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August 22nd, 2014

Ben Whishaw & James D’Arcy Interview, Cloud Atlas

Ben Whishaw and James D’Arcy found their multiple roles in “Cloud Atlas” a thrilling prospect and described their involvement in the film directed by Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer and Andy Wachowski as a once in a lifetime experience for an actor.  In one of the pivotal threads of an unconventional storyline, set in 1930s Scotland, Whishaw plays the roguishly charming, brash, and immensely gifted young composer Robert Frobisher, who apprentices himself to Vyvyan Ayrs (Jim Broadbent), a renowned composer past his creative prime.  Frobisher plans to write his masterpiece, a symphony he will call “The Cloud Atlas Sextet,” but he underestimates Ayrs’ power.

 

James D’Arcy portrays Rufus Sixsmith, Frobisher’s lover, whom he takes leave of when he sets out to make a name for himself, but keeps in touch with through letters while imagining a triumphant return.  Both actors return in another thread of the storyline, set in 1973 San Francisco, where D’Arcy plays an older Sixsmith who is now an elderly physicist, and Whishaw appears in a poignant portrayal as a record store clerk who cannot get a certain 1930s melody out of his head.

 

At a roundtable interview, Whishaw and D’Arcy talked about how extraordinary it was to be a part of “Cloud Atlas,” how the directing process with the Wachowskis and Tykwer was a very nurturing and organic experience, why it was a treat to work with a great actor like Jim Broadbent, and why they felt the film was successful at doing things that could not have been done in the best-selling book by David Mitchell.  Whishaw also discussed his upcoming role in the new James Bond movie, “Skyfall,” and D’Arcy revealed what it was like to portray Tony Perkins and work with Anthony Hopkins in the soon-to-be-released “Hitchcock.”

 

Q:  Is this a once in a lifetime experience for an actor?  How do you rate this experience in terms of most incredible things happening in your life, right now, past or present?

 

James D’Arcy:  It’s right up there with the most extraordinary, wonderful experiences I’ve ever had.  It isn’t the summation of who I am or who I feel I am being an actor, but I do feel like I am a creative kind of individual, and it doesn’t get much more creative than this insane experiment that Andy and Lana and Tom somehow have pulled off, so it’s very exciting.

 

Ben Whishaw:  Yeah, I think it’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever [done].  As a piece of work, I feel so proud to have been a part of it.  I’m so happy that it exists.  I’ve loved watching it and I’m really excited to see it again, and I don’t think I’ve ever felt that before about something I’ve been involved in.

 

D’Arcy:  You do feel like you’re going to be answering questions about “Cloud Atlas” in 30 years’ time, don’t you?  You’ll be somewhere doing a press junket and somebody will go “So about that bit in blah, blah, blah…”  It’s just one of those films that is going to go on and on and people will still be questioning.

 

Whishaw:  It’s one of those films that I’m intrigued to know what people will make of it who don’t have a prior knowledge of the script or of the book, because I think it could be intimidating as a film, at least in terms of its concept.  You might approach it and feel a bit like “I’m not going to get it,” and I will be excited when maybe that dies away because there’s actually nothing to be frightened of.  It’s a very accessible film, isn’t it?  At the moment, it feels a bit like people will feel like they’ve got to say something about it necessarily, but it will be great when people can just enjoy it.

 

D’Arcy:  Just feel it rather than try to intellectualize it.

 

Whishaw:  And what they get from it is what they get from it.

 

Q:  What did you know about “Cloud Atlas” before you were asked to join the ensemble?

 

Whishaw:  I knew that it was a book composed of six stories that somehow are connected.

 

Q:  So you knew what you were in for to some extent?

 

Whishaw:  Yes.  Well, a little bit.

 

D’Arcy:  I’d read the book, so I knew broadly what the overall umbrella story was and the six different stories, but I hadn’t thought about how you could possibly make it into a film, or why you would even try.  It seemed ridiculous. So then, to read the screenplay, how did I feel when I read the screenplay?  I thought it could be a real catastrophe, to be honest.  And then, I started to read it, and I realized immediately they’ve changed the format which was initially confusing, but it’s essential because I don’t think you could’ve shot it the way that David Mitchell wrote it.  The script came with a key.  These characters are played by one person, and these characters are played by that actor, and that was to me the moment where I went “Alright, now I feel like I see why this is going to be made into a film, because this you can do filmically and you can’t do in the book.  Obviously, the comet motif is the soul regenerating, but the book can’t do what now the film is going to try and do.

 

Q:  For the film adaptation, do you think they did a good job of revealing the eternal recurrence by having the actors portray different characters and does it work out well on screen?

