It’s All Too Much! Hugo News Overload! Part Two: Cloud Atlas, The Hobbit

Note: This is an archived entry that’s over two years old. While I have ensured that all photos are restored, some links may no longer work. If you encounter any dead links, let me know and I’ll try to find a copy of the material.

Peter Jackson’s latest Hobbit Production Video debuted yesterday as I was literally on the verge of heading out the door to drive to New York for Uncle Vanya. I told myself I really should save it for later and get going. Then I watched it anyway. 😉 No new Elrond footage, alas, but it’s still fascinating, with new glimpses of most of the other main characters, including our first good looks at Thranduil (Lee Pace), Radagast (Sylvester McCoy), Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt), the Great Goblin (Dame Ed– uh– Barry Humphries) and a tiny glimpse of Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), a gaggle of new sets, more hijinks with Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Orlando Bloom, Martin Freeman and the actors playing the Dwarves, a bit of Cate Blanchett, and some Comic Con footage. No, we don’t get to see any of the finished footage the Comic Con attendees were treated to.  Not yet. 😉 I’m always impressed with the scale and sense of cameraderie (and, doubtless, hours upon days of hard, hard work by countless behind-the-scenes craftsmen) portrayed in these videos. They really make you eager for the film without giving very much away. (Jackson also promises further Behind the Scenes glimpses of post-production… I knew Hugo was unlikely to figure in Video 8 because he wasn’t on set as initial shooting wrapped, but he did return to New Zealand for Post Production work last month. So… Video 9 might have some interesting highlights.) 😉

Hot on the heels of the new Production Video came word that yes, the rumors are actually true: PJ is looking to expand The Hobbit (and supplemental Tolkien material linking it with Lord of the Rings) into a third film. MovieWeb has a Comic Con clip of Jackson hinting that negotiations with Warner Bros are underway… though it should be noted he also said at the time that any additional footage might become Expanded Editions instead.  Now the Los Angeles Times reports “… Jackson has concluded that there is enough material from the book, as well as the extensive appendixes to The Lord of the Rings, to make a third film, according to three people who were not authorized to speak publicly. New Line Cinema, the Warner Bros. unit overseeing production of the movies, is eager to see it happen, and talks are underway with actors and others who would need to sign off on the plan.” Thorny rights issues might rear their heads as they did in the complicated path getting The Hobbit to the screen in the first place. But the studio and director are apparently trying to make it happen. So we’ll have to wait and see how that pans out. The Hobbit itself probably doesn’t have enough material for three films, but the complex mythology of Middle Earth created by Tolkien (even extending to footnotes and appendices in LOTR) certainly does. Hugo has confirmed he’s in both of the planned films. Would he be up for a third? 😉

About the same time all these stories were unfolding, Entertainment Weekly debuted the first two production stills of Cloud Atlas, promising many more by the end of he day. (Of course, I’ll update as soon as those become available.) For a film scheduled to premiere next month at the Toronto International Film Festival and open worldwide in October, we’ve seen intriguingly little of the ambitious project Hugo Weaving called “a dangerous adventure”. (For more articles about the Toronto Film Festival, which runs September 6-16, go to Sound on Sight, IndieWire, or We Are Movie Geeks. Hugo has mentioned he’s eager to do press for the film when it comes out, so he might very well be on hand.)

The first two images already show a major deviation from David Mitchell’s source novel in that Tom Hanks has been cast as Zachry in the most bleak, futuristic of the six stories, Sloosha’s Crossin’ and Everythin’ After. In the novel, Zachry was a 16 year old tribal boy when he met the more-advanced Meronym (played in the film by Halle Berry) and embarked on a few “dangerous adventures” with her. I’d always assumed Hanks would play the older Zachry, who unfolds the story years after the fact, but I guess they’re streamlining things.

Tom Hanks as Zachry, Halle Berry as Meronym Source: Entertainment Weekly

The second still shows Ben Whishaw’s Robert Frobisher working on a composition with Jim Broadbent’s Vyvyan Ayrs, in the Letters From Zedelghem story, set in 1931. (I should note that the casting of Berry, Broadbent and Whishaw in these roles– and their appearances in the pics– are a spot-on realization of the novel’s descriptions, so it would be unfair to suggest anything is going off the rails.)

Jim Broadbent as Vyvyan Ayrs, Ben Whishaw as Frobisher

We’ll have to see if Hugo’s charismatically homicidal Bill Smoke (or his Nurse Ratched-y Nurse Noakes… or any of his other four ne’er do wells) turn up in the stills EW is holding back. It goes without saying that any of my speculation (or anyone else’s) based on the novel might be completely misguided or premature, because adaptations by their nature tend to alter the source material– often radically. I remember before V for Vendetta came out, a bunch of us who’d read the graphic novel were wondering who’d be cast as Rosemary Almond, a very important character in the book. If you’ve only seen the film, you have no idea who she is. 😉 But one is allowed to love both versions, and I do. I enjoyed Cloud Atlas, the novel, but found it a bit pleased with itself and not as profound as it might think in certain ways too. Have the people who think those of us who discuss the novel are “bragging”– just because we’ve read a 600 page book with multiple plot strands– actually read it? It’s not like reading Chaucer in the original Middle English, folks. It’s not Tree of Life meets The Original, Russian Solaris. It’s very plot-driven with universal themes and easily-identified-with characters, humor and action. It has elements of scifi, high seas adventure, sex romp, conspiracy thriller and postapocalytpic tale– all of these very commercial genres. I wouldn’t mind seeing it tweaked, streamlined and played with. I hope they’ve done a good job and taken some risks,  not, as one critic said in describing a particularly arid, reverential adaptation “curated the film rather than directing it.”

OK, EW has added the new Cloud Atlas images to its original post in slideshow format. Go here for the full batch.  Yeah, we got some Bill Smoke. 😉 Some images in the slideshow look like perfect realizations of scenes from the novel (the Sonmi scenes– set in a futuristic, corporate-totalitarian Korea– look particularly fantastic), others have me scratching my head asking “What the hell is THAT?!” (in a good way.) Will try to isolate some Hugo for you…

Hugo Weaving as Bill Smoke in Cloud Atlas. Photo source: EW

I thought momentarily that the heavily-prostheticed fellow on the left (with a promisingly sleazy Hugh Grant) might be Hugo, but this is clearly the Luisa Rey storyline, and Hugo is already playing Bill Smoke in that. Unless they’re really making things complicated… 😉 So they’re still keeping most of Hugo’s characters under wraps for now. There’s also a new Cloud Atlas Facebook page up and running, though so far the only the on it is this EW story.  I was only the seventh person to like the Facebook page. Pretty cool. As are those images I can’t place in the novel which look like scenes from a particularly deranged Alice in Wonderland adaptation. 😉 If you’d like to see the all stills separated from the slideshow format, go to

Finally, a little note about Hugo’s next project to film, the indie neo-western Mystery Road, costarring Ryan Kwanten, Jack Thompson and Aaron Pedersen, and written and directed by Ivan Sen: filming has wrapped at the Winton location in Queensland, according to ABC/Yahoo 7, so Hugo was apparently not needed for those scenes. He’ll have a busy August working on that project, then possibly a visit to Canada sometime in September… then there’s some tiny independent project opening in Wellington, NZ in November. 😉  

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