With six stories spanning nearly three hours, told by an ensemble cast and three directors, the sheer amount of information presented by and discussions one can have about Cloud Atlas is staggering. Co-writers and directors Tom Tykwer, Andy and Lana Wachowski took David Mitchell‘s novel, which nests six stories within each other, and broke it down into one forward-flowing mosaic. Set in several time periods from the 1800s through the 2300s, the film blends genres and tones to show the human soul moving from century to century, and explore how our actions in one life might affect the next.

And that’s just a very superficial interpretation. There’s much, much more to the movie, which is why it’s one of the year’s best.

As one might expect on a production so massive, there are tons of bits of behind the scenes trivia and on-screen secrets. Were there additional stories meant for the film or novel? Were the directors ever on set together? How did characters get cast? Which actress thought she’d be fired? And what exactly happens at the end of the film? We’ve complied 15 things you probably didn’t know, or notice about Cloud Atlas. After the jump, read all about them.

1. David Mitchell originally conceived Cloud Atlas as nine stories, beginning in the 12th century, including one featuring a modern day Korean rapper.

Though Cloud Atlas spans some 600 years, it’s safe to say these souls have existed long before the film begins and will remain long after the story ends. When author David Mitchell conceived Cloud Atlas, he did it with nine stories but eventually cut it down to six. “There’s an anthropological limit you get to,” he said. “The longer you go, the risk goes up exponentially that you’re going to get boring and then you’ve got a dead duck on your hands.”

Originally the book was to start in 12th Century China with a story influenced by poet Li Bai. Later, Mitchell even traveled to Korea to research a modern story which would have centered on a Korean rapper. “I then realized I was writing yet another narrative about a gifted young musician,” he said, referring to the Robert Frobisher story line. So as not to waste the trip, his research about Korea ended up influencing the future setting. ”I didn’t want to jettison the money and time spent there, which is why the future is set in Korea.”

2. When writing the script, a eureka moment told Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowksi and Lana Wachowski they’d reached the end.

“We knew that we had a finished script when every single scene in the script was our favorite scene,” Lana Wachowski said. “Every scene was the most important reason for making the movie.”

3. The casting director got a producer credit.

The directors realized that casting this film was so crucial and important that, after it was done, they gave their casting director Lora Kennedy a producer credit. “She’s the best, hardest working woman in show business so we gave her a producing credit,” said Andy Wachowksi. “We thought she did such an amazing job.”

4. Creating the look of the characters required a long development process.

Each actor had to go through three days of make up and wardrobe tests to develop the look of one, individual character. “You’d walk in, you’d see six or seven versions of the character,” said Tom Hanks. “Then you, the director and Jeremy [Woodhead] and Daniel [Parker], two heads of the make up crews, would start picking and choosing and you’d slowly build it with their help. And at the end, you’re looking at a different person.”

5. Contact lenses were very, very important.

In addition to having two make up crews, Susan Sarandon said there were two teams of contact lens supervisors because “there were so many flying around.” It’s the first time the actress ever let someone give her contacts.

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