 

Whishaw:  I think that works brilliantly.  I’m trying to be as objective as I can about it, but I thought it worked brilliantly, because you know it’s Tom Hanks with a nose on, but you’re still there.  I think that’s something about knowing that it’s fake, that there’s artifice there, but still you believe it.  I find that happening in a film very unusual, but also you’re sort of in on the game as an audience member.  It makes it very fun.  It makes it playful.  And, it also happens to fit very well with what the film is about, as you say, these recurring souls.

 

D’Arcy:  Again, it’s really difficult to be objective, having read the book and the script and been there when we were shooting it, I know too much in truth.  So, I’ll never get to have the reaction of an audience member who knows nothing and is coming to this completely open.  But, at the end, I felt very strongly that it was almost like there was only once actor in the whole film.  Everything seemed completely interchangeable and anyone could be anyone.  I’m not explaining it very well, because the way the film hit me is at an entirely emotional level.  I found it still now, weeks after having seen it, almost impossible to try and put into words the feeling.  I felt very connected to the idea that we’re all different manifestations of the same source.  I really liked that idea.  I believe it to be true, whether it is true or not.  Who cares?  It’s just what I feel.  Then, I see a film in which they discuss it and somehow – it wasn’t on an intellectual level, it’s a gut level — I went yes, I feel like that.  I feel like we are all one.  We are all part of the same thing somehow.  To explore all those big ideas is such a fun way.  You could just go and watch the film and have a really great six-genre movie fandango bit of fun.  I mean, it doesn’t have to be big and heavy.  I think the film does wink at you from time to time and goes “Hey, look, this may be serious, but you don’t have to take it seriously.”  We’re wearing this like a very loose garment, and that’s what I really enjoyed about it.

 

Q:  How was the make-up and costume?  Did you have a favorite character?

 

Whishaw:  I really loved being the character who sells Luisa Rey the record of the sextet that my other character has composed.

 

Q:  There was a bit of a wink there, wasn’t there?

 

Whishaw:  Yes, exactly.  I liked being that character.

 

D’Arcy:  In fact, Jim Broadbent was in the scene as well but he got cut.  He’s like a bum who leaves at the beginning.  He got cut out.  It’s such a shame.  He leaves at the beginning of the scene so his character is playing the music.  So, Frobisher is in the record store playing the music and Ayrs, now in another life, is bumbling around, and as he walks out, he says “Get some real fucking music, man!”  And then, in walks Jocaster and buys the record.  It’s so beautiful.  I wish they had kept him in.

 

Whishaw:  I wish they had.

 

Q:  Was it a great treat for you guys to work with Mr. Broadbent?

 

Whishaw:  He’s unbelievable.

 

D’Arcy:  I had only a couple of days of filming with him and I was an extra.  I was a background nurse.  I really felt like I was an extra studying this extraordinary actor be so hysterically funny.  I mean, just utterly brilliant.  And then, to look over at the crew operating the camera, clutching their sides and still trying to keep it in focus.  It’s just brilliant.

 

Q:  How was it working with the directors and having two different units?

 

D’Arcy:  Oddly, it didn’t feel like two different units or three different directors.  They’re so in tune with each other that you felt they operated almost as one organism.  I’ve been thinking about it a bit this morning.  You can be on sets with one director and it’s a disaster because the director has got so many ideas that are coming out.  So, the idea that three people wouldn’t be in conflict at least some of the time seems impossible.  It seems like that really couldn’t happen.  I can’t think of three other people who would be so selfless as to … you know, the word director gives you a clue as to the ego status of the person in charge.  They’re directing.  Look, it’s their job.  They’re supposed to direct.  They’re supposed to guide things.  But then, there’s usually just one of them, and they’re in charge, and everybody knows that.

 

Whishaw:  Maybe at night they went home and screamed and shouted at each other.  We just don’t know about that.

 

D’Arcy:  Maybe.

 

Q:  Were there any particular scenes that you had to do many times to get them right?

 

D’Arcy:  You never really do anything just once.

 

Q:  I mean, was there any particular scene that you needed to do to a point where the director said okay, now you’ve got it?

 

D’Arcy:  No.  That was not my experience on this job.

 

Whishaw:  Not at all.  Actually, the filming wasn’t heavy like that, was it?

 

D’Arcy:  You often repeat a scene a number of times because of angles and all the rest, but I don’t remember 7, 8, 9, 10, 15 takes at all.  I don’t remember any sense of frustration.  And the other thing is, when they got what they wanted, they’d always say “if you want to try something else…”  But you felt so safe in their hands, well I did anyway, that you felt like “Look, if you’re happy, I’m happy.”

 

Whishaw:  Tom, and I think the Wachowskis are the same, they’re not directors who work with whips.  They’re very nurturing people.  That’s the atmosphere that you’re working in.  Although I think there’s something to be said for being whipped every now and then, metaphorically speaking.  (laughs)

 

Q:  What’s your favorite part of the movie?  Which storyline?

 

Whishaw:  I loved Sonmi.

