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Ben Whishaw Talks Race & Gender Swapping ‘Cloud Atlas’ Roles

Written by on August 31, 2011 

Since it was revealed that Cloud Atlas would have its lead actors playing six different characters in each segment, many have wondered how that might actually work; I certainly have no clue. Here to help shed some light on this mystery is Ben Whishaw, who talked to Vulture (via Filmonic) about what he and his co-stars will be doing for the Wachowski siblings and Tom Tykwer.

In addition to sharing that he’s learning to play the piano, he responded with the following when asked about the different roles:

“Everyone in the cast 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!”

Filmonic points out that Frobisher is the lead in the ’30s-set chapter, “Letters from Zedelghem,” being a musician who “flees from his debtors in England and finds work as an amanuensis to a dying world-class composer” in Belgium.

The cast also includes Tom Hanks, Hugo Weaving, Halle Berry Susan Sarandon, Jim Broadbent, Bae Doona, and Jim Sturgess. How a cast that varied will move around in terms of race has me the most interested — Tom Hanks in blackface? Okay, probably not — considering the large amount of resources they’ll have at their disposal — but there’s no way it wouldn’t be interesting. Swapping genders isn’t nearly as hard, although there could be some good comic material in there. (If they’re actually shooting for comedy, that is.)

A move like this only makes me more curious about what will happen with this project. Part of me thinks that it could be a total disaster; even if it is, the results could very easily be sort of unbelievable. The comments made by Whishaw only increase those feelings, for better or for worse.

Cloud Atlas will open in late 2012.

How do these plans sound to you? Are you looking forward to Cloud Atlas?

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