An excerpt from Aleksandar Hemon‘s “Beyond The Matrix,” a 9.10 New Yorker piece about Cloud Atlas: “It was on the day before they left Costa Rica that the Wachowski brothers and Tom Tykwer had a breakthrough” about how to write the script of David Mitchell‘s ‘Cloud Atlas‘. “They could convey the idea of eternal recurrence, which was so central to the novel, by having the same actors appear in multiple story lines — ‘playing souls, not characters,’ in Tykwer’s words.

“This would allow the narrative currents of the book to merge and to be separate at the same time. On the flight home, Lana and Andy carried the stack of rubber-banded cards they would soon convert into the first draft of the screenplay, which they then sent to Tykwer. The back-and-forth between the three filmmakers continued, the viability of their collaboration still not fully confirmed.

“By August, the trio had a completed draft to send to Mitchell. The Wachowskis had had a difficult experience adapting V for Vendetta, from a comic book whose author, Alan Moore, hated the very idea of Hollywood adaptation and berated the project publicly. ‘We decided in Costa Rica that — as hard and as long as it might take to write this script — if David didn’t like it, we were just going to kill the project,’ Lana said.

“Mitchell, who lives in the southwest of Ireland, agreed to meet the filmmakers in Cork. In ‘a seaside hotel right out of Fawlty Towers,’ as Lana described it, they recounted for the author the painstaking process of disassembling the novel and reassembling it into the script he’d read. ‘It’s become a bit of a joke that they know my book much more intimately than I do,’ Mitchell wrote to me. They explained their plan to unify the narratives by having actors play transmigrating souls.

“‘This could be one of those movies that are better than the book!” Mitchell exclaimed at the end of the pitch. The pact was sealed with pints of Murphy’s stout at a local pub.”