The Wachowskis

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Lana Wachowski
Wachowskis, Fantastic Fest, Cloud Atlas.jpg
Andy (left) and Lana Wachowski in September 2012, at the Fantastic Fest screening of Cloud Atlas.
Born Laurence Wachowski
(1965-06-21) June 21, 1965 (age 49)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Other names Larry Wachowski (1994–2010)[1]
Occupation Film and TV director, screenwriter, producer, comic book writer, video game director, video game writer
Years active 1994–
Spouse(s) Thea Bloom (m. October 30, 1993 – December 2002; divorced)[2]
Karin Winslow (2009–)[3][4]
Andy Wachowski
Born Andrew Paul Wachowski
(1967-12-29) December 29, 1967 (age 46)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Occupation Film and TV director, screenwriter, producer, comic book writer, video game director, video game writer
Years active 1994–
Spouse(s) Alisa Blasingame (1991–)

Lana Wachowski (formerly Laurence "Larry" Wachowski; born June 21, 1965) and Andrew Paul "Andy" Wachowski (born December 29, 1967), known together professionally as the Wachowskis and formerly as the Wachowski Brothers, are American film directors, screenwriters and producers.[5]

They made their directing debut in 1996 with Bound, and reached fame with their second film The Matrix (1999), for which they won the Saturn Award for Best Director. They wrote and directed its two sequels The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions (both in 2003), and were heavily involved in the writing and production of other works in the franchise.

Following the commercial success of the Matrix series, they wrote and produced the 2006 film V for Vendetta (an adaptation of the comic of the same name by Alan Moore), and in 2008 released the film Speed Racer, which was a live action adaptation of the Japanese anime series, Speed Racer. Their most recent film, Cloud Atlas, based on the novel of the same name by David Mitchell and co-written and co-directed by Tom Tykwer, was released on October 26, 2012. Their next film Jupiter Ascending and their television series Sense8 will debut in 2015.

Early life[edit]

Lana Wachowski was born Laurence Wachowski (known as "Larry") in Chicago in 1965. Andy Wachowski was born two years later in 1967. Their mother, Lynne (née Luckinbill), was a nurse and painter whose brother is actor Laurence Luckinbill. Their father, Ron Wachowski, was a businessman of Polish descent.[6][7] They have two sisters, Julie and Laura;[3][8] Julie was credited as assistant coordinator in the Wachowskis' film Bound,[9] and is a novelist and screenwriter.[10]

Lana and Andy attended Kellogg Elementary School in Chicago's Beverly area, and graduated from Whitney Young High School, known for its performing arts and science curriculum, in 1983 and 1985, respectively.[11] Former students recall them playing Dungeons & Dragons and working in the school's theater and TV program.[11] Andy then attended Emerson College in Boston, while Lana went to Bard College in New York. Both dropped out before graduating and ran a house-painting and construction business in Chicago while writing for Marvel Comics.[11]

Directors that influenced the pair include Alfred Hitchcock, John Huston, Billy Wilder, Roman Polanski, Francis Ford Coppola, Roger Corman, the Coen brothers, John Woo, Akira Kurosawa, Mamoru Oshii, Ridley Scott, George Lucas, Fritz Lang, and Stanley Kubrick.[3][12][13] Other reported influences have been writers Hermann Hesse, Homer and Fyodor Dostoyevsky and philosophers Cornel West and Ken Wilber.[14][15]

Career[edit]

Early work[edit]

Prior to working in the film industry, the Wachowskis wrote comic books for Marvel Comics' Razorline imprint, namely Ectokid (created by horror novelist Clive Barker) in 1993 as well as writing for Epic Comics' Clive Barker's Hellraiser and Clive Barker's Nightbreed comic series.

In the mid-1990s they branched out into film writing, creating the script for Assassins in 1994. Warner Brothers bought the script and included two more pictures in contract.[16] Assassins was "totally rewritten" by Brian Helgeland[17] and the Wachowskis tried unsuccessfully to remove their names from the film.[3] They then moved on to their next project, the neo-noir thriller Bound, their debut as directors. The film was well received for its style and craft,[18] and was noted as one of the first mainstream films to prominently feature a homosexual relationship without it being central to the plot.[19] Taking advantage of the positive buzz, the Wachowskis asked to direct their next picture, The Matrix.[16]

The Matrix franchise[edit]

Main article: The Matrix franchise

Their next film, The Matrix was completed in 1999. It proved to be a success, and spawned two sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, both released in 2003.

