Tom Hanks

In a wildly entertaining piece of storytelling, Academy Award winner Tom Hanks leads the cast in the movie “Cloud Atlas”, directed by Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer based on the best-selling novel by David Mitchell. Hanks appears in six different roles that represent the journey of a single soul through points along the continuum. Their characters are witnesses to moments in human history and the consequences of their actions will change their lives forever. With eloquent examples of courage, hope and wonder as well as treachery, struggle and loss, the film brings such moments into sharp focus. Hanks also discussed about his passion for the books of Carlos Ruiz Zafón.


Q: We saw you in the movies speaking Spanish. Can you speak Spanish?

A: I can call the cops in Spanish I know how to do that. I do speak a little bit, yes and I pretend really well that I do it. (Laughs)

Q: You like to read a lot, does any spanish author make your list of favorites?

A: When I first started reading I read all the books of Leon Uris, because they were kind of like these non fiction, full of turgid melodrama at the same time. Chaim Potok, the man who wrote My Name is Asher Lev, I've read almost everything that he wrote. But growing up there was the Catcher in the Rye thing. Those are my favorites. I must say I didn’t read many of the Spanish authors but lately I found Carlos Ruiz Zafón and I have to confess I do like his books.

Q: How did you find Carlos Ruiz Zafón?

A: A friend of mine recommended me Shadow of the Wind and I truly liked it. I read another one of his books but I can’t remember the title.

Q: So Tom, you are known for playing the good guy, and Lana said you were like James Stewart, but in Cloud Atlas, you were the bad guy. How was it to be the tough guy?

A: It was great fun, it reminded me of, I started in classical repertory theater a long time ago and they will have six play season and in one production you are playing the keeper of the dogs who says funny things and then the next play you are playing the Lord of Essex, and something like that and in another one you are playing, if you are lucky enough, you get to play Yago or Richard the Third. It was magnificent and delicious fun, which is not a substitute for still being a well rounded character as much as you can. The handicap was, for example, Dermott Hoggins, the guy who wrote Knuckle Sandwich, I only got to work for two days, that was a part that I would have loved to have six weeks to dig into, but we have it all be a beginning, a middle and end, just in the course of two days of shooting and all that work for that makeup, I mean, I think I was in the makeup chair in tests and preparation longer than I actually shot the role. (laughs) But the great thing about this is that we get to put on clothes and pretend to be people we are not, and I got to do that, we got to do that six times, and it was liberating fun every time.

Q: And how do you feel about that James Stewart comparison?

A: I’ll take it, that’s fine by me. Okay. My countenance is what it is, but I think that of all the actors in it, I’m the most recognizable in all six incarnations, cause you can’t change the shape of this head, (laughter) my ears stick out in a very certain way, but I think that I get to explore every aspect of my questions as far as the human conditions go, and the fact is, James Stewart was one of the finest actors that ever worked in motion pictures. So I will be happy to carry his luggage.

Q: What was the biggest attraction for you guys to be part of this project working with the Wachowski’s, or Tom, or the script, playing a lot of different characters?

A: I think just the bodaciousness of what they were trying to do, I mean it was the biggest thing imaginable. They had to explain it to us. A lot of times screenplays speak for themselves, but this was like I heard, did they call you first?

Q: So how do you feel when you heard that many other actors said no?

A: Who said no?

Q: They didn’t want to tell the names.

A: Really? Lucky us. I am glad they did. I said yeah, and we would check in with them every now and again, cause it was about three years, we should figure out exactly how long it was, but it was a couple of years, and every now and again, I would ask, how are they doing on that? They are going to call you tomorrow, oh, they are plugging away, we are almost there. Great, let me know!

Q: Every action has a consequence.

