Keith David talks Cloud Atlas and The Last Fall
October 25, 2012
Coming out this week is Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski‘s epic film Cloud Atlas, which stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, James D’Arcy, Xun Zhou, Keith David, David Gyasi, Susan Sarandon and Hugh Grant playing multiple roles in different stories within the film.
Based on the book by David Mitchell, his third novel, a work of mind-bending imagination and scope. A reluctant voyager crossing the Pacific in 1850; a disinherited composer blagging a precarious livelihood in between-the-wars Belgium; a high-minded journalist in Governor Reagan’s California; a vanity publisher fleeing his gangland creditors; a genetically modified “dinery server” on death-row; and Zachry, a young Pacific Islander witnessing the nightfall of science and civilisation — the narrators of Cloud Atlas hear each other’s echoes down the corridor of history, and their destinies are changed in ways great and small.
Having appeared in countless films with numerous memorable roles, Keith David gets to play multiple characters which he hasn’t done since he was acting in the theater world long ago.
Can you describe the characters that you are playing?
Keith David: Well, the first character I play is Kupaka, who is a Maori slave back in the 1800s. When asked if he’s happy, he has an ironic sense of humor and says, “Of course, I’m very happy here.” I think you understand why he gives that reply. The second character I play and is the main character I have is Joe Napier. He works for The Man in the 1970s. He’s sort of like a Shaft character but like an older version who works for the Man and knows that the company he works for is not the most up and up; but he’s playing along. It’s a different form of slavery. Halle’s character then comes along and she’s an investigator reporter. She happens to be the daughter of a friend of Joe’s from Vietnam who saved his life. That gives him the opportunity in this lifetime to step up to the plate and he attempts to save her life, which also liberates his own self from the enslavement of being in that company and doing as you’re told and working for the man. And in the next character I play, I become the leader of the revolution. The movie is about the interconnection of souls and we’re all connected. If you don’t work it out in this life, you’ll work it in another.
What was the attraction to doing the film?
KD: Work. Somebody offered me a job. I like to work. The stellar cast was one of the reasons. It’s such few times you get to work with a cast like this. Everyone from the smallest role is part of this phenomenal cast, and some of them I have admired for a long time. To get a chance to work with them in one film was great.
Most of your scenes are with Halle Berry. How was working with her?
KD: I’ve known Halle for years. We’ve never worked together and this is our first time, but we would see each other at different events and we have mutual friends. It was glorious to work with her. She’s just a lovely woman and a sweet actress.
How was wearing many costumes on this film?
KD: That was fun. Of course, playing dress-up is great. It reminded me of my theater days, having to don different outfits to play different characters.
What did you pick up from working with Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski?
KD: The team of Lana and Andy and Tom Tykwer was seamless. They worked together magnificently. This is the third time that I worked with a team of directors. I’ve worked with the Farrelly brothers (There’s Something About Mary) and the Hughes Brothers (Dead Presidents), so I was familiar with that territory. These folks have wonderful communication amongst each other so it felt like one voice.
Where does this rank with the films you’ve done in the past? Would you call this a sci-fi film?
KD: I wouldn’t say this is a sci-fi film but in terms of the work and jobs I’ve done, this is a red letter in my memory and in my career. This is one of the most challenging parts I ever had to deal with and certainly one of the most rewarding in terms of the final product. To work with this wonderful cast and crew and to see the end result was stunning. As I mentioned before, this film is about the interconnection of souls. That’s my original line but describes what the film is about.
You also have another film coming out this week, Matthew Cherry’s The Last Fall. Can you talk about your work in that film?
KD: I had a wonderful time working on that film. Matthew Cherry is quite talented. I’m looking forward to big things from him. He’s a really good man. It’s a really great subject matter and something that was close to him. It was a great project to work.
What keeps you grounded?
KD: My family. My baby daughter is about to go to middle school and my son started his first year in college. There lies in another event.