 

D’Arcy:  Yeah, I loved Sonmi as well.  I find that love story between her and Chang incredibly affecting.

 

Whishaw:  I loved them all actually.

 

D’Arcy:  And why do you always have to have a favorite, because suddenly you think the Cavendish story is so funny and your story is so moving.

 

Whishaw:  What I’ve realized is you couldn’t not have any one of the stories.  They all have to be there.  Although they seem incredibly disparate, obviously they all connect up.  But also, I think the more I’ve watched it, the more I see these connections and why it’s important that we start with Adam Ewing and this black man, this black character, and where we end up.  I mean, I’m still trying to figure out what it all means myself.  But I see that there is something, sort of a coherent message, I think.

 

D’Arcy:  It’s difficult to intellectualize something that affected me in a completely different way.  It wasn’t in words.  I couldn’t really talk about it.  People would have discussions, but I felt just somewhere else inside, like it had got me.

 

Q:  Both of you also have roles in two upcoming films.  Ben, you play Hugh in the James Bond movie, and James, you’re Anthony Perkins in “Hitchcock.”  Can you talk about those two movies?

 

Whishaw:  I haven’t seen “Skyfall” yet.  I’m very excited, too.

 

D’Arcy:  I haven’t seen “Hitchcock” yet.  I’m very excited, too.  The trailers look good.

 

Whishaw:  The trailers look excellent, which is not always a good sign.  (laughs)  I loved doing it.  I had a great time making “Skyfall,” and I love that I’ll get to play that character maybe for a few more films.  I’ve never done that before.  I’m very excited and I’m very happy.

 

D’Arcy:  The “Hitchcock” film was just dreamy.  I got to spend a lot of time with Anthony Hopkins who is without any question one of the greatest film actors who has ever lived.  He is not only exactly as you would expect, just on-the-money brilliant, but one of the nicest human beings on earth.  He was incredibly supportive and nurturing, and not just with me.  He was in every single day in every single scene.  I don’t know the last time Tony played a big lead like this was but it’s probably a couple of years now.  He was in heavy prosthetics and a fat suit and he’d get an hour off.  You would expect that he would go and lie down and sleep or whatever it is.  But, he used to sit around on the set and the extras would go “Hey, I’m thinking about going to college to study acting.  What do you think?” He was just so generous with his time.

 

Q:  He wouldn’t stay in character?

 

D’Arcy:  No, I don’t think he’s really that kind of actor.

 

Q:  Having gone through this process, has it made you take stock of your life and make decisions about how you want to live life going forward?

 

D’Arcy:  I think talking about it over the last couple of days does make me feel I would like to live my life more fearlessly.  That great line in Shakespeare, “To thine own self be true,” I would like to more fully embody the spirit of that perhaps as a result of this film.

 

Whishaw:  I don’t know.  Yeah, maybe.  Again, I’m not sure I can put it into words really, but I’m sure.

 

D’Arcy:  What about in a song?  You can sing it.

 

Whishaw:  James has used this gag at every interview we’ve been to.

 

D’Arcy:  I’m trying to get him to sing in an interview and I don’t know why.  (laughs)

 

Q:  Do it now then.

 

D’Arcy:  (joking)  C’mon, sing!

 

Q:  Just do an easy song, like a Beatles song.

 

D’Arcy:  He does sing very beautifully in “Bright Star” though, in all fairness.  He has already done it.  He doesn’t really need to prove it.

 

Q: Are you saying you’re not musical at all?

 

Whishaw:  I like music, but I’m not musical.  (laughs)  No.  That’s a good answer.

 

“Cloud Atlas” opens in theaters on October 26th.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ben Whishaw and James D’Arcy found their multiple roles in “Cloud Atlas” a thrilling prospect and described their involvement in the film directed by Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer and Andy Wachowski as a once in a lifetime experience for an actor.  In one of the pivotal threads of an unconventional storyline, set in 1930s Scotland, Whishaw plays the roguishly charming, brash, and immensely gifted young composer Robert Frobisher, who apprentices himself to Vyvyan Ayrs (Jim Broadbent), a renowned composer past his creative prime.  Frobisher plans to write his masterpiece, a symphony he will call “The Cloud Atlas Sextet,” but he underestimates Ayrs’ power.

 

James D’Arcy portrays Rufus Sixsmith, Frobisher’s lover, whom he takes leave of when he sets out to make a name for himself, but keeps in touch with through letters while imagining a triumphant return.  Both actors return in another thread of the storyline, set in 1973 San Francisco, where D’Arcy plays an older Sixsmith who is now an elderly physicist, and Whishaw appears in a poignant portrayal as a record store clerk who cannot get a certain 1930s melody out of his head.

