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How Halle Berry went from a Jewish woman to an Asian man and more in 'Cloud Atlas' -- EXCLUSIVE


Image Credit: Reiner Bajo

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Halle as Dr. Ovid

More than any other part of the film, Berry is just plain unrecognizable as older Korean man Dr. Ovid, who removes the neck shackle from a conscripted clone worker played by Korean actress Doona Bae in Neo Seoul. Berry especially loved playing the role, but hated Dr. Ovid’s teeth, which she called “just horrific” (“Like one of my greatest fears is that my teeth are going to fall out, or I’m going to have to get fake teeth, or implants, or veneers,” she moaned).

Dr. Ovid’s spotted, aged male skin and patchy black facial hair obviously look nothing like Berry. The part was filmed later than the others, Woodhead said, so there wasn’t time for a makeup test, which was incredibly nerve-wracking. It would take six hours to layer on all the prosthetics, and do Berry’s coloring.

“We really pushed the boat out, and it didn’t need to look like Halle. She was made to look like a man, about 80-years-old,” said Woodhead. “It’s quite an extreme makeup. It’s a multi piece prosthetic with hair, and I wanted it to have a motorized eyepiece built into the prosthetic. She just sat in the chair and giggled. The more of Halle we took away, the more she loved it. It transformed a beautiful young woman like Halle into an older Korean man.”

Berry wore a green smock and pants, and a rubbery white apron, all feeding into Dr. Ovid’s backstory of working within a political resistance setting, maybe in an old veterinary repurposed office, said Barrett. “He’s probably a vet by day. His underground job is this,” she said. “If he’s splayed with blood, he can run back upstairs to his job.”

The makeup, the prosthetics, the clothes, also helped Berry wipe clean the way she as a woman acted and moved, the way she thought about herself. She also worked with a dialect coach to lower the register of her voice and adopt a Korean accent, even though she spoke English as Dr. Ovid.

“Just being a man, there was a certain different carriage to my body, a different gate I walked with. Even though I didn’t walk in the movie, I had it all figured out,” Berry said. “I just tried to get in touch with the masculinity within me, and try to bring that forward. Men have that too [femininity]. We’re all masculine and feminine.”

Halle as Meronym

As almost angelic emissary Meronym, playing opposite Tom Hanks as primitive tattooed leader Zachry, Berry moved around in skintight white and wires looping through her hair and face, despite her broken foot. Still, she spent a lot of time constructing her character to appear almost supernatural.

“The way it was explained to me by Tom and Lana and Andy was that there was this regal-ness about this woman, and she had to feel otherworldly,” Berry said. “It was trying to find the balance of being this high priestess, but making her powerful and real and palpable.”

To emphasize Meronym’s sophisticated status next to Hanks, the difference between them, their cultures, Woodhead wanted to show through prosthetics a modernized evolution of the way humans communicate. The segment’s time period is devoid of cell phones.

“All the stuff on Halle’s face are under the skin communication devices. The Meronym level of implant is an evolution from the Neo Seoul story,” said Woodhead. “With her hair, there are metallic wires that run through it, connected to dispatching information and communication. I had a whole library of shapes and wires and motifs made and molded for me.” But Berry still looked lovely, like herself, Woodhead said.

Barrett extended the wires and implants makeup concept into Berry’s costume, with little transmitter-like devices woven into the body suit to suggest being able to track Meronym’s heartbeat and respiration. Barrett philosophized a whole reasoning for the outfit, which was made of a stretch kind of pleather material, and made tightly over Berry’s own body form.

“When it’s cold, the fibers would contract to keep you warmer, and if it’s warm, they could open up to keep you cooler. It would be an evolution from now,” said Barrett. “And it’s also a sun repellant, and the sun is killing them [Meronym’s people the Prescients], so white is better than black. The perforations in the jacket are the same as Zachry’s tattoos.”

As for Berry’s broken foot? The costume was custom made to accommodate.

“We had to make a special body suit that zipped from the ankle to the thigh, so she could fit her cast underneath,” said Barrett. “She really was a trooper, since she had to wriggle into it. … She had to be carried up a hill by two burly guys.”

For more film news

Read more:
Movie Talk with Owen & Lisa: ‘Cloud Atlas’ ‘wants to be a mind-bender’
‘Cloud Atlas': The biggest changes from the book to the movie
Toronto Film Festival: ‘Cloud Atlas’ premiere lands an emotional standing ovation for cast, including Halle Berry, Tom Hanks

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