because that’s an important part of ‘Cloud Atlas.’

What was the experience like working with three directors on ’Cloud Atlas’? And also filming with two units?

Halle Berry: Working with three directors, at first I was like, “How is this going to be?” But it was seamless. Lana and Andy, they are so one voice, they’d finish each others sentences. It was like one thought, two mouths moving sometimes (laughs). And with Tom Tykwer, they had spent so much time talking about it that they all were very much united with how they felt, the ideas they presented, how they shot the movie.

Tom Hanks: There was a level of caring from both units that was extraordinary. They had slightly different styles because Tom was working with his German crew, they had been working together for many, many years. But there was a level of, “Are you alright, are you ready to go? Here’s what we’re thinking of doing.” There was a huge amount of inclusiveness that took me by surprise because you’d think, “These guys have thought about this stuff, they’ve fought these battles for so long.” So if they came in and said, “You do this, you do that,” we would have done it. But all three of them weren’t like that, they wanted to know what we thought and what we wanted to bring to it. I would say that we got to explore every avenue of our characters that we wanted to.

Halle Berry: We got to have fun, you know? We got to have fun because they gave us that freedom to create. They sort of gave their baby over to us and allowed us to find it for ourselves, which made it fun.

Tom Hanks: It was. This movie was a blast, provided you got that good nap in the make-up trailer in the morning (laughs). We had a lot of time for sleeping with the make-up (laughs).

Its focus on the larger story of humanity and the connectedness of our lives, that theme in ‘Cloud Atlas,’ did that particularly speak to you?

Tom Hanks: I found that it gave a language to these connections that we had probably pondered a lot through our art, our careers and our families. The fact that without a doubt we’re here because something happened a couple of generations ago that produced who we are and how we are, to some degree. Something happened that made us have fun doing this for a living. Maybe it was because when we were kids we saw a movie that made us think, “I want to be in something like that.” The idea that David Mitchell started up, and that Lana, Andy and Tom followed through on, was that great acts of kindness last forever. What you do and the decisions that you make in your life and in your world will reverberate through eternity. And that to me is another definition of human history. It puts it in a way that is in a popular, cultural blast of a movie. I think it’s extraordinary, I can’t believe we’re in this movie (laughs).

Halle Berry: And its made me think more deeply about every little thing I do. Everything has consequences, you do it today but like Tom said it reverberates for my daughter or her children, the choices I make today. ‘Cloud Atlas’ got me thinking about that on a daily basis.