 

At a roundtable interview, Whishaw and D’Arcy talked about how extraordinary it was to be a part of “Cloud Atlas,” how the directing process with the Wachowskis and Tykwer was a very nurturing and organic experience, why it was a treat to work with a great actor like Jim Broadbent, and why they felt the film was successful at doing things that could not have been done in the best-selling book by David Mitchell.  Whishaw also discussed his upcoming role in the new James Bond movie, “Skyfall,” and D’Arcy revealed what it was like to portray Tony Perkins and work with Anthony Hopkins in the soon-to-be-released “Hitchcock.”

 

Q:  Is this a once in a lifetime experience for an actor?  How do you rate this experience in terms of most incredible things happening in your life, right now, past or present?

 

James D’Arcy:  It’s right up there with the most extraordinary, wonderful experiences I’ve ever had.  It isn’t the summation of who I am or who I feel I am being an actor, but I do feel like I am a creative kind of individual, and it doesn’t get much more creative than this insane experiment that Andy and Lana and Tom somehow have pulled off, so it’s very exciting.

 

Ben Whishaw:  Yeah, I think it’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever [done].  As a piece of work, I feel so proud to have been a part of it.  I’m so happy that it exists.  I’ve loved watching it and I’m really excited to see it again, and I don’t think I’ve ever felt that before about something I’ve been involved in.

 

D’Arcy:  You do feel like you’re going to be answering questions about “Cloud Atlas” in 30 years’ time, don’t you?  You’ll be somewhere doing a press junket and somebody will go “So about that bit in blah, blah, blah…”  It’s just one of those films that is going to go on and on and people will still be questioning.

 

Whishaw:  It’s one of those films that I’m intrigued to know what people will make of it who don’t have a prior knowledge of the script or of the book, because I think it could be intimidating as a film, at least in terms of its concept.  You might approach it and feel a bit like “I’m not going to get it,” and I will be excited when maybe that dies away because there’s actually nothing to be frightened of.  It’s a very accessible film, isn’t it?  At the moment, it feels a bit like people will feel like they’ve got to say something about it necessarily, but it will be great when people can just enjoy it.

 

D’Arcy:  Just feel it rather than try to intellectualize it.

 

Whishaw:  And what they get from it is what they get from it.

 

Q:  What did you know about “Cloud Atlas” before you were asked to join the ensemble?

 

Whishaw:  I knew that it was a book composed of six stories that somehow are connected.

 

Q:  So you knew what you were in for to some extent?

 

Whishaw:  Yes.  Well, a little bit.

 

D’Arcy:  I’d read the book, so I knew broadly what the overall umbrella story was and the six different stories, but I hadn’t thought about how you could possibly make it into a film, or why you would even try.  It seemed ridiculous. So then, to read the screenplay, how did I feel when I read the screenplay?  I thought it could be a real catastrophe, to be honest.  And then, I started to read it, and I realized immediately they’ve changed the format which was initially confusing, but it’s essential because I don’t think you could’ve shot it the way that David Mitchell wrote it.  The script came with a key.  These characters are played by one person, and these characters are played by that actor, and that was to me the moment where I went “Alright, now I feel like I see why this is going to be made into a film, because this you can do filmically and you can’t do in the book.  Obviously, the comet motif is the soul regenerating, but the book can’t do what now the film is going to try and do.

 

Q:  For the film adaptation, do you think they did a good job of revealing the eternal recurrence by having the actors portray different characters and does it work out well on screen?

 

Whishaw:  I think that works brilliantly.  I’m trying to be as objective as I can about it, but I thought it worked brilliantly, because you know it’s Tom Hanks with a nose on, but you’re still there.  I think that’s something about knowing that it’s fake, that there’s artifice there, but still you believe it.  I find that happening in a film very unusual, but also you’re sort of in on the game as an audience member.  It makes it very fun.  It makes it playful.  And, it also happens to fit very well with what the film is about, as you say, these recurring souls.

 

D’Arcy:  Again, it’s really difficult to be objective, having read the book and the script and been there when we were shooting it, I know too much in truth.  So, I’ll never get to have the reaction of an audience member who knows nothing and is coming to this completely open.  But, at the end, I felt very strongly that it was almost like there was only once actor in the whole film.  Everything seemed completely interchangeable and anyone could be anyone.  I’m not explaining it very well, because the way the film hit me is at an entirely emotional level.  I found it still now, weeks after having seen it, almost impossible to try and put into words the feeling.  I felt very connected to the idea that we’re all different manifestations of the same source.  I really liked that idea.  I believe it to be true, whether it is true or not.  Who cares?  It’s just what I feel.  Then, I see a film in which they discuss it and somehow – it wasn’t on an intellectual level, it’s a gut level — I went yes, I feel like that.  I feel like we are all one.  We are all part of the same thing somehow.  To explore all those big ideas is such a fun way.  You could just go and watch the film and have a really great six-genre movie fandango bit of fun.  I mean, it doesn’t have to be big and heavy.  I think the film does wink at you from time to time and goes “Hey, look, this may be serious, but you don’t have to take it seriously.”  We’re wearing this like a very loose garment, and that’s what I really enjoyed about it.

