Doona Bae in 'Cloud Atlas'
Doona Bae in 'Cloud Atlas'

TT: You could even say the main character of the movie is humanity, rather than individuals.  There is something for us represented in this friendship and love that we share.  I have of course had my fair share of an influence of American pop culture, that is why I feel strangely at home in this country.  And visa versa, they have been affected towards Europe, they have come to shoot two entire movies in Germany in Berlin -- and "Speed Racer" in Babelsberg, Germany because of style -- and also love to go back to the mecca of filmmaking in the 20s.

LW: Where they made "Metropolis," on the floor that they used to build the set, you're standing on the same floor, the dust that was in that place is a part of the dust that's in our movies, that kind of Epicurean atomic theory of history and art.  I love that as soon as somebody says 'Is this art house or his this mainstream?'  'Is this European or is this American?' -- you are kind of broadcasting a market-driven perspective about art, you want to reduce and characterize it, and separate an art that I don't think should be reduced and categorized.

AT: I couldn't agree more.

AW: When you say 'you have made some successful movies, you haven't made some successful movies,' that's just in terms of success at the box office.

LW: Market-driven.

AW: Am I going to go back and say would I have not have made '"Speed Racer"? Absolutely not, I think that it was a successful movie.

AT: It was on my 10 Best list that year.  But you have been working in the studio system which implies certain constraints and demands. For the budget that they give you, they don't necessarily give you 100% freedom.  I was wondering if you feel more free?  In many ways you have broken free in several areas.  Because I've never spoken to you before -- nobody has ever spoken to you before!  

Cloud Atlas

AW: We're shy.

AT: You're also meeting all of us for the first time when you could have been getting to know us all along.

AW: Well this is not easy to do. People come to us and say why don't do you do press?  And it's just 'why would you want to do press?'

AT: We respected it.  For me, I'm delighted to meet you.

LW: People interpreted it as a judgment that we had about them, which I always felt bad about, because it's not about the process or the people or the way it worked, because it's really about our privacy and our anonymity.  Anonymity give us a way to be in the world.  That is really precious and we are giving it up by doing this.  Within one day of doing the introduction to the five minute trailer, every restaurant that we went to -- 'Oh my god, I love your movies."  Maybe it has something to do with the pink hair.

AW: Could be part of a larger plan, we could be returning to a less public lifestyle.

AT: It's in service of the film, presumably?

LW:  It's also in service of a sense of responsibility to the film and to each other trying to aid in a struggle against conventional forms of oppression.  I have for a long time felt a certain responsibility to the GLBT community members.  They have asked me to be more public, to try to demystify this sort of existence of a gendered being just like anyone else is a gendered being. Because it's so outside people's normal experience, they tend to struggle with it.  If I can help make it seem less foreign, not something to be afraid of, that could be a good thing.

TT: It's so much related to so many of the subjects and substance of the movie the way we are sitting tougher.  We loved so much doing this work together, in this move, that is about interconnectedness between human beings.  It would have been very weird sitting here alone.

AT: Let's talk about that how did you all divvy up the responsibilty.  You two have been working together for a long time as a unit, but now adding a third person. Tom took responsibly for the music. You worked closely on the script together.  What about when you were shooting?

LW: It's been four years we have been working on the movie.  If you think of the shoot, it's only three months, so in the scale of making the film the actual shooting is a very tiny portion of the film.   We are all heavily into prepping and design, that's where we think lot of directing occurs.

TT: Which we all did together, all happening on every segment every decision making process was very shared in every level.

LW: The design of it, the design of the transitions.

Cloud Atlas

AT: The casting?

LW: The casting.  We did everything together.  We integrated the design… like we would find a color we thought was appropriate for a charter arc and put that color throughout, or we would find a motif like bone -- a lot of the predator characters have bone or teeth or things that are a part of their world.  We would figure out what rooms were eternally recurring similar spaces, so we could then just re-dress them like we were putting make up on people.  We sat through endless prosthetic meetings and cast and discussion, we worked with our DPS.  Two DPs -- that's also very radical, but they worked together.

AT: It's almost like it was an animated film with separate sets and locations for each strand that had to be shot separately almost like you're in a stop motion animated studio.

LW: Kind of, in the way that is becomes this very holistic thing made out of these incredibly specific small mosaic details.

TT: It was also so important that everybody contributed.  It is a connected, joined effort.  We are generally, as we discovered throughout the work, the social aspect of the work is at the center of what we enjoy about it -- the fact that filmmaking is such a social process, a social art form, and that expanded throughout the entire process - 'production design, you are used to having your little empire for yourselves, but why don't we hook up with us?'  We all became this group who really tried to make this movie, not be separate in aesthetics.

AT:  Did you separate the different strands in terms of who worked on them physically during production?

AW:  At times we were physically in the same room tougher, we were on the phone together, we were Skyping together.  When there were parallel units going on, there was some location work during the beginning and then we returned to Babelsberg, where we could be running back and forth between stages and reconnecting, and re-imagining shots and stuff like that.  We were in constant communication.  In a way we don't like to say we divided up the sections. There were two units that had to shoot in parallel because the whole thing would have imploded, because we couldn't shoot 124 days and pay the actors what we paid them and had their schedule double.

LW: We were more in contact and in connection on this film then most directors and second unit directors on other films.

AT: That makes sense. Did you find the actors experienced a certain freedom from the roles of conventional filmmaking? I got the impression that they got a kick out of it -- the makeup and gender-bending stuff.  It was as if there was a sense of joy and playfulness in all of this.

LW: I'm so glad you felt that.

TT: It's part of that, just saying the whole process, so much prepping, so much part of us in particular the moment you then start really shooting it, the driving force is the actors themselves.  They now feed the movie with life.  They need that space for their experimentation and we just set it up for them.  And then realizing that they needed as much space and care as possible for the risk they were taking -- 'okay I'm doing six different characters here and I will have to swap from character to character.'  Sometimes in one day or a day to day basis, you go back 500 years.  The next day being in completely different make up again and always feel protected, that was a big feeling we wanted to provide.  It then turned out they were all quite ecstatic about that whole prospect.  The crazy thing about it is the essence of acting of course.

AT:  But also the ethnicity, to be able to be something - it was very moving the way Halle Berry has talked about that.

LW: I started crying, it was so beautiful.  It dawned on me that Hollywood is so segregated that it remains - whites only for these roles, black people only for these roles.  Again its transcendence of convention, just in the way we approached the making of the film. Hugo Weaving said this is something I experience a lot in theater, he has a muscle memory for a part in theater, but he was so happy that the experience they had day-to-day was joy that also seeped into the film.  It felt like it never got ponderous or profound in its transcendence of ethnicity or gender, that it had still this playful energy.  And the way the movie ends up working first with the actors themselves, the actor's courage, and the way they connected their performances and turned their performance into one seamless performance. It's unlike anything you've ever seen an actor do -- Halle Berry is literally thinking about Jocosta's scene while she's doing Louisa.