Later work[edit]

The Wachowskis' next feature-film project was V for Vendetta, an adaptation of Alan Moore's comic book of the same name. They wrote and produced the film with Matrix producer Joel Silver, who had previously purchased the film rights to the novel. The film was directed by Wachowski collaborator James McTeigue. The production proceeded without the participation of Moore, who was disappointed with previous Hollywoood adaptations of his work, and disagreed with differences between the screenplay and his novel, is not credited. The film's controversial story line and themes have been the target of both criticism and praise from sociopolitical groups. It was released in 2006 and was well received critically and was a box office success, although not on the scale of the Matrix films.[20]

In 2006, the Wachowskis and McTeigue were hired to revamp The Invasion for Warner Brothers. The studio was disappointed in the film as produced by director Oliver Hirschbiegel and hired the Wachowskis to rewrite the script and add new scenes, which McTeigue directed. The film, the fourth adaptation of the novel The Body Snatchers, was not a critical or box office success. The Wachowskis and McTeigue are not credited on the film for their involvement.[21]

The Wachowskis returned to directing with 2008's Speed Racer. The film was an adaptation of a Japanese manga series from the 1950s, which was itself made into an 1960s anime TV series. Upon release the movie was considered a critical and commercial disappointment.[22] While its special effects were noted as outstanding, the storyline is considered lacking.[23] It was also nominated in the category of "Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-off or Sequel" for the 29th Golden Raspberry Awards. Its box office gross was $93 million compared to a production budget of $120 million. However in later years critics periodically have put the film on lists of underrated or cult films.[24][25][26][27][28]

Their next directorial outing was Cloud Atlas, adapted from David Mitchell's 2004 novel, which drew mixed reviews.[29]

Future works[edit]

In 2008,[30] the Wachowskis were producing for Madhouse an animated film based on their comic book company's Shaolin Cowboy,[31][32] titled Shaolin Cowboy in The Tomb of Doom.[33] The feature is co-directed by the comic book's creator Geof Darrow and Seiji Mizushima, a Japanese director.[30] When the American financiers backed out, the film was left half-finished and in need of $3 million. Darrow does not believe that the required amount of money to finish it will be found.[34]

Warner Bros. has expressed interest in Hood, a modern adaptation of the Robin Hood legend, which the Wachowskis wrote and plan to direct. They also wrote an Iraq war-set gay romance conspiracy thriller titled CN-9 (or Cobalt Neural 9); however, the project failed to find financing.[1] However the siblings are still keen to make it, even if it has to be made in a different form than film.[35]

Jupiter Ascending, an original science fiction screenplay by the Wachowskis, is in production as a feature film with Warner Bros. Pictures. The film is being directed and produced by the Wachowskis.[36] It stars Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis, and will feature the Wachowskis regular collaborators John Gaeta on the visual effects and Kym Barrett on costumes. It started shooting in early 2013, with an anticipated release date in July 2014.[37] It is scheduled to be released in 3-D and IMAX 3D.[38] It was determined not ready for the July 2014 release date, and was rescheduled for February 2015.

The siblings are also shopping around a concept for a TV series dubbed Sense8 that they have developed with Ninja Assassin collaborator J. Michael Straczynski. In their pursuit of the concept the Wachowskis have penned three spec scripts which are said to resemble their unique storytelling style seen in The Matrix films, and they plan to direct at least a few episodes of the series, should it be made. Producer Marc Rosen of Georgeville Television (GTTV), describes the project as "an idea so big in size and scale that it doesn't make sense to try it as a pilot. The only way to let the filmmakers realize their vision on something like this is to do multiple episodes."[39] On March 27, 2013 it was announced ten episodes will be made to be streamed on Netflix late 2014.[40] The series which belongs to the genre of science fiction is described as "a gripping global tale of minds linked and souls hunted" which was conceived by the showrunners "after a late night conversation about the ways technology simultaneously unites and divides us".