 

Q:  How was the make-up and costume?  Did you have a favorite character?

 

Whishaw:  I really loved being the character who sells Luisa Rey the record of the sextet that my other character has composed.

 

Q:  There was a bit of a wink there, wasn’t there?

 

Whishaw:  Yes, exactly.  I liked being that character.

 

D’Arcy:  In fact, Jim Broadbent was in the scene as well but he got cut.  He’s like a bum who leaves at the beginning.  He got cut out.  It’s such a shame.  He leaves at the beginning of the scene so his character is playing the music.  So, Frobisher is in the record store playing the music and Ayrs, now in another life, is bumbling around, and as he walks out, he says “Get some real fucking music, man!”  And then, in walks Jocaster and buys the record.  It’s so beautiful.  I wish they had kept him in.

 

Whishaw:  I wish they had.

 

Q:  Was it a great treat for you guys to work with Mr. Broadbent?

 

Whishaw:  He’s unbelievable.

 

D’Arcy:  I had only a couple of days of filming with him and I was an extra.  I was a background nurse.  I really felt like I was an extra studying this extraordinary actor be so hysterically funny.  I mean, just utterly brilliant.  And then, to look over at the crew operating the camera, clutching their sides and still trying to keep it in focus.  It’s just brilliant.

 

Q:  How was it working with the directors and having two different units?

 

D’Arcy:  Oddly, it didn’t feel like two different units or three different directors.  They’re so in tune with each other that you felt they operated almost as one organism.  I’ve been thinking about it a bit this morning.  You can be on sets with one director and it’s a disaster because the director has got so many ideas that are coming out.  So, the idea that three people wouldn’t be in conflict at least some of the time seems impossible.  It seems like that really couldn’t happen.  I can’t think of three other people who would be so selfless as to … you know, the word director gives you a clue as to the ego status of the person in charge.  They’re directing.  Look, it’s their job.  They’re supposed to direct.  They’re supposed to guide things.  But then, there’s usually just one of them, and they’re in charge, and everybody knows that.

 

Whishaw:  Maybe at night they went home and screamed and shouted at each other.  We just don’t know about that.

 

D’Arcy:  Maybe.

 

Q:  Were there any particular scenes that you had to do many times to get them right?

 

D’Arcy:  You never really do anything just once.

 

Q:  I mean, was there any particular scene that you needed to do to a point where the director said okay, now you’ve got it?

 

D’Arcy:  No.  That was not my experience on this job.

 

Whishaw:  Not at all.  Actually, the filming wasn’t heavy like that, was it?

 

D’Arcy:  You often repeat a scene a number of times because of angles and all the rest, but I don’t remember 7, 8, 9, 10, 15 takes at all.  I don’t remember any sense of frustration.  And the other thing is, when they got what they wanted, they’d always say “if you want to try something else…”  But you felt so safe in their hands, well I did anyway, that you felt like “Look, if you’re happy, I’m happy.”

 

Whishaw:  Tom, and I think the Wachowskis are the same, they’re not directors who work with whips.  They’re very nurturing people.  That’s the atmosphere that you’re working in.  Although I think there’s something to be said for being whipped every now and then, metaphorically speaking.  (laughs)

 

Q:  What’s your favorite part of the movie?  Which storyline?

 

Whishaw:  I loved Sonmi.

 

D’Arcy:  Yeah, I loved Sonmi as well.  I find that love story between her and Chang incredibly affecting.

 

Whishaw:  I loved them all actually.

 

D’Arcy:  And why do you always have to have a favorite, because suddenly you think the Cavendish story is so funny and your story is so moving.

 

Whishaw:  What I’ve realized is you couldn’t not have any one of the stories.  They all have to be there.  Although they seem incredibly disparate, obviously they all connect up.  But also, I think the more I’ve watched it, the more I see these connections and why it’s important that we start with Adam Ewing and this black man, this black character, and where we end up.  I mean, I’m still trying to figure out what it all means myself.  But I see that there is something, sort of a coherent message, I think.

 

D’Arcy:  It’s difficult to intellectualize something that affected me in a completely different way.  It wasn’t in words.  I couldn’t really talk about it.  People would have discussions, but I felt just somewhere else inside, like it had got me.

 

Q:  Both of you also have roles in two upcoming films.  Ben, you play Hugh in the James Bond movie, and James, you’re Anthony Perkins in “Hitchcock.”  Can you talk about those two movies?

 

Whishaw:  I haven’t seen “Skyfall” yet.  I’m very excited, too.

 

D’Arcy:  I haven’t seen “Hitchcock” yet.  I’m very excited, too.  The trailers look good.

