"Cloud Atlas" premiered in Beijing, China on Monday night, but not before "almost 30 minutes" were cut from the film's 172-minute running time without the producers' knowledge.
"We were unaware that our Chinese partners, Dreams of Dragon Pictures, had cut almost 30 minutes from the film," producers Grant Hill and Philip Lee told TheWrap in a statement on Wednesday. "We did know that, as with other countries, there were likely to be censorship trims and we trusted them to protect the integrity of the filmmaker’s creativity and vision."
Dreams of Dragon Pictures, the Chinese distributor that poured $10 million into the independent science fiction movie's $102 million budget, told China.org.cn that those censorship trims included several explicit scenes containing sex and violence. The company admitted cuts were also made to tailor the film to interests in the foreign market, however, it's not exactly clear what content was omitted.
And whether or not the re-edit actually protected the filmmaker's integrity and vision, is another question. Hill and Lee say they have "not seen the edited version," while Lana Wachowski told reporters at the premiere, "It sucks really, but I believe you can watch the full version online."
Lana, who co-wrote and co-directed "Cloud Atlas" with her brother Andy Wachowski and German filmmaker Tom Tykwer ("Run Lola Run"), may be referencing the piracy problem running rampant in China.
Regardless of piracy concerns or unwanted cuts, Hill and Lee are excited to see how the big-screen adaptation of David Mitchell's 2004 novel performs in Chinese theaters once released on Jan. 31 and wish their foreign partner well.
"We have been excited by the overwhelmingly positive reaction to the film by the local media and public during the promotional visit and premiere here to Beijing this week," their statement continued. "And we wish Dreams of Dragons every success as it builds on the successful international rollout to date”.
"Cloud Atlas" — an ambitious adventure that simultaneously tells multiple stories throughout the past, present and future in order to explore how individuals' actions affect others — stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw and Xun Zhou, among others in multiple (and often unrecognizable) roles.
The film made just $27 million at the domestic box office before grossing to date $56 million internationally. However, producers hope it's $100 million budget can still be recouped in markets including China, Hong Kong, Japan, France, UK, Spain and Australia.