James D’Arcy Interview
James D’Arcy Interview
James D’Arcy, one of the actors taking on many roles and characters in the complex and breathtaking centuries-spanning fantasy drama Cloud Atlas, chats to View about working with three visionary directors at once, the amazing co-stars he worked with on this spectacular film, and what a magnificent collection of tales are woven in this cinematic event.
What's the film about and who do you play?

James D’Arcy

Very difficult to describe in a sentence. The tagline on the poster is 'Everything is connected', and that's not a bad one-sentence description. There are six different stories told in six different times, with an enormous and extraordinary cast - Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Hugo Weaving, Susan Sarandon - it goes on and on and on and on. And everybody's playing multiple roles, and we have three directors - The Wachowskis, and Tom Tykwer. They've adapted a book that everybody said was unadaptable, and I hope, I feel, like they've created something that's a beautiful piece of art.
How did the project come about for you?

James D’Arcy

Actually, very very quickly. I heard a little something about it from my agent, it moved really fast, in less than a week actually they cast me in it. In fact it happened so fast that I didn't even read the full script before they had offered me the role. But I had, by chance, already read the book, so I did know what I was dealing with. But of course in the film, they've changed the structure from the way that it's structured in the book, that bit I didn't realise.
Did you know going in that you were going to play multiple parts? I assume they cast you as Sixsmith primarily?

James D’Arcy

No, no, and the Archivist. Sixsmith and the Archivist were all part of the deal. I then went and played a cameo male nurse in one of the stories which they added in later, but the other roles all came as one.
The book doesn't have the sense of those characters recurring, does it?

James D’Arcy

Well, the book has this idea of reincarnation, insofar as there's the comet birthmark that goes as a motif through the book. I don't know how they would have put forward the idea of other characters reincarnating in a novel format. So I suppose no, that is something of an invention of the filmmakers.
You mentioned you'd read the book beforehand...?

James D’Arcy

Yeah, I had. Not because I thought there was a film in it, but someone had said, 'You've got to read this book, it's crazy, it's wonderful'.
So was that part of you wanting to go for it in the first place, because you'd responded to the book already?

James D’Arcy

There was nothing not to want to audition for it for, I knew that the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer were directing it simultaneously, and you're immediately intrigued because it's not like any project you've ever heard of, already. Having read the book, I thought, 'Well I want to read that script because I don't know how they could do it', you know. And then when I did, I thought it was maybe the most beautiful script I've ever read.
Since you mention the different directors - how did that work on set, what was that like? I'm assuming you worked with both?

James D’Arcy

I did. Tom [Tykwer] directed three stories, and Andy and Lana [Wachowski] directed three stories. I worked primarily with Tom, then the Archivist character was shot by Andy and Lana. And because it's also in one room you had to do it relatively quickly. But you always felt the influence of the other director, whichever set you were on. You never felt like you were just with Tom, or just with the Wachowskis. In fact, one of the days I was with the Wachowskis, Tom Tykwer finished early, so he came over to our set and the three of them continued to direct the scene.
I was going to ask you, how much crossover was there between the two?

James D’Arcy

There wasn't a lot of crossover because the two units were shooting simultaneously. But communication? They were so in tune with each other. They had to be because of the way the film is cut together. Tom would say, 'I'm going to finish on this lens, on this kind of sized shot', and then would explain what the shot would cut to. But he wouldn't shoot the shot he was talking about, Andy and Lana would shoot that. So they absolutely had to know what each other was doing.
So, heavily storyboarded then?

James D’Arcy

Except I never saw a storyboard. Obviously they must have, but I didn't ever see it.
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Content updated: 23/04/2019 09:05

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