 

Whishaw:  The trailers look excellent, which is not always a good sign.  (laughs)  I loved doing it.  I had a great time making “Skyfall,” and I love that I’ll get to play that character maybe for a few more films.  I’ve never done that before.  I’m very excited and I’m very happy.

 

D’Arcy:  The “Hitchcock” film was just dreamy.  I got to spend a lot of time with Anthony Hopkins who is without any question one of the greatest film actors who has ever lived.  He is not only exactly as you would expect, just on-the-money brilliant, but one of the nicest human beings on earth.  He was incredibly supportive and nurturing, and not just with me.  He was in every single day in every single scene.  I don’t know the last time Tony played a big lead like this was but it’s probably a couple of years now.  He was in heavy prosthetics and a fat suit and he’d get an hour off.  You would expect that he would go and lie down and sleep or whatever it is.  But, he used to sit around on the set and the extras would go “Hey, I’m thinking about going to college to study acting.  What do you think?” He was just so generous with his time.

 

Q:  He wouldn’t stay in character?

 

D’Arcy:  No, I don’t think he’s really that kind of actor.

 

Q:  Having gone through this process, has it made you take stock of your life and make decisions about how you want to live life going forward?

 

D’Arcy:  I think talking about it over the last couple of days does make me feel I would like to live my life more fearlessly.  That great line in Shakespeare, “To thine own self be true,” I would like to more fully embody the spirit of that perhaps as a result of this film.

 

Whishaw:  I don’t know.  Yeah, maybe.  Again, I’m not sure I can put it into words really, but I’m sure.

 

D’Arcy:  What about in a song?  You can sing it.

 

Whishaw:  James has used this gag at every interview we’ve been to.

 

D’Arcy:  I’m trying to get him to sing in an interview and I don’t know why.  (laughs)

 

Q:  Do it now then.

 

D’Arcy:  (joking)  C’mon, sing!

 

Q:  Just do an easy song, like a Beatles song.

 

D’Arcy:  He does sing very beautifully in “Bright Star” though, in all fairness.  He has already done it.  He doesn’t really need to prove it.

 

Q: Are you saying you’re not musical at all?

 

Whishaw:  I like music, but I’m not musical.  (laughs)  No.  That’s a good answer.

 

“Cloud Atlas” opens in theaters on October 26th.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

found their multiple roles in “Cloud Atlas” a thrilling prospect and described their involvement in the film directed by Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer and Andy Wachowski as a once in a lifetime experience for an actor. In one of the pivotal threads of an unconventional storyline, set in 1930s Scotland, Whishaw plays the roguishly charming, brash, and immensely gifted young composer Robert Frobisher, who apprentices himself to Vyvyan Ayrs (Jim Broadbent), a renowned composer past his creative prime. Frobisher plans to write his masterpiece, a symphony he will call “The Cloud Atlas Sextet,” but he underestimates Ayrs’ power.

James D’Arcy portrays Rufus Sixsmith, Frobisher’s lover, whom he takes leave of when he sets out to make a name for himself, but keeps in touch with through letters while imagining a triumphant return. Both actors return in another thread of the storyline, set in 1973 San Francisco, where D’Arcy plays an older Sixsmith who is now an elderly physicist, and Whishaw appears in a poignant portrayal as a record store clerk who cannot get a certain 1930s melody out of his head.

At a roundtable interview, Whishaw and D’Arcy talked about how extraordinary it was to be a part of “Cloud Atlas,” how the directing process with the Wachowskis and Tykwer was a very nurturing and organic experience, why it was a treat to work with a great actor like Jim Broadbent, and why they felt the film was successful at doing things that could not have been done in the best-selling book by David Mitchell. Whishaw also discussed his upcoming role in the new James Bond movie, “Skyfall,” and D’Arcy revealed what it was like to portray Tony Perkins and work with Anthony Hopkins in the soon-to-be-released “Hitchcock.”

Q: Is this a once in a lifetime experience for an actor? How do you rate this experience in terms of most incredible things happening in your life, right now, past or present?

James D’Arcy: It’s right up there with the most extraordinary, wonderful experiences I’ve ever had. It isn’t the summation of who I am or who I feel I am being an actor, but I do feel like I am a creative kind of individual, and it doesn’t get much more creative than this insane experiment that Andy and Lana and Tom somehow have pulled off, so it’s very exciting.

Ben Whishaw: Yeah, I think it’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever [done]. As a piece of work, I feel so proud to have been a part of it. I’m so happy that it exists. I’ve loved watching it and I’m really excited to see it again, and I don’t think I’ve ever felt that before about something I’ve been involved in.

D’Arcy: You do feel like you’re going to be answering questions about “Cloud Atlas” in 30 years’ time, don’t you? You’ll be somewhere doing a press junket and somebody will go “So about that bit in blah, blah, blah…” It’s just one of those films that is going to go on and on and people will still be questioning.

