The Filmmakers Respond: Is 'Cloud Atlas' Too Difficult For General Audiences?

Editor's Note: This is the third of a four part series breaking down /Film's interview with Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer, the writers and directors of Cloud Atlas. Look for a new part each day leading up to the film's release October 26. Read part one here and part two here.

When Cloud Atlas opens this Friday, it's going to be very divisive. Some, like myself, will be transfixed by the way the film takes you on a journey across time, enlightening the audience to the evolution and connections of the human soul via multiple genres, tones and more. Others might find it confusing, overly long and distracting. Directors Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer are aware of this and, in the third part of my interview with the co-writers and directors of this incredible film, they discuss those difficulties and how they were an obstacle from the very beginning of the process.

/Film: When we first heard about Cloud Atlas it was a question mark of "How are they going to adapt this?" Then we saw that first trailer and people said, "holy s***." Then a couple of festival screenings and you have an Oscar contender. That's what it seems like. My question is...

[Lana knocks on the wooden table.]

General audiences don't seem to be as receptive as the film fan audience. This is a challenging film. If the movie does not connect with general audiences, are you guys going to be okay with that?Lana Wachowski: That's always a hard question to start with a negative.I want it to connect, I worded that poorly...Tom Tykwer: What we were really thinking and what we feel is, you know whether it succeeds or not, we of course don't know, but we know there's a huge amount of people out there who are desperately hungry for films that do deliver large scale, smart, complex, really modern filmmaking and that are not putting themselves in this restrictive category of "I am just an action guy and I have to have these characters that are always in those actioners" or "I'm just a very romantic movie with very sweet people," but saying the blend and the scale of films...

If you feel like a movie is ready for the big screen today, it seems like it more or less has to have a superhero in involved or it has to have a very limited framing of genre and we don't think that's what people want. We really think people get exhausted about it and I'm not even saying that some of those moves aren't fun, you know, we watch them. It's obvious that we are not against this, because we grew up in it. We are popular culture kids very much, but we grew up in a time where it was always there was a variety to it, there was very pop cultural iconic and sometimes simplified, but joyful experiences next to films like David Lean's films or Stanley Kubrick's films, which were also a large scale and also demanding and adult oriented. We feel it might become a dying species and we don't believe it's true that it's dying, because people aren't there to watch it. I think they are just not being invited enough anymore.

I hope so. I love the movie, so I didn't mean to be negative, but that's just...Lana Wachowski: We know it's a dark horse. If it was an obvious money proposition that Warner Brothers would have financed it in a second. They are an extremely conservative company and we have made them, let us say, a significant amount of money. If all other filmmakers were as profitable as we are, they would probably be a little more risky with how they let their filmmakers go, but we knew it was risky. It was important to us.

I mean it has no financial logic for us. We put our fees into it. We put our own money into it, because it was so important to us. At the end of the day, the fact that it's made is in itself incredibly satisfying and a kind of gift. The making of the movie was one of the most beautiful, extraordinary, incredible... It was one of the hardest things we've ever done, but it was so astonishing from working with Tom to working with these actors, and every one had this spirit of love and love of art and love of cinema and trying to do something that hadn't been done. That was like in every department. I mean even the caterer was excited by the movie. I mean really it was joyful and at the end we watched it the first time with David Mitchell, that was very important to us that David liked it and he watched it and he had tears. He said, "It's magnificent." At that point... Well it was really important that Tom Hanks liked it too. We were dying for him to love it, but when both of those two people were moved by it and felt the way we did about it, that was a kind of success that in some ways was more important to us than any financial success.

Tom Tykwer: And the financial part of it, that also is kind of ironic and sort of beautiful in a way in that even though it was so hard, the movie only became possible because of a multitude of people joining forces. It wasn't like one big investor saying "I want studio saying." It would have been easier for us, of course, and it made it much harder, but in a way it kind of fits into the scheme of the whole making of it that there were so many countries and continents and people and individuals on the entire planet that we had to approach, convince them until they got convinced, and really took quite a substantial risk.Lana Wachowski: It was their courage.Tom Tykwer: They had the courage. They had the belief that "This could be worth it." Now they are believers. The film world is so focused on the domestic American market and we all know it's not what the reality is anymore.Andy Wachowski: A movie can't be defined by what it does in the box office, whether it's a success or not.Lana Wachowski: Especially now not by the box office of America.Tom Tykwer: Yeah, that's what I mean. I mean we don't know. Some films slide off and say they just do twenty percent of what they do in the world in America and we don't know what this will be, because we know that... I can sense for instance.... Because Germany was a major investor in the film, I can sense now when I'm home, there's really a lot of vibe about this movie. I cannot imagine that there won't be at least some substantial embrace of it. I don't know how much it will be to be commercial, but there will be a lot of presences with it and so what we want is people to just...Lana Wachowski: It took the courage of this multitude of drops to actually make the movie and that they all care so much, just like in the same way that the people who were making it cared, the financiers were emotionally invested in the story, and at the end... You have this kind of energy that's in the structure of the story itself, that these multitude of drops are clinging together because of an act of courage, this thing has been created. This piece of art has been created. In the same way you sit here as sort of the Archivist sits across from Sonmi and he says "What if no one believes your truths?" You sit here and you go "Well, what if no one goes to see your movie?" Well we say "Well someone already does." So the movie had an impact on you and in some ways...Tom Tykwer: Well done. That's true.Andy Wachowski: There it is.Lana Wachowski: In some ways, that is a part of the gift and the success of the film that's already present.Cloud Atlas opens Friday. Check back tomorrow for the final part of our interview where we discuss the difficult jobs for the actors and how the performances went again years of Hollywood structure.