‘Cloud Atlas’: After the Sophia Stewart Affair, are the Wachowskis to be trusted?

Halle Berry and Tom Hanks headline the upcoming ‘Cloud Atlas’

If the recently released trailer for the Wachowskis’ new sci-fi epic Cloud Atlas is any indication, this film should be amazing. Check the synopsis:

An exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.

Like ‘The Matrix,’ this new flick seems to be a badly needed existential departure from so much culturally/racially myopic, narratively thin drivel that passes for cinema these days. (Indeed, the film is an adaptation of an ambitious, prize-winning 2004 novel of the same name.)

The cast includes a interesting mix of actors who boast solid character chops: Keith David (finally back where he belongs, on the big screen), Halle Berry (hopefully bringing her A game), Tom Hanks, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant (didn’t see that one coming, not mad at him for stretching his wings), Hugo Weaving (our fave Matrix villain).

Keith David in ‘Cloud Atlas’

There are also a couple of intriguing, bad-ass newcomers: Brit David Gyasi and Korean actress Doona Bae. Nice.

British actor David Gyasi

Korean actress Doona Bae

Halle Berry and Tom Hanks rock multiple characters in ‘Cloud Atlas.’

Apparently, many in the cast play multiple roles with the help of highly convincing prosthetics and make-up. The challenge of embodying characters of different genders, cultures and races across time and space must be an actor’s dream…kudos to the Wachowskis for imaginative interpretation. (Click here for more actor transformation photos from the film.)

But wait. What about the Sophia Stewart Affair?

The ghost of this bizarre story still hovers in the memories of many. Stewart is the African-American writer who claims that the Wachowskis stole the heart and soul of ‘The Matrix’ story from a script she submitted to them in 1986.

Sophia Stewart, the writer who accused the Wachowskis of stealing the idea for ‘The Matrix’ from one of her scripts

For some reason, Stewart’s David vs. Goliath claim resonates — perhaps Hollywood’s nefarious history when it comes to treating “little people” (not to mention black people of all sizes) fairly, for starters. However, the reality is that despite years of internet chatter, very little definitive information about Stewart’s copyright infringement lawsuit has emerged. Stewart reportedly claimed there was a media blackout (no pun intended) on the story, orchestrated by AOL Time Warner. Hmmmmmm….

One prominent Web version of events saw Stewart winning and receiving an eight-figure settlement. But according to the Los Angeles Times, her case was dismissed for lack of evidence in a pre-trial hearing at a Los Angeles U.S. federal court, which Stewart did not attend. (Apparently, Stewart is planning to file an appeal?) And despite it lacking that certain je-ne-sais-quoi that says “legit,” not to mention the kook potential, many (OK, yes, including yours truly) are still unsure of what to make of Stewart’s story.

So what now? Is the grey cloud that’s been hanging over the Wachowskis drifting away? Either way, they have clearly moved on. Way on. They’ve had a quiet (but obviously busy) couple of years, which for one of them included a huge personal transformation. And this movie looks like it could be truly great.

Like most things in life, time will tell.