To date, The Wachowskis have never quite lived up to their promise. After a strong debut with lesbian noir "Bound," they reinvented the action movie with "The Matrix," a film as seriously influential as any since "Star Wars" -- hence the slavish copycats that have clogged up sci-fi pictures in the last 10 years. But the sequels were bloated and near-unwatchable, failing to understand what made the first film special, while their only other directorial credit since -- "Speed Racer" -- gave us a giant headache, even if we can sort of understand those who defend it as a piece of pop art.
But they're now putting their cards on the table with two hugely ambitious projects on the way. One, the bonkers-sounding sci-fi/Iraq war/gay romance hybrid "Cobalt Neural 9" has understandably found difficulty in raising financing, so it looks like the other is going to go first: a sprawling adaptation of David Mitchell's epic, hugely acclaimed novel "Cloud Atlas," which the duo are writing and directing alongside "Run Lola Run" helmer Tom Tykwer. Tom Hanks, long rumored for a role in the picture, was locked down earlier in the year, and now the project's being shopped around Cannes, and confirmation of two other cast members previously rumored to be involved has leaked, along with one name that's entirely new.
The Hollywood Reporter suggest that Halle Berry, who's been rumored for over a year to be involved in the project, is now locked in, while Wachowski favorite Hugo Weaving, who last month was connected to the film, is now officially signed on as well. Furthermore, "Bright Star" lead Ben Whishaw, who made his big-screen debut as the star of Twyker's "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer" is also locked in to the project.
For those unfamiliar with Mitchell's excellent book, the story follows six stories across time, which fold in on themselves: a 19th century notary on a Pacific expedition, a bisexual musician in the 1930s, a female journalist in a thriller in 1970s California, an aging publisher in London in the present, a clone in a futuristic dystopia, and a Pacific survivor in a post-apocalyptic world. There's been no firm word on who the stars will play, but the most interesting part of THR's story is that all actors will take on multiple roles on the project -- which must certainly be attractive for thesps who want to show their range, and perhaps one of the reasons that the film's attracted such major talent so far.
Ian McKellen, Natalie Portman and James McAvoy were originally linked to the film at the same time as Hanks and Berry, but with all three busy with hobbits, babies, and cop thrillers, we suspect they've all dropped out -- indeed, we imagine that Whishaw has taken on the roles originally earmarked for McAvoy. But we're always glad to see both him and Weaving on screen, and despite the shaky recent form of all three writer/directors, the ambition of the project (the screenplay draft we obtained weighs in at a staggering 230 pages) is so enormous that we're pretty excited about it. Filming gets underway in September, and Warner Bros. will distribute in the U.S., with Focus currently shopping the film internationally at Cannes.