Lana stated that after the release of Jupiter Ascending and Sense8 they are going to take a sabbatical because they've been working six years without a break.[41][42] The Wachowskis also wrote the script of Carnivore and the script of Plastic Man, the latter based on the DC Comics superhero of the same name. Both projects remain unproduced so far.[43][44][45]

Style[edit]

The siblings admit to a love for telling multipart stories. "Because we grew up on comic books and the Tolkien trilogy, one of the things we're interested in is bringing serial fiction to cinema," Lana has said. Andy puts his desire to shake up viewers a bit more bluntly: "We think movies are fairly boring and predictable. We want to screw with audiences' expectations."[46] In terms of themes that run through their body of work, Lana has cited "the inexplicable nature of the universe [being] in constant dialogue with our own consciousness and our consciousness actually affect[ing] the inexplicable nature of the universe,"[47] "interconnectivity and about truth beneath the surface"[48] and "the paradox of choice and choicelessness".[49] The Wachowskis cited the art of comic book artist Geof Darrow as an influence on the look of The Matrix. Also, they stated that Ghost in the Shell, Ninja Scroll, and Akira as anime that inspired them. "in anime, one thing that they do that we tried to bring to our film was a juxtaposition of time and space in action beats."[50]

The Wachowskis cited Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey as one of their main inspirations for Cloud Atlas.[51] They first saw the film when they were seven and ten respectively.[3]

Lana's most influential films are 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner, Ma vie en rose and My Neighbor Totoro.[52] Both of them are fans of the Ghost in the Shell, Akira, Wicked City, Ninja Scroll and Fist of the North Star anime films.[53]

None of the home video releases of their films feature any deleted scenes. Lana says that despite often having to cut scenes from their movies their inclusion in the form of deleted scenes would suggest that their films suffer from incompleteness due to logistical or financial studio constraints, which is not the case as they love the finished product.[50][54] For the same reason their films never received a director's or extended cut. They also avoid recording audio commentary tracks, having participated only once on the track recorded for the LaserDisc of Bound. The siblings explain they discovered offering their interpretation of what their movies mean leads to people being less likely to express their own interpretation.[55][56] Furthermore they are also not interested in the typical commentaries with cast and crew reminisces such as about their experiences with the catering.

Frequent collaborators[edit]

The Wachowskis have been noted for hiring the same basic film crew to make their movies. Lana admits they do it in part to make sure prejudice doesn’t enter their place of work. "It's like family. Everyone is very respectful of each other." says Lana.[57]

A list of some of their most notable frequent collaborators includes:

As film producers and comic book publishers[edit]

During The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions, The Animatrix and Enter the Matrix production, the Wachowskis created EON Entertainment (not to be confused with Eon Productions), their production company to coordinate and direct all involved partners.[67] It is also where the films were edited together, after the various FX vendors sent their finished work.[68] EON's internal VFX team, ESC, did a number of visual effect shots for the two Matrix sequels and coordinated the other vendors. ESC was shut down in summer 2004.[69] Anarchos Productions (credited in Cloud Atlas as Anarchos Pictures)[70] is their production company that has been billed for all their films starting with V for Vendetta.[71]

Kinowerks is their pre- and post-production and effects studio, based in Ravenswood, Chicago.[72] It has been acclaimed for its green-friendly design.[73] Roger Ebert was invited to watch a restored print of The Godfather in the Kinowerks facilities and met the Wachowskis,[74] but he was oblivious to the fact the studio belonged to them. The Chicago Tribune's Christopher Pirelli has interviewed the Wachowskis in the facility but was instructed to keep its exact location a secret, as the filmmakers want to avoid having fans showing up at the front door.[75]

The Wachowskis at the San Diego ComicCon in 2004.

Prior to working in the film industry, the Wachowskis wrote comic books for Marvel Comics' Razorline imprint, namely Ectokid (created by horror novelist Clive Barker) in 1993 as well as writing for Epic Comics' Clive Barker's Hellraiser and Clive Barker's Nightbreed comic series.