A: I’ve seen the movie three times and I have seen more and more stuff that I missed every time. And some of it is really quite profound, that I forget there’s a moment, before the critics even come up, Jim Broadbent as Timothy Cabot explains the movie completely. As low as I am to flash back and flash forward, jumping through time and space, blah, blah, blah, well, he just explained the entire movie to you, so he laid down the rules. I missed that the first two times, but then very quickly when James Darcy is interrogating Duna, and he says, I want you to tell us your version of the truth, and she says, truth is singular, versions of the truth are mistruths, and I thought, holy smokes, this is a high country that we are dealing with in here, so the only thing that matters, the only truth is, is what the direct connection is, from one moment to the next. What one person does, of Jim Sturges’ character Adam Ewing didn’t give up the business and go fight the abolitionists, his journal, his little book that he wrote would not nearly have the power that it did, and would not have affected Robert Frobisher when he’s off not being able to love who he wants to love, and is trying to create a great piece of music. Those connections are magnificent and they are cosmic, and I have to say that I knew a fraction of him at the time we made the movie, they knew them all, the bosses knew them all, and kept throwing them in there more and more and more.

Q: Do you feel that life is a complex quest or just a game?

A: I love the way that Sun Mee says it, that life is just a door and we are passing through. If you embrace the different universe or you embrace the concept that we are coming back again and again through that doesn’t alter the importance of where we are right now, now it’s hard because this is what this movie is about, and the more we talk about it, the more I fear that people will think that this sounds like a symposium in college that I fell asleep in, and this is this fun, epic motion picture. But that is what David Mitchell and the bosses are going for, this idea that we are making decisions right now, today in fact, that can have important consequences 1,000 years from now. This is what human history is all about, and I think it’s a mysterious reality and it will never seem to answer itself, but when you follow the simple logic of what Sun Mee comes across at the end of this is, from womb to tomb, we are all connected.  I said, well that’s actually very beautiful and coming away from this, never mind that we are being spoiled, because from here on in, we just, we will only be able to play one person in a movie, and we used to play six and now I am only playing one person in a movie, I did actually walk away from this film with a new vocabulary in order to discuss that random great questions that is actually soothing to me, it actually gives me a place where I could just say, hey what does it matter, the universe is indifferent, true, but if you make the right decision right now, a thousand years from now, people will benefit from the act of kindness, and the act of love and the act of inclusion that you make. Powerful stuff and we all have it. We all can do the same thing, anybody can.

Q: As an actor, the fact that the content is more important than the technology in this movie, is that something that you appreciate?

A: Where I must say, there’s a lot of CGI and stuff that’s in this that is kind of like eye popping and quite impressive. I am more knocked out by the connection, like there are two cuts of a train, one is this old steam locomotive in 1934 and it’s going through a very particular landscape, and then the next story, it’s a modern British rail train, and it’s on the same track and it’s going through the same landscape, and I don’t know if it was CGI or not, I have no idea, but all the CGI stuff that goes in is secondary, to the mind games that the actual story is playing and I like that, remember that period of time where every movie had explosions and some guy was running away from the explosion and it explodes behind them and they jump forward and every movie had that in it, and I think we have a version of that in this movie, but it doesn’t mean anything anymore because you are much more in tune to the dilemma that the characters are in and how it reflects on the theme. I think for, I think you would say well, you can understand why this movie costs 102 million dollars or whatever the budget was, but I don’t think anybody is going to say hey, you’ve got to go see this because of the special effects. No one is going to say that about this movie.

Q: Do you enjoy being the bad guy more?

A: I’m not intrigued by necessarily playing one, although it is fun to play somebody that just is angry and venal and grotesque as Doctor Goose and Dermott Hoggins is, cause Dermott Hoggins takes place today, it’s 2012, and he is the epitome of the worthless celebrity, someone who does something despicable and because of that, he becomes famous and rich, (laughs) that’s a magnificent comment on our time. There’s a lot of people who are in that, that’s where they are right now, sort of like in an entertainment medium, and that guy right now, if he wasn’t in jail, Dermott Hoggins would have his own program on A&E.

Q: You are playing Disney?

A: I’m playing Walt Disney in a movie that’s coming out. I’m trying to grow a better version of my thirteen year old mustache.

(c) America Reads Spanish

© Denis Makarenko |