The film consists of six interrelated and interwoven stories spanning different time periods: an 1849 diary of an ocean voyage across the Pacific; letters from a composer to his friend in the 1930s; a thriller about a murder at a nuclear power plant set in the 1970s; a farce about a publisher in a nursing home in the present day; a rebellious clone in a futuristic Korea; and the tale of a tribe living in a post-apocalyptical Hawaii, far in the future.
Most of the lead and supporting actors played more than one character, changing age, race and gender as well as time period.
Xun Zhou played the Yoona-939, a clone in a dystopian future Korea, and Rose, a member of a tribe in a post-apocalyptical Hawaii, as well as Talbot, an hotel employee, in the 1930s.
Susan Sarandon said:
I have very small parts, but many genders of varying looks and ages and everybody else does too. Everyone was trans-everything, all over the place. I was a little nervous.
I was a little nervous about some of the things I had to do, and then everyone was being so brave, bouncing from one set to the other and one pair of contact lenses to the other, noses and whatever, so I just went for it.
He [Yusouf Suleiman] is Indian, dark-skinned, dressed like Cornell West and I have little glasses, a little bit of a belly. I’ve got to tell you, it was more unsettling than I had anticipated. I know there is some disease where you don't recognize yourself when you see it, and you really do not know it’s me, because I have darker contacts on, a few different pieces, a few different hairline. It’s pretty amazing, actually. I don’t even think you hear me speak because it's something that's in a newsreel.
Jeremy Woodhead & Daniel Parker were the hair makeup designers; Kuno Schlegelmilch was credited for makeup concept; Siân Richards was Halle Berry’s personal makeup artist. An army of makeup effects artists & studios worked on sculpting, making & applying the various character prosthetics in the movie including: Filmefex, Animated Extras, Valentina Visintin, Barney Nikolic, Göran Lundström of (EffektStudion), Creatures Inc, Floris Schuller, Pepe Mora …
One artist was offered work on the movie by three different FX companies in different countries.
The tattoos were Tinsley transfers.