In 2003, they created Burlyman Entertainment and have released comic books based on The Matrix as well as two original bi-monthly series:

Personal life[edit]

Andy has been married to Alisa Blasingame since 1991.[76] Lana, while still identifying as Larry, married Thea Bloom in 1993; they divorced in 2002. She subsequently began dating Karin Winslow; they married in 2009.[3][4] Winslow is a board member of the Chicago House and Social Service Agency.[77][78]

Raised by a "hardcore atheist" father and an "ex-Catholic turned Shamanist" mother,[47] the duo once described their religious beliefs as non-denominational.[50] Lana is a vegetarian.[79]

Lana's gender transition[edit]

Rumors that Lana Wachowski, then still identifying as Larry, was transitioning from male to female spread in the early 2000s, though neither sibling spoke directly on the subject at the time.[80] In 2003 Gothamist.com mentioned the possible gender reassignment and suggested that "the Matrix films could be read with a sadomasochistic subtext with the news of Larry's companionship with a dominatrix" (her future wife Karin Winslow).[81] Though the Wachowskis remained silent, sources close to them denied the rumors. In a 2007 interview Joel Silver, the producer of numerous Wachowski films, stated that the rumors concerning the gender reassignment surgery were "all untrue", further explaining, "they just don't do interviews, so people make things up." Similar statements were made to Fox News by crew members working on the Speed Racer film, with one employee pointing out, "on the call sheets, it still says Larry."[82]

According to Rovi, Lana completed her transition after Speed Racer's release in 2008.[83] The Hollywood Reporter and the New York Times have referred to the Wachowskis as "Andy and Lana (formerly Larry) Wachowski",[1][84] and Deadline.com has referred to the duo as "Andy and Lana Wachowski."[85] On some documents she appears as Laurenca Wachowski.[11][80][86] In July 2012, Lana made her first public appearance after transitioning, in a video discussing the creative process behind Cloud Atlas.[87] Lana is the first major Hollywood director to come out as transgender.[88]

In October 2012 Lana received the Human Rights Campaign's Visibility Award.[89] In her acceptance speech she revealed that she had considered committing suicide once in her youth. Lana's acceptance speech was one of the longest public appearances that either of the notoriously reclusive siblings has ever given. She began by explaining that while she and her brother had not publicly commented on her transitioning during the past decade of rumors about it, this was not because she was ashamed of it, nor had she kept it a secret from her family and friends. Rather, Lana had not commented about her transitioning due to a general shyness about the news media that both she and her brother Andy possess. Comparing it to losing one's virginity as an event which only happens once and is irreversible, the Wachowskis had tried to stay out of the public eye and avoided giving interviews due to fear of losing their personal privacy, fearing that they would never be able to go to a public restaurant again without being noticed and harassed as celebrities. Explaining her decision to appear at the event, she said, "there are some things we do for ourselves, but there are some things we do for others. I am here because when I was young, I wanted very badly to be a writer, I wanted to be a filmmaker, but I couldn't find anyone like me in the world and it felt like my dreams were foreclosed simply because my gender was less typical than others. If I can be that person for someone else, then the sacrifice of my private civic life may have value."[90]

Gaming[edit]

Lana and Andy are self-proclaimed gamers. As teens they spent their weekends in the attic playing Dungeons & Dragons.[3] They liken the process of the playing parties imagining the same virtual space to the process of filmmaking. Along with some of their friends they wrote a 350-page role-playing game of their own, called High Adventure. The rights to it are available for publishing.[91]

On the video game front, they had been exchanging letters with Hideo Kojima and finally met him during a Famitsu interview in late 1999.[92] Metal Gear Solid was the first video game they played after finishing work on The Matrix. Candidates for an adaptation of the first Matrix movie to video game form included Kojima, Bungie and Shiny Entertainment whose Messiah PC game impressed them.[93][94] Shiny's David Perry who ultimately had his company develop and collaborate with them on the Enter the Matrix and The Matrix: Path of Neo video games was impressed with their familiarity with the medium which was a big plus during development.[95] The Wachowskis owned both a PlayStation 2 and Xbox video game console and played several games such as Splinter Cell and Halo 2 and in the case of the latter they finished it even before Perry did.[96] Reportedly during a Halo deathmatch they destroyed their Xbox.[93] Actor Collin Chou recounts an instance of visiting their office and finding them playing video games on the floor.[97] Andy is a fan of the Death Jr. PlayStation Portable game.[98]