Whishaw: It’s one of those films that I’m intrigued to know what people will make of it who don’t have a prior knowledge of the script or of the book, because I think it could be intimidating as a film, at least in terms of its concept. You might approach it and feel a bit like “I’m not going to get it,” and I will be excited when maybe that dies away because there’s actually nothing to be frightened of. It’s a very accessible film, isn’t it? At the moment, it feels a bit like people will feel like they’ve got to say something about it necessarily, but it will be great when people can just enjoy it.

D’Arcy: Just feel it rather than try to intellectualize it.

Whishaw: And what they get from it is what they get from it.

Q: What did you know about “Cloud Atlas” before you were asked to join the ensemble?

Whishaw: I knew that it was a book composed of six stories that somehow are connected.

Q: So you knew what you were in for to some extent?

Whishaw: Yes. Well, a little bit.

D’Arcy: I’d read the book, so I knew broadly what the overall umbrella story was and the six different stories, but I hadn’t thought about how you could possibly make it into a film, or why you would even try. It seemed ridiculous. So then, to read the screenplay, how did I feel when I read the screenplay? I thought it could be a real catastrophe, to be honest. And then, I started to read it, and I realized immediately they’ve changed the format which was initially confusing, but it’s essential because I don’t think you could’ve shot it the way that David Mitchell wrote it. The script came with a key. These characters are played by one person, and these characters are played by that actor, and that was to me the moment where I went “Alright, now I feel like I see why this is going to be made into a film, because this you can do filmically and you can’t do in the book. Obviously, the comet motif is the soul regenerating, but the book can’t do what now the film is going to try and do.

Q: For the film adaptation, do you think they did a good job of revealing the eternal recurrence by having the actors portray different characters and does it work out well on screen?

Whishaw: I think that works brilliantly. I’m trying to be as objective as I can about it, but I thought it worked brilliantly, because you know it’s Tom Hanks with a nose on, but you’re still there. I think that’s something about knowing that it’s fake, that there’s artifice there, but still you believe it. I find that happening in a film very unusual, but also you’re sort of in on the game as an audience member. It makes it very fun. It makes it playful. And, it also happens to fit very well with what the film is about, as you say, these recurring souls.

D’Arcy: Again, it’s really difficult to be objective, having read the book and the script and been there when we were shooting it, I know too much in truth. So, I’ll never get to have the reaction of an audience member who knows nothing and is coming to this completely open. But, at the end, I felt very strongly that it was almost like there was only once actor in the whole film. Everything seemed completely interchangeable and anyone could be anyone. I’m not explaining it very well, because the way the film hit me is at an entirely emotional level. I found it still now, weeks after having seen it, almost impossible to try and put into words the feeling. I felt very connected to the idea that we’re all different manifestations of the same source. I really liked that idea. I believe it to be true, whether it is true or not. Who cares? It’s just what I feel. Then, I see a film in which they discuss it and somehow – it wasn’t on an intellectual level, it’s a gut level — I went yes, I feel like that. I feel like we are all one. We are all part of the same thing somehow. To explore all those big ideas is such a fun way. You could just go and watch the film and have a really great six-genre movie fandango bit of fun. I mean, it doesn’t have to be big and heavy. I think the film does wink at you from time to time and goes “Hey, look, this may be serious, but you don’t have to take it seriously.” We’re wearing this like a very loose garment, and that’s what I really enjoyed about it.

Q: How was the make-up and costume? Did you have a favorite character?

Whishaw: I really loved being the character who sells Luisa Rey the record of the sextet that my other character has composed.

Q: There was a bit of a wink there, wasn’t there?

Whishaw: Yes, exactly. I liked being that character.

D’Arcy: In fact, Jim Broadbent was in the scene as well but he got cut. He’s like a bum who leaves at the beginning. He got cut out. It’s such a shame. He leaves at the beginning of the scene so his character is playing the music. So, Frobisher is in the record store playing the music and Ayrs, now in another life, is bumbling around, and as he walks out, he says “Get some real fucking music, man!” And then, in walks Jocaster and buys the record. It’s so beautiful. I wish they had kept him in.

Whishaw: I wish they had.

Q: Was it a great treat for you guys to work with Mr. Broadbent?

Whishaw: He’s unbelievable.

D’Arcy: I had only a couple of days of filming with him and I was an extra. I was a background nurse. I really felt like I was an extra studying this extraordinary actor be so hysterically funny. I mean, just utterly brilliant. And then, to look over at the crew operating the camera, clutching their sides and still trying to keep it in focus. It’s just brilliant.

Q: How was it working with the directors and having two different units?

