Fifteen Things You Didn't Know About 'Cloud Atlas:' Korean Rappers, Cut Characters, The Ending, And Cameos

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.

6. There's one main difference between Tom Tykwer's directing style and that of the Wachowkis.

According to Halle Berry, working with three directors was surprisingly seamless, but there was only one big difference in their styles. "Tom Tykwer talked before we shot and Lana and Andy had you shoot first and then they talked about what they saw you did. They added their opinion and you did it again," she said. "It was different but they had one cohesive vision. They were very clear about the movie they were making."

7. The three directors were only together on set for one day.

To direct six separate stories, Tom Tykwer and the Wachowski's broke the film in half. Tykwer did 1936, 1973 and 2012 while the Wachowskis did 1849, 2144 and 2321. It was the only way to get the film done on schedule and budget. Because of that, Hugo Weaving revealed they were only on set together one day during the entire shoot. The reason? One of Tykwer's actors got sick so he had to cancel the day.

8. Halle Berry thought she was going to be fired on the second day of filming.

Two days into shooting, Halle Berry broke five bones in her foot. "I did think I was going to be recast," she said. "I sat there in my bed, foot up in the air and I got a call that Tom, Andy and Lana want to come talk to you. I thought 'They're going to give me my walking papers' and say 'Love you but too many people are involved, too many scheudles have been made, so we're bringing in Angela Bassett or somebody. But they said we love you and we want you to stay and we're gonna work this out."

9. While all the actors wanted to appear in all of the stories, it had to make sense. Or, the explanation of "how Jim Sturgess got into his sixth story."

"The challenge for most of the actors was everyone wanted to at least be present in each of the six stories, which wasn't possible for some of the actors," Jim Sturgess said. "I'd gotten myself into five and I was like, 'Come on, there must be a way you can get me into the sixth story.' Finally Lana said 'We've got it, we've found it, you're going to play a poor painter [in 1936] who walks down the stairs and he's gonna get thrown out of the hotel by Tom Hanks.' And this is the amazing thing about the whole process. Lana and Andy or Tom wouldn't let you be in it for the sake of being in it, there had to be some thing that they could connect to. And it was genius. I literally walk past Ben Whishaw on the steps as I walk out of the hotel and the minute I turn the corner, Tom Hanks' character says 'Ah Mr. Ewing,' to Robert Frobisher, who is under the alias 'Adam Ewing' as he's checking into the hotel. Just as I sort of disappear around the corner." Of course, Sturgess plays Ewing, a writer who inspires Frobisher.

10. Some roles were large, some were incredibly small. AKA, "how Tom Hanks played one character for only 90 minutes."

Like Sturgess, Tom Hanks appears in all six stories. His smallest role is of an actor portraying Timothy Cavendish [played by Jim Broadbent in the 2012-set story) in a TV movie seen in 2144. He only played the role for 90 minutes. "We had so much fun for about 90 minutes," Hanks said. "We talk about 'Is he a good actor, is this a good movie, is it a bad movie, how good or bad do you want this to be?'"

11. The 2144 character of Dr. Ovid, played by Halle Berry, was supposed to be Tom Hanks.

"I wasn't always Dr. Ovid," said Halle Berry, referring to a male Korean doctor seen in Neo Seoul. "At one point Tom was going to be Dr. Ovid and she was going to be a woman. And then somewhere along the line they said, 'No, you have to be Ovid because of your soul's journey." Tom Hanks added "I could not be good at that point. I could not be servicing the heroes."

12. Ben Whishaw and James D'Arcy were both cut from additional stories.

Ben Whishaw, who appears in five of the six stories, almost made it into the sixth, but the role got cut. He was supposed to be a Korean businessman in 2144 Neo Seoul. James D'Arcy, similarly, was cast as a nurse in 2012 and while she appears every so briefly, a line of dialogue was cut. "But because I didn't speak, I spent a day and a half on set thinking quite seriously about this character's back story," he said. Both revealed that after being cast in their main roles, all additional parts were very spontaneous.

13. Author David Mitchell has a cameo.

"Blink and you miss me," David Mitchell said, "But as Sonmi is leaving the rebel base, she goes up some steps, I'm walking down them, our eyes lock for about 1.5 seconds." Later he appears in the background of another pivotal scene involving that character. The idea was for him to be a subtle, omnipresent being in that time which, he joked, appealed to his vanity as their ultimate creator.

The final two facts contact spoilers about the ending of the movie.

14. Halle Berry describes her role after The Fall as an extraterrestrial being.

As we're in spoiler territory here, I'll say when I first saw the film, I was a little thrown off of the reveal at the end – that Zachry and Meronym were not on Earth. These two facts clear that up. First of all, Berry said that her character, Meronym is an "extraterrestrial being from another planet that came down to help this other group of people." Which leads to ...

15. The satellite was a communication tool to another world and is not in the book.

Zachry and Meronym's main objective in the 2300s, after The Fall, is to climb the mountain and set in motion some sort of satellite that launches a laser into the sky. David Mitchell confirmed "It's a communication device to an off-world colony of human beings." He said it alerted them "there's still life down here that knows how to use this technology, please come and rescue us. It's not in the book." So while the bulk of that final section of Cloud Atlas takes place on Earth (Hawaii, to be exact) long after some terrible disaster, the bookends of an older Zachry are on another planet where humanity will survive.