Tom Hanks signs for ‘Cloud Atlas,’ and ‘World War Z’ gets a DP

“Cloud Atlas” is one of those films that I forget is inching its way towards production until I see mention of it go by, and then I’m struck anew by just how odd the entire endeavor appears to be.

Now Tom Hanks is onboard to star in the film
, which Andy and Lana Wachowski are working with Tom Tykwer to write and direct the film, and just that configuration of talent alone makes it sound like one of the strangest things in development anywhere right now.

Previously, we’ve heard names like Halle Berry and James McAvoy and Natalie Portman attached to this project, and it’s been in development for so long that we’ve seen cast members come and go.  Now, though, it sounds like it’s finally going to happen in September, and it sounds like Focus Films has come onboard to help finance the movie.

It’s a good week for long-suffering films that are finally stumbling towards production.  I’m excited to see what happens with “World War Z,” which Bleeding Cool claims has hired Robert Richardson as cinematographer.  Allegedly, he’s in London scouting locations now and gearing up for a shoot that will start soon.  God, I hope that’s true.  It was just recently that we heard the entire film was in peril, but now it looks like Marc Forster’s adaptation of the exceptional Max Brooks novel could be in production almost immediately.

With “World War Z,” I think that’s a major commercial property and could easily be a big mainstream hit.  “Cloud Atlas,” though, sounds pretty out there.  Here’s the description of the novel from The New Yorker:

Mitchell’s virtuosic novel presents six narratives that evoke an array of genres, from Melvillean high-seas drama to California noir and dystopian fantasy. There is a naïve clerk on a nineteenth-century Polynesian voyage; an aspiring composer who insinuates himself into the home of a syphilitic genius; a journalist investigating a nuclear plant; a publisher with a dangerous best-seller on his hands; and a cloned human being created for slave labor. These five stories are bisected and arranged around a sixth, the oral history of a post-apocalyptic island, which forms the heart of the novel. Only after this do the second halves of the stories fall into place, pulling the novel’s themes into focus: the ease with which one group enslaves another, and the constant rewriting of the past by those who control the present. Against such forces, Mitchell’s characters reveal a quiet tenacity. When the clerk is told that his life amounts to “no more than one drop in a limitless ocean,” he asks, “Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?”

I can see why Tykwer and the Wachowskis might be intrigued by a challenge like that, but turning into a film, particularly one with a budget to pull off something as esoteric as that, sounds like a real challenge.  An exciting challenge, sure, but a challenge nonetheless.

We’ll keep an eye on both of these to see if they’re really going to happen this year, and we’ll have more on them as they come together.