D’Arcy: Oddly, it didn’t feel like two different units or three different directors. They’re so in tune with each other that you felt they operated almost as one organism. I’ve been thinking about it a bit this morning. You can be on sets with one director and it’s a disaster because the director has got so many ideas that are coming out. So, the idea that three people wouldn’t be in conflict at least some of the time seems impossible. It seems like that really couldn’t happen. I can’t think of three other people who would be so selfless as to … you know, the word director gives you a clue as to the ego status of the person in charge. They’re directing. Look, it’s their job. They’re supposed to direct. They’re supposed to guide things. But then, there’s usually just one of them, and they’re in charge, and everybody knows that.

Whishaw: Maybe at night they went home and screamed and shouted at each other. We just don’t know about that.

D’Arcy: Maybe.

Q: Were there any particular scenes that you had to do many times to get them right?

D’Arcy: You never really do anything just once.

Q: I mean, was there any particular scene that you needed to do to a point where the director said okay, now you’ve got it?

D’Arcy: No. That was not my experience on this job.

Whishaw: Not at all. Actually, the filming wasn’t heavy like that, was it?

D’Arcy: You often repeat a scene a number of times because of angles and all the rest, but I don’t remember 7, 8, 9, 10, 15 takes at all. I don’t remember any sense of frustration. And the other thing is, when they got what they wanted, they’d always say “if you want to try something else…” But you felt so safe in their hands, well I did anyway, that you felt like “Look, if you’re happy, I’m happy.”

Whishaw: Tom, and I think the Wachowskis are the same, they’re not directors who work with whips. They’re very nurturing people. That’s the atmosphere that you’re working in. Although I think there’s something to be said for being whipped every now and then, metaphorically speaking. (laughs)

Q: What’s your favorite part of the movie? Which storyline?

Whishaw: I loved Sonmi.

D’Arcy: Yeah, I loved Sonmi as well. I find that love story between her and Chang incredibly affecting.

Whishaw: I loved them all actually.

D’Arcy: And why do you always have to have a favorite, because suddenly you think the Cavendish story is so funny and your story is so moving.

Whishaw: What I’ve realized is you couldn’t not have any one of the stories. They all have to be there. Although they seem incredibly disparate, obviously they all connect up. But also, I think the more I’ve watched it, the more I see these connections and why it’s important that we start with Adam Ewing and this black man, this black character, and where we end up. I mean, I’m still trying to figure out what it all means myself. But I see that there is something, sort of a coherent message, I think.

D’Arcy: It’s difficult to intellectualize something that affected me in a completely different way. It wasn’t in words. I couldn’t really talk about it. People would have discussions, but I felt just somewhere else inside, like it had got me.

Q: Both of you also have roles in two upcoming films. Ben, you play Hugh in the James Bond movie, and James, you’re Anthony Perkins in “Hitchcock.” Can you talk about those two movies?

Whishaw: I haven’t seen “Skyfall” yet. I’m very excited, too.

D’Arcy: I haven’t seen “Hitchcock” yet. I’m very excited, too. The trailers look good.

Whishaw: The trailers look excellent, which is not always a good sign. (laughs) I loved doing it. I had a great time making “Skyfall,” and I love that I’ll get to play that character maybe for a few more films. I’ve never done that before. I’m very excited and I’m very happy.

D’Arcy: The “Hitchcock” film was just dreamy. I got to spend a lot of time with Anthony Hopkins who is without any question one of the greatest film actors who has ever lived. He is not only exactly as you would expect, just on-the-money brilliant, but one of the nicest human beings on earth. He was incredibly supportive and nurturing, and not just with me. He was in every single day in every single scene. I don’t know the last time Tony played a big lead like this was but it’s probably a couple of years now. He was in heavy prosthetics and a fat suit and he’d get an hour off. You would expect that he would go and lie down and sleep or whatever it is. But, he used to sit around on the set and the extras would go “Hey, I’m thinking about going to college to study acting. What do you think?” He was just so generous with his time.

Q: He wouldn’t stay in character?

D’Arcy: No, I don’t think he’s really that kind of actor.

Q: Having gone through this process, has it made you take stock of your life and make decisions about how you want to live life going forward?

D’Arcy: I think talking about it over the last couple of days does make me feel I would like to live my life more fearlessly. That great line in Shakespeare, “To thine own self be true,” I would like to more fully embody the spirit of that perhaps as a result of this film.

Whishaw: I don’t know. Yeah, maybe. Again, I’m not sure I can put it into words really, but I’m sure.

D’Arcy: What about in a song? You can sing it.

Whishaw: James has used this gag at every interview we’ve been to.

D’Arcy: I’m trying to get him to sing in an interview and I don’t know why. (laughs)

Q: Do it now then.

D’Arcy: (joking) C’mon, sing!

Q: Just do an easy song, like a Beatles song.

D’Arcy: He does sing very beautifully in “Bright Star” though, in all fairness. He has already done it. He doesn’t really need to prove it.

Q: Are you saying you’re not musical at all?

Whishaw: I like music, but I’m not musical. (laughs) No. That’s a good answer.

“Cloud Atlas” opens in theaters on October 26th.




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