BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Halle Berry never imagined she would portray a Jewish-German trophy wife, a Maori plantation slave or a male Korean doctor from the future, much less play all three roles — plus three more — in a single film.
That was the challenge and the fun the Oscar winner took on when she joined the gender- and race-bending ensemble of the Wachowski siblings' (“The Matrix”) and Tom Tykwer's (“The International”) visionary movie “Cloud Atlas,” a sweeping big-screen adaptation of David Mitchell's acclaimed 2004 novel.
“It was so much fun. I can't remember the last time I had this much fun on a movie,” Berry said in a recent interview at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
“There was one day my daughter came up when I was dressed as Dr. Ovid, and she loved coming to see all the different characters and she liked most of them. But this day, I just said, ‘You're gonna come see Mommy's new character,' so she walked up and she saw this old man, she was a little frightened of him. ... When I said, ‘Hi, honey,' I mean, her wheels came off. She took off running in the other direction.”
“She's never been the same. She's started smoking since then. A 4-year-old kid smoking cigarettes,” deadpanned Tom Hanks, laughing along with his “Cloud Atlas” co-star.
Like the book, “Cloud Atlas” consists of six interconnected stories that span centuries and continents, so Berry, 46, also plays an emissary on a mysterious mission in post-apocalyptic Hawaii in 2346, takes the lead role in a 1970s storyline as an intrepid journalist unearthing an energy corporation's cover-up in San Francisco and makes a cameo as a party guest at a 2012 soiree for the London literati.
“I loved every second of it. And if it had not been for a movie like this that required each person to play all of these characters to fulfill kind of the theme of the movie, I would've never. Nobody would have ever picked me to play a Jewish-German woman or an Asian man. I mean, ever. So there was a knowingness when this was all happening that this was pretty special and as artists like we should soak in every moment,” Berry said.
Although his transformations weren't as visually dramatic, Hanks, 56, plays an unscrupulous doctor on a South Pacific expedition in 1849, a greedy manager of a seedy Scottish hotel in 1936, a scientist who becomes a whistle-blower at the behest of Berry's reporter in 1973, a Scottish gangster-turned-memoirist who commits murder in the midst of that present-day London party, an actor in a long-lost film surreptitiously viewed in Neo Seoul in 2144 and a troubled goatherd living in a primitive village who crosses paths with Berry's technologically advanced explorer in the 24th century.