Tom Hanks' upcoming movie "Cloud Atlas" might be a little confusing for those who haven't read the book on which it's based. In the movie, actors play multiple races with varying accents and even different genders -- and they do it across eras past, present, and future.
Despite this, Hanks -- who called the screenplay a "page turner like 'Thornbirds' " -- thinks it will become self-explanatory as the film progresses, especially for careful observers.
"Even before the opening credits say 'Cloud Atlas,' " Hanks said, "Jim Broadbent as (the character) Timothy Cavendish explains the movie in one line. If you're hip to figure that out, you'll see it."
For those who miss that explanation, Hanks had one of his own ready: "I found it actually gave a language to the connections we all have with each other," he said. "What 'Cloud Atlas' is all about -- individual people have to make this decision between cruelty and kindness, someone has to go against a mindless version of the status quo, and it's this idea that great acts of kindness last forever and reverberate through eternity. It's another definition of human history."
But, said Hanks, some stories are more important than others to the larger narrative. Take presidential politics for example: Hanks takes the recent round of presidential debates with a grain of salt.
"You know what? The debates are just TV shows," he said. "Now, they carry a lot of weight because of all the stuff that goes on, but they're just TV shows. I don't think there's any new policy that comes out of them."
Hanks said it's "interesting to watch the ballyhoo" following a debate, especially regarding a candidate's choice of words, such as Mitt Romney's "women in binders" comment. "You know what? There are a lot of people who have binders full of women," Hanks joked. "Actually, I have a loose leaf notebook that has them in it."
But despite the discussion following a televised debate, Hanks doesn't think the actual debate is much of a factor in deciding the election. He cites the John Kerry-George W. Bush debates in 2004, in which Kerry would jump in the polls following a showdown with Bush, and yet Kerry ultimately lost the race.
So even if one candidate seems to dominate, and the other crumbles, it won't matter, Hanks said, "unless someone says something so incredibly dumb that you can't trust them after a while. But those guys aren't going to do that. They're both good at what they're doing. They've both got it. But I don't think anybody says anything that magically alters our concept of anything."
But, as Hanks well knows, anyone can say something "incredibly dumb" once in a while. Hanks, for example, did so on "Good Morning America" Friday.
Speaking in the voice of one of his "Cloud Atlas" characters, he accidentally swore on live television. But will it make anyone trust him less? Probably not, but it might encourage networks to use a seven-second delay while he's promoting the film -- an idea he suggested seconds after using the F-word.
"Man, oh man," Hanks apologized on "GMA." "I'm sorry, I slipped. ... I have never done that before. I would apologize to the kids in America that are watching right now. And let me say the next time I'm on the show, there will be a seven-second delay."