My interest in the Tom Tykwer and Andy and Lana Wachowski adaptation of David Mitchell‘s novel Cloud Atlas just grew even more. We’ve reported on the film a fair few times, and it continues to sound wild. The book is an odd beast, with six stories, each presented in halves and nested within one another, that cover hundreds of years, dozens of characters and quite a few genres from nautical adventure to post-apocalyptic societal reboot.

Then there’s the fact that Tykwer and the Wacowskis are directing the film together, but with parallel film units. And the topline cast, which includes Tom Hanks, Hugo Weaving, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Jim Broadbent and Bae Doona, is all set to play multiple roles. Now actor Ben Whishaw says that the actors will swap gender and race, too. (For Hanks, it’ll be Bosom Buddies 2.0.) How can you not be excited for this movie?

Vulture spoke to Whishaw, who says,

Everyone in the cast [which also includes Tom Hanks, Susan Sarandon, Halle Berry, and Jim Broadbent] is playing at least three parts, some big and some small. I’m doing three: Frobisher in the thirties; a female American in the seventies, in the Luisa Rey section; and a smallish role, where I’m basically an extra, in a modern-day nursing home, in the Timothy Cavendish section. Everybody’s swapping race and gender, so it’s very ambitious and quite fun. I’ll really love playing a woman!

I’d previously assumed that Whishaw would be playing Robert Frobisher. As I said months ago, he’s “the lead character in story #2, ‘Letters from Zedelghem.’ He’s a brash young con man and apprentice musician who journeys to Belgium, circa 1931, in an attempt to find work with an aging, irascible composer. This is probably the role for which James McAvoy was initially sought, too.”

But I hadn’t even considered that the cast might be swapping genders. And as for swapping races, there is that one big segment, ‘An Orison of Sonmi~451,’ which will be headed up by Bae Doona. That takes place in a dystopian future Korea totally controlled by corporations. So some of the leads could end up as Korean characters. Very interesting stuff. This could be a total trainwreck, but it will likely be fascinating.

The film shoots next month; Warner Bros. will release the feature in the US, possibly in late 2012.

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