Cloud Atlas’ Hugo Weaving On Ambitious Filmmaking And The Movie's 'Yellowface' Controversy

By Eric Eisenberg 2012-10-24 16:50:38discussion comments
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To talk a bit about your evolution in the film, I actually think that you have the most fascinating path in the movie. Unlike some of your co-stars who get to play on both good and evil characters, throughout this you are always playing someone on the wrong side of right, and what that leads to is Old Georgie, who is not a person but rather more like a manifestation of evil. How do you wrap your mind around that progression?

It was always a character that I loved – I loved reading a lot of the characters from the book, but Georgie jumped out at me, and he jumps out of you because he’s inside Zachry’s head and you’re with Zachry and you know what’s happened to Zachry. Zachry’s in a world where he believes in the devil. It’s a futuristic world, but it’s also a medieval world with medieval sensibilities, and so people are prey to the voices in their head. We’re all prey to voices in our head! And this idea that Georgie is just this embodiment of the voice that says “no,” the voice that tells you that you must do this, you can’t do that. That happens to me all the time! So the challenge of playing Georgie was this wonderful thing. Yes, he’s a character, but actually he’s not – he’s not a human being. So then how do you shoot that? When I was trying on the costume I thought, “Well, this costume is great,” but I kept saying, “I really love this costume, but the more I think about Georgie the more I think you don’t want to see him, in a way.” You don’t want to notice that he’s got a shiny suit – you don’t want to think about that. It shouldn’t be shiny or it shouldn’t have this or…it should be more amorphous.

So I was talking to Lana and Andy about that we thought, well, he can’t come into frame, and you can’t see him leave frame because then he’s exiting to somewhere else and therefore he’s physical. So he can be found. He can not be there anymore. He can’t disappear, he can not be there. He can then appear somewhere else – when you cut he’s there, he’s over the shoulder. It’s the vocal intention that’s important; it’s what he’s saying that’s important. He is just Zachry talking to himself. It’s just Zachry’s fears and preconceptions. Zachry’s brain and upbringing is telling him, “I can’t do this, I can’t do that. But I want to do this.” He’s conflicted. Zachry’s got Meronym, who is here and has all this stuff and he mistrusts her, and thinks she might be bringing about the downfall of his civilization. He’d rather have these cannibals, these nasty warriors on horseback to deal with because he knows them, rather than this mysterious woman who he doesn’t know and doesn’t understand. And the threat that she poses because he doesn’t understand her is the thing that has him saying, “I have to kill her” – and that’s Georgie. “Stay how you are. Don’t change.” So he’s the voice of absolutely “Don’t change. Don’t be free.”

SPOILER ALERT
You mentioned that you had input on Georgie’s look; was it the same situation for your other characters as well?

Georgie’s look was pretty much there, it was just to do with the shininess. So it became flatter, and it was to do with not the perfect top hat, but the battered one, the more amorphous one. And the way that he appeared on screen. So it was all of that, and it was a good for everyone. And that brought about things with the way they might film Bill Smoke as well. All of the characters have a link, so there’s the soul’s link that may be in the way that they’re shot or how they might appear. When Bill Smoke appears and kills Sixsmith he appears in the back of frame dropping down and then he’s not there anymore. And then Sixsmith turns and there’s no one there behind the thing. And then Sixsmith…and then BANG! So that’s like Georgie – the way that Tom shot that echoed Georgie. It sort of echoes all the way through.
END OF SPOILERS
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