Pictured above: Cloud Atlas – Young Rufus Sixsmith (James D’Arcy) and Robert Frobisher (Ben Whishaw) ©2012 Warner Bros
In the new sci fi movie Cloud Atlas, which spotlights reincarnation, spanning 500 years, Ben Whishaw portrays composer Robert Frobisher in 1936, a cabin boy in 1849, a store clerk in 1973, a young and unfaithful wife named Georgette in 2012 and a Tribesman in 2144. James D’Arcy plays Rufus Sixsmith, the lover of Robert Frobisher in 1936 who reappears as an old man in 1973, Nurse James in 2012 and an Archivist in 2144.
Needless to say, this is a very unusual film, written and directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski (The Matrix trilogy) and Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run), and both Ben Whishaw and James D’Arcy were eager to talk about it.
Do you have a favorite character you played in this?
Ben: I guess I liked the character I had the deepest opportunity to engage with, which was the composer, Robert Frobisher.
But I felt like my work on this film was different than other films, because everyone had to be very selfless. You were playing big roles, sometimes little cameos, sometimes you were basically an extra. And every one of those was important and collectively was your contribution to the film.
So they all feel equally important, and I liked them all actually.
James: Yeah, there’s that phrase, ‘There are no small parts, only small actors.’ The idea that there are no small parts became absolute in this film. There were no small parts, you just felt you contributed to the overall movie as best you could.
What impact did it have on you as an actor when you looked in the mirror and you couldn’t recognize yourself anymore?
James: As the older man the only bit of me that was me was my nose, and I would occasionally have to touch it to remind myself that I was there. I couldn’t remember what I looked like anymore.
Ben, you managed to appear in every era, was that important to you?
Ben: [Yes], I wanted to try and be in seven stories. I wanted to be in one story twice, but they wouldn’t let me.
Do you believe in reincarnation?
Ben: I do feel there’s an awful lot that we don’t understand and can’t understand and I love the fact that this movie confronts us with these unknown and unknowable things about life. I think that’s very precious to remember.
So much in life is mysterious. I like feeling that about life, it’s great when you get those sensations of, ‘Wow, that’s just weird.’
James: Yeah, I agree, the film insists that you just let go, and I think life does that as well. Just when you think something is absolutely solid, life is almost guaranteed to throw you a curve ball, and it isn’t solid.
The reality is this planet that we live on won’t exist in 5 billion years time. There’s nothing that’s here forever. We’re here for no time at all, so the idea that I can make [everything] absolute is ludicrous, and I like that the film says the same thing.
I said to somebody once, ‘I’m sure everything happens for a reason,’ and this guy answered, ‘No, everything happens for all reasons.’ I’ve been thinking about that for the last five years!
Ben Whishaw was asked about his upcoming West End stage appearance with Judi Dench – click below to listen to his answer… with a little help from James D’Arcy.
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