Asked about their feelings turning the tightly controlled Matrix saga to the unpredictable form of an MMORPG with The Matrix Online the duo appeared enthusiastic about the nature and possibilities of video games:

The "vagaries of an MMO where unpredictable player behavior is the rule," is the reason for doing it. Our films were never intended for a passive audience. There are enough of those kinds of films being made. We wanted our audience to have to work, to have to think, to have to actually participate in order to enjoy them. This may be because while we enjoy movies, we also spend a lot of time (as in crack-den amounts of time) gaming.

Gaming engages your mind actively whereas most genre films (the films we tend to watch) are designed to provoke as little thinking as possible. Consider why the films in which everyone knows exactly what is going to happen are the films that make the most money.

Yet the fact that the Matrix films are three of the most successful adult films in history (despite of what much of the media would have us believe), suggests that there are other people like us. Those are the people, the people who thought about it, who worked at it, who we ultimately made the trilogy for and it now makes perfect sense to us that they should inherit the storyline. For us, the idea of watching our baby evolve inside the virtual bubble-world of this new radically developing medium, which has in our opinion the potential of combining the best attributes of films and games, of synthesizing reality TV with soap opera, RPGs and Mortal Combat [sic], is fantastically exciting.

Works[edit]

Films[edit]

Year Title Functioned as Notes
Directors Screenwriters Producers Executive producers
1995 Assassins Yes Their script was "totally rewritten"[17] by screenwriter Brian Helgeland. They felt the rewrite removed "all the subtext, the visual metaphors... the idea that within our world there are moral pocket universes that operate differently"[3] to the point they chose to call it their "abortion".[12] They tried to remove their names from the film but failed.
1996 Bound Yes Yes Yes
1999 The Matrix Yes Yes Yes
2001 The Matrix Revisited (documentary) Yes
2003 The Animatrix Yes Yes Direct-to-video
Writing credits for "Final Flight of the Osiris"; story credits for "The Second Renaissance Part I", "The Second Renaissance Part II" and "Kid's Story".
The Matrix Reloaded Yes Yes Yes
The Matrix Revolutions Yes Yes Yes
2006 V for Vendetta Second unit (uncredited) Yes Yes Along with writing and producing the film, they also did uncredited second unit directing work[3][99][100] which includes the design and direction of V's climatic fight against Creedy's men.[101]
2007 The Invasion Rewrites (uncredited) Reportedly the studio brought them in to rewrite 30% of the film[102] (with Collider reporting over 66%)[103] to include action scenes and a new ending. They asked to remain uncredited.
2008 Speed Racer Yes Yes Yes
2009 Ninja Assassin Yes
2012 Cloud Atlas Yes Yes Yes Co-directed with Tom Tykwer
2014 Google Me Love (short) Yes Written and directed by their nephew Ryan Eakins. The short was created at Lana and Andy's request and they also picked the subject matter of love.[104]
2015 Jupiter Ascending Yes Yes Yes Post-production[41]

Television[edit]

Year Title Functioned as Notes
Showrunners Screenwriters Directors
2015 Sense8 Yes Yes Yes Co-created with J. Michael Straczynski for Netflix. In production.

