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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I do also want to ask: some people have found Cloud Atlas to be controversial in that it has white actors portraying Asian characters. Basically, claims of ‘yellowface.” There have been some people that have attacked the film for that aspect and I’m curious what you make of it.

Again, it’s not just a silly, flashy idea – it springs out of this very central, simple idea in the material, in the book: whatever the wrapping you have around you, whether it be European, Asian, male, female, whatever age you are, whatever time you live in, there’s an essential humanity that lies underneath all of that. And having actors play… I’m playing a Korean, my character. Doona [Bae], who is Korean, plays a Mexican. So it’s not just “yellowface.” Keith David is playing cross cultural. I’m playing a woman. Halle [Berry] is playing a Jewish woman. This wasn’t happening…it wasn’t one way traffic, it was traffic going all over the place. You have more of an argument for saying, “Hey, there’s all these roles that are being stolen from other actors! What’s going on here?” If you stick to the way the world should be then things don’t change. So everything in this film, the structure of it, the way in which it cast, the way it’s being brought about, and the way which we did it and the way in which we jumped into it with that spirit is because that is fundamental to the ideas of the material, and it’s not some kind of flashy game that’s just being thought up to make money. On the contrary, it’s absolutely not that. So any argument about that is quite easily countered, really. I just don’t buy it. I think it’s silly nonsense.

Because I’m just a huge nerd, I do really want to ask about the future of Red Skull in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Do you know where the Cosmic Cube sent him at the end of the Captain America movie? Also, do you have the same kind of multi-picture contract that the other actors do?

I think, yeah. I think anyone who signs up for Marvel probably would be obliged to sign a certain deal for three or four pictures or whatever, or more, actually, in some of those cases. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to come to fruition. There hasn’t been a Captain America 2 yet, and anyway if there was you would probably introduce another villain. So I didn’t think I’d be in another Cap America movie. The only thing – the possibility you might want to bring Red Skull back into an Avengers thing. That’s also tied in.

But to be honest, I don’t know that I’d want to go back there. I had a good time and it was a good thing to do. I was really thrilled that I did it. I loved working with Joe [Johnston] again, it was great to meet a lot of those actors…it was kind of a different experience for me being in that world, to play…and he’s a villain. I don’t describe many characters like that, but this is like an uber-villain. This guy thinks Hitler’s a pussy [laughs]. He’s a villain. So that’s why I did it, I was like “Let’s try this.” To play a role like that, that’s fun.

And what happens to him at the end of the film…I always said that the interesting thing about Red Skull for me was not the bombing of America. He’s not interested in that! He’s interested in the cube – he’s interested in the cosmic cube. He’s interested in being one with the gods. He wants to be up there and he’s saying to Cap, [in German accent] “Come on! You’re pretty cool! Come on, man! We’re better than this! We can go up here!” So that’s what interested me. He’d probably be in Valhalla – that’s where he wants to be. But who knows!
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