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Tom Hanks, we love you, but do you have to star in 'Cloud Atlas'?

April 12, 2011 |  3:13 pm

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I got no complaints about Tom Hanks. None. He's had a strange yet adorable career, starting out playing a cross-dresser on a prime-time sitcom, made the leap to film with cute and sometimes lousy comedies, then somehow went on to win Oscars for his acting and produce quality television without ever shaking the reputation of being a decent guy.

Heck, when his local independent bookstore was about to go under in late 2008, he volunteered to come in for a signing session, autographing books and DVDs related to his movies, saving it with an influx of much-needed cash. Tom Hanks: a friend to his local indiestore. How can you not like the guy?

But: does he have to star in "Cloud Atlas"?

Hanks is set to star in the adaptation of "Cloud Atlas" by David Mitchell, playing Dr. Henry Goose. The novel, which has a surprising structure, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2004. It is, quite simply, an amazing book. It bounces back and forth through time from the 18th century to the future, jumping from character to character. It's smart, it's baffling, it's unexpected, it's beautiful.

All of Hanks' goodness notwithstanding, he's made a lot of movies that are intelligent but not baffling, everyman rather than peculiar. "Cloud Atlas" is full of peculiarities. 

It is also going to be very hard to adapt. It is a book that is highly written, with elegant sentences that change as the sections change, and a story that depends a lot on the feel of paging through the book itself.

It does seem like the team that will write and direct the adaptation is one of the few sets of people that might pull it off: Tom Tykwer, the writer-director of "Perfume" and "Run Lola Run," will co-direct with the "Matrix" series' Wachowski siblings, who now go by Andy and Lana.

Maybe they've cast Hanks against type. Or maybe they think "Cloud Atlas" needs a name anchor as big as him to offset more quirky casting to come.

I'm thinking they need someone with the right mix of canny intelligence and rakish charm to play composer Robert Frobisher. James Franco's not doing anything, is he?

RELATED:

Getting academic about David Mitchell

David Mitchell on the L.A. Times bestseller list

Bookstore of the week: Village Books

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson at the 2010 Emmy Awards. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

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