Music videos[edit]

Year Title Artist Notes
2009 Epilepsy Is Dancing Antony and the Johnsons The music video was choreographed by Sean Dorsey and was censored in North America.[105] The production team behind the video collectively call themselves AFAS.[106]

Additionally classifying themselves as "lifelong rabid Bulls fans" they created a revamped introductory animation for Chicago Bulls to open the 2006–2007 regular season.[107]

Video games[edit]

Year Title Functioned as Notes
Directors Screenwriters
2003 Enter the Matrix Yes Yes Based on a 244-page script by the Wachowskis, the game features close to one hour of live action sequences directed by them, and their collaboration with the game's staff for the creation of another hour of in-engine cinematics and more.[108][109] Also directed the game's trailer.[110][111]
2005 The Matrix Online Yes The Wachowskis picked Paul Chadwick as the game's writer and directed him with the first year's theme: "Peace and the ways people wreck it" and a starting point: "the death of Morpheus and the hunt for his killer".[112][113] Furthermore they reviewed and dictated changes to Chadwick's early drafts, such as prohibiting the death of one character.[114] Overall they weren't directly involved with the creation of the game, in comparison to their other two efforts, instead opting to act as consultants of Chadwick.
The Matrix: Path of Neo Yes Yes In collaboration with Zach Staenberg,[115] the Wachowskis edited footage from the previously released films, anime and game to retell the story from the point of view of Neo.[96] Additionally they scripted new locations and encounters, some of them being scrapped content from the films,[116] along with their appearance to the player to humorously explain the reasons behind the creation of a new ending for this adaptation of the Matrix trilogy.

Comic books[edit]

Year Title Functioned as Notes
Writers Publishers
1989–1994 Clive Barker's Hellraiser Yes Larry Wachowski is credited as a writer on stories included in issues 8, 9, 12, 13 and the Hellraiser: Spring Slaughter – Razing Hell special.
1992 Clive Barker's Nightbreed Yes Larry Wachowski is credited as a writer on issue 17.
1993 Clive Barker's Book of the Damned Yes Larry Wachowski is credited as a writer on volumes 1, 2 and 4.
1993–1994 Ectokid Yes Larry Wachowski is credited as a writer on issues 3–9. Andy Wachowski reportedly worked on it as well.
1999–2004 The Matrix Comics Yes Yes Written "Bits and Pieces of Information", the first part of a conceived four part story. Parts of it were later incorporated in "The Second Renaissance" short in The Animatrix.

Most of the comics originally published on whatisthematrix.warnerbros.com along with a few new ones were collected on two printed volumes, published by the Wachowskis' comic book company, Burlyman Entertainment.

2004–[58][117] Doc Frankenstein Yes Yes Based on an original idea of Geof Darrow, later reworked by Steve Skroce, the duo ended up writing it.[118]
2004–2007 Shaolin Cowboy Recap only Yes Issues 2–7 begin with a humorous recap of the story written by the Wachowskis, and narrated by a talking mule named Lord Evelyn Dunkirk Winniferd Esq. the Third.[119]

The Art of the Matrix book credits them for including their screenplay and additional art. The Wachowskis also wrote an introduction to the 2005 published Vol. 2: Tag[120] trade paperback of Ex Machina comic book, being big fans of it.[121] Additionally Lana Wachowski wrote the introduction to the 2012 published No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics collection of LGBTQ comic book stories.[122]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Title Result
2000 Amanda Awards Best Foreign Feature Film The Matrix Nominated
1997 Deauville American Film Festival Grand Special Prize Bound Nominated
Fantasporto Best Film Won
2013 German Film Awards[123][124] Outstanding Feature Film (shared with Grant Hill, Stefan Arndt and Tom Tykwer) Cloud Atlas Nominated
Best Direction (shared with Tom Tykwer) Nominated
2004 Golden Raspberry Awards Worst Director Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions Nominated
2000 Hugo Awards Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form The Matrix Nominated
2007 V for Vendetta Nominated
2000 Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards Best Screenplay The Matrix Nominated
Mainichi Film Concours Readers' Choice Award for Best Foreign Language Film Won
Nebula Awards Best Script Nominated
2007 V for Vendetta Nominated
2012 Online Film Critics Society Awards Best Adapted Screenplay (shared with Tom Tykwer) Cloud Atlas Nominated
1997 Outfest Grand Jury Award – Honorable Mention:
Outstanding American Narrative Feature
Bound Won
1997 Saturn Awards Best Writing Bound Nominated
2000 Best Director The Matrix Won
Best Writing Nominated
2007 V for Vendetta Nominated
1997 Stockholm Film Festival Honorable Mention Bound Won

References[edit]

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