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Acclaimed Asian Actresses Make English-Language Film Debuts in ‘Cloud Atlas’

Donna Bae (center) as Sonmi-451 and Zhu Zhu (right) as 12th Star Clone in “Cloud Atlas.” (Warner Bros.)

NEW YORK — Korean film star Doona Bae and Chinese film star Xun Zhou will make their English-language film debuts in the epic “Cloud Atlas,” opening nationwide on Oct. 26.

Based on the best-selling novel by David Mitchell, the film tells a single story that unfolds in multiple timelines over the span of 500 years. Written and directed by Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer and Andy Wachowski, the film stars Academy Award winners Tom Hanks (“Philadelphia,” “Forrest Gump”) and Halle Berry (“Monster’s Ball”), leading an international cast that also includes Oscar winner Jim Broadbent (“Iris”), Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw, James D’Arcy, Keith David and David Gyasi, with Oscar winner Susan Sarandon (“Dead Man Walking”) and Hugh Grant.

Each member of the ensemble appears in multiple roles as the story moves through time. Characters meet and reunite from one life to the next. As the consequences of their actions and choices impact one another through the past, the present and the distant future, one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and a single act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution. Everything is connected.

Set in the past, the present and the future, and incorporating a range of genres, “Cloud Atlas” illustrates how events and decisions made by people in one period can reverberate in unexpected ways across time to touch the lives of others. It also explores questions about life and purpose that people have been contemplating since the beginning of human history.

It suggests that people continue their individual trajectories from one lifetime to another and that souls, reborn, renew their bonds with each other time and again. Mistakes can be rectified … or repeated. Freedom can be gained or lost, but forever sought. And always, love survives.

The film’s reincarnation theme is represented by the actors reappearing in one time period after another in different roles, providing a compelling visual through-line for the story. Tykwer explains, “As we discussed the ties between characters that occur over time, and the ways in which it sometimes appears that one person fulfills what another had begun hundreds of years earlier, we thought, ‘Why couldn’t it be the same actor following through?’ Why not cast the film based on the idea that each actor portrays not an individual role but several roles that, together, represent the evolution of a single being?”

When players return in successive lifetimes, they appear in a variety of ages and geographic locales, and often as different nationalities or genders.

Doona Bae has become a very familiar name in Korea in a short amount of time and is widely critically acclaimed for her film and television work. She was honored with a Best New Actress Blue Dragon Award for her role in “Barking Dogs Never Bite,” directed by Bong Joon-ho. Her other films include leading roles in “Take Care of My Cat,” directed by Jung Jae-un, and Park Chan-wook’s “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance,” which both garnered her several festival awards and the AKOFIC Best Actress Awards in 2001 and 2002. She also received a Director’s Cut Actress of the Year Award for her performance in “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” in 2002, and again in 2006 for Bong Koon-ho’s “The Host.”

Bae also played lead roles in the Japanese films “Linda, Linda, Linda,” directed by Nobuhiro Yamashita, and Koreeda Hirokazu’s “Air Doll.” For the latter, she was honored in 2010 as best actress at the Japanese Academy Awards, and in the same category at the Tokyo Sports Movie Awards, Takasaki Film Festival, and Japan Professional Film Awards.

Already famous as a model in the Korean fashion industry, Bae made her screen debut in the film “Ring” and subsequently played the lead in the Korean TV series “The School.”

Xun Zhou is one of Asia’s most admired actresses and the only Chinese actress to have won all the major Chinese-language film awards, including China’s Hundred Flowers Awards, the Hong Kong Film Awards and Hong Kong’s Golden Bauhinia Awards, Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards, and Asian Film Awards, among others. Her performances have made her a household name in greater China and earned her many accolades abroad.

She has performed in art-house classics such as “Suzhou River,” “The Little Chinese Seamstress” and “The Equation of Love & Death,” and such blockbuster hits as “Perhaps Love” with Takeshi Kaneshiro, Shakespeare’s “The Banquet,” starring Ziyi Zhang, “Painted Skin” with Donnie Yen, “The Message,” and “Confucius” with Chow Yun-Fat.

More recently, Zhou appeared alongside Michelle Yeoh in “True Legend” and recently completed filming on “The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate” with Jet Li and ”The Great Magician” with Tony Leung.

Zhou has become a champion for the environment and the Earth, pioneering “green living” in China. In 2008, she was appointed United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP) first national goodwill ambassador and initiated “Our Part,” an environmental awareness campaign to influence China’s youth. For her continued efforts, UNDP honored her with the Champions of the Earth Award in April 2010. She was the only female award winner of the year, and the first winner from the entertainment industry.

In 2011, Zhou was elected as one of the Young Global Leaders by World Economic Forum and spoke at the Summer Davos in Dalian, China.

For more information on “Cloud Atlas,” visit http://cloudatlas.warnerbros.com.

Xun Zhou as Rose and Tom Hanks as Zachry in “Cloud Atlas.” (Warner Bros.)

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