Editor’s note: In Issue 99 of Make-Up Artist magazine, Joe Nazzaro takes a look at the centuries-spanning movie Cloud Atlas. Below is an excerpt and an exclusive online guide to the stand-out make-ups.
Everything is connected, or so the makers of Cloud Atlas believe. Filmmakers Andy and Lana Wachowski (The Matrix) and Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) have adapted author David Mitchell’s sextet of time-spanning tales into a big screen sci-fi/fantasy epic in which a group of disparate souls find their destinies intertwined over the course of several centuries.
The film features an all-star cast including Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Jim Sturgess, Susan Sarandon, Hugo Weaving, Jim Broadbent, Ben Whishaw and James D’Arcy, each playing several wildly different characters over the course of six stories.
To tackle this complex material, the Wachowskis helmed one separate filming unit and Tykwer handled the other. The shoot also necessitated two make-up designer-department heads: Daniel Parker working with the Tykwer unit and Jeremy Woodhead overseeing the Wachowski unit. The only crossover was Berry’s personal make-up artist, Siân Richards, who accompanied the actress across both units.
Below is your cheat sheet to the intersecting stories in the film.
‘The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing.’ (Pacific Ocean, 1850s). Adam Ewing (Sturgess), a shipwrecked American, befriends Dr. Henry Goose (Hanks) and learns about the enslavement of the Moriori tribe while awaiting repairs to his ship.
Woodhead: “That story was relatively straightforward, because there was a lot of reference for the period, but because the actors would be playing other characters down the line, we had to give them unique features but that still fitted within the period. With Tom Hanks (at left), for example, we fattened him up, put a bald cap on him, gave him a sandy wig, whiskers, a flat nose and chin. Susan Sarandon was wigged with a false nose, Hugo Weaving had a wig and muttonchops and Hugh Grant is wigged with a beard; all little devices to make them different from the characters you see later in the film.”
‘Letters from Zedelghem.’ (Belgium, 1931). Debt-ridden English musician Robert Frobisher (Whishaw) finds work with dying composer Vyvyan Ayrs (Broadbent).
Parker: “Jim Broadbent plays a musician/composer who is basically very disheveled, and as he becomes smarter, his character really develops make-up-wise, so there are a lot of changes to his hair and facial hair. The beard starts off very messy and becomes tidier, so there is a lot of moving backwards and forwards. And we turn Halle into a young Jewish woman (at right), so we changed her skin color and gave her a beautiful blonde wig, so that was interesting.
“Tom Hanks plays a hotel manager who’s bald, with an unpleasant little moustache. And Hugh Grant plays the concierge, so I gave him a nose, beard, wig and a new forehead. All he does is knock on a door and say, ‘Excuse me, are you in there?’ and that’s his entire piece in that part of the film. You also see Jim Sturgess for a split second as a disheveled artist coming down the stairs of the hotel. They said, ‘Quick, we need a make-up for Jim!’ so we put a quick nose and wig on him and came up with a new character.”
‘Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery’ (California, 1975). Journalist Luisa Rey (Berry) investigates reports that a local nuclear plant may be unsafe.
Parker: “Tom Hanks plays a character who falls in love with Luisa Rey. We had [Korean actress] Doona Bae playing a Mexican, and I turned Xun Zhou into a young man, which was an interesting job to do. Jim Broadbent plays a hippie in a bookshop, and there’s a bookseller played by Ben Whishaw, who’s also a hippie, so there are lots of noses, wigs, facial hair; the story is full of that stuff.
“We also have James D’Arcy (at left) playing the same character from the 1930s [Rufus Sixsmith], but several decades on. He’s in his sixties now, so that was a full old-age prosthetic and one of my favorite make-ups from the film.”
‘The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish’ (UK, 21st century). Fleeing the brothers of a thuggish client, Captain Timothy Cavendish (Broadbent) finds himself trapped in a high-security nursing home.
Parker: “It’s probably the most lighthearted story of all of them. We had to turn Ben Whishaw into the wife of Hugh Grant, who was playing the older brother of Captain Cavendish, so Hugh was in a full old-age prosthetic to look older than Jim Broadbent. I also had to turn Hugo Weaving into Nurse Noakes, which was an interesting opportunity. The bone structure’s subtly different from a woman’s, but if you don’t change it, the character will look like a man in drag, so that was interesting.”
‘An Orison of Sonmi-451’ (Korea, dystopian future). A genetically-engineered “fabricant” (Doona Bae) rebels against the totalitarian society that has exploited her race.
Woodhead: “The big challenge was turning our Caucasian actors into Asian characters, including Jim Sturgess, who has a small-featured English look. We used three pieces on Jim, including a forehead piece that changed his hairline and took away his eyebrows; and two eyelids.
“We also used quite a lot of implants, like little chips inserted into the skin. They were little Pro Bondo pieces I had sculpted, so you just press the mold to the skin, and you’re left with little subcutaneous patterns of wiring and transmitters and that sort of thing.
“Hugo Weaving (at left) also appears in that story as an Asian. Hugh Grant is the villain, with Asian eyes and a black wig, and James D’Arcy plays another Asian character in it.”
‘Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin’ After’ (Hawaii, post-apocalyptic future). Following the fall of humanity, Zachry (Hanks), a primitive tribesman, is visited by Meronym (Berry), a member of a technologically advanced civilization.
Woodhead: “This story bookends the film, so there was a lot to do, including an old Tom Hanks and Halle Berry we see at the end. The young Tom has a beard, and we used little fillers to bring his hairline down and give him a bit more strength in his forehead, while the old Tom was a six-piece silicone make-up.
“The tribal tattoo motifs were much more technologically based; things like wiring and circuit boards that I translated into tattoos that have a futuristic framework to them.
“We’ve also got Hugh Grant (below) as the cannibal chief; Susan Sarandon as a mystic abbess with a full face of tattoos; and Hugo Weaving as old Georgie, who’s like the devil on Zachry’s shoulder, so only Tom can see him.”
For more on Cloud Atlas, pick up a print or digital copy of Issue 99 of Make-Up Artist magazine.