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The Wachowskis

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Lana Wachowski
Wachowskis, Fantastic Fest, Cloud Atlas.jpg
Lilly (then known as Andy) and Lana Wachowski at the Fantastic Fest screening of Cloud Atlas in September 2012
Born Laurence Wachowski
(1965-06-21) June 21, 1965 (age 51)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Other names Larry Wachowski (before 2010)
Occupation Film and TV director, screenwriter, producer, comic book writer, video game director, video game writer
Years active 1994–present
Spouse(s)
  • Thea Bloom (m. 1993; div. 2002)[1]
  • Karin Winslow (m. 2009)[2][3]
Lilly Wachowski
Born Andrew Paul Wachowski
(1967-12-29) December 29, 1967 (age 48)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Other names Andy Wachowski (before 2016)
Occupation Film and TV director, screenwriter, producer, comic book writer, video game director, video game writer
Years active 1994–present
Spouse(s) Alisa Blasingame (m. 1991)

Lana Wachowski (formerly Laurence "Larry" Wachowski, born June 21, 1965)[4] and Lilly Wachowski (formerly Andrew Paul "Andy" Wachowski, born December 29, 1967)[5] are sibling American film directors, screenwriters, and producers.[6] They are both openly transgender women.[7][8][9][10] Known together professionally as The Wachowskis[11] and formerly as The Wachowski Brothers, the pair made their directing debut in 1996 with Bound, and reached fame with their second film The Matrix (1999), a major box office success 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 deeply 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 of the same name. Their next 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 in 2012. Their most recent works are the film Jupiter Ascending and television series Sense8, both of which debuted in 2015.

Early life[edit]

Lana Wachowski was born in Chicago in 1965; Lilly Wachowski was born 2 12 years later, in 1967. Their mother, Lynne (née Luckinbill), was a nurse and painter; Their father, Ron Wachowski, was a businessman of Polish descent. Their uncle is the actor and Primetime Emmy Award-winning producer Laurence Luckinbill.[5][12] They have two sisters, Julie and Laura.[2][13] Julie was credited as assistant coordinator in the Wachowskis' film Bound;[14] she is a novelist and screenwriter.[15]

Lana and Lilly 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.[16] Former students recall them playing Dungeons & Dragons and working in the school’s theater and TV program.[16] Lana went to Bard College in New York and Lilly attended Emerson College in Boston. Both dropped out before graduating and ran a house painting and construction business in Chicago while writing for Marvel Comics.[16]

The pair have said that they have been influenced by the work of directors 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.[2][17][18] Other reported influences have been writers Hermann Hesse, Homer, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and philosophers Cornel West and Ken Wilber.[19][20]

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. They also wrote for Epic Comics' Clive Barker's Hellraiser and Clive Barker's Nightbreed comic series.

In the mid-1990s they branched out into film writing, including the script for Assassins in 1994. Warner Brothers bought the script and included two more pictures in the contract.[21] Assassins was "totally rewritten" by Brian Helgeland[22] and the Wachowskis tried unsuccessfully to remove their names from the film.[2]

They moved on to their next project, the neo-noir thriller Bound, in which they made their debut as directors. The film was well received for its style and craft,[23] and was noted as one of the first mainstream films to feature a gay relationship without it being central to the plot.[24] Taking advantage of the positive buzz, the Wachowskis asked to direct their next picture, The Matrix.[21]

The Matrix franchise[edit]

Main article: The Matrix franchise

They completed The Matrix in 1999. After its success, they directed 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. Moore did not participate in the production, as he was disappointed by previous Hollywood adaptations of his work, and disagreed with differences between the screenplay and his novel. As a result, Moore is not credited. The film's controversial story line and themes have been both criticized and praised by sociopolitical groups. It was released in 2006 and was well received critically; a box office success, it did not rank on the scale of The Matrix films.[25]

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.[26]

The Wachowskis returned to directing with Speed Racer (2008). The film was an adaptation of a 1950s Japanese manga series, which had previously been adapted as a 1960s Japanese anime TV series. The movie was considered a critical and commercial disappointment.[27] While its special effects were noted as outstanding, the storyline is considered lacking.[28] It was 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. Since then, critics periodically have put the film on lists of underrated or cult films.[29][30][31][32][33]

Their next directorial outing was Cloud Atlas, adapted from David Mitchell's 2004 novel of the same name; it drew mixed reviews.[34] The Wachowskis subsequently produced and directed Jupiter Ascending, an original science fiction screenplay they wrote. The film was released February 2015.[35] It stars Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis, and features the Wachowskis' regular collaborators John Gaeta on visual effects and Kym Barrett on costumes. According to Deadline, the financial and critical failure of Jupiter Ascending caused their business relationship with Warner Brothers that began with The Matrix franchise to be terminated.[36]

On October 2, 2012, Variety reported the Wachowskis had written three hour-long spec scripts for Sense8, a TV series developed with Ninja Assassin collaborator J. Michael Straczynski. They were trying to interest people in LA in their project, with the help of Straczynski's Studio JMS and Georgeville Television (GTTV).[37] The Wachowskis' new scripts were said to resemble their unique storytelling style expressed in The Matrix films; they planned to direct at least a few episodes of the potential series. Producer Marc Rosen of Georgeville Television, described 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."[37] The series eventually aired on Netflix as twelve streamed episodes released on June 5, 2015. The series is described by the showrunners 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".[38]

In June 2016, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences invited the Wachowskis to join its ranks.[39]

Style[edit]

The sisters admit to a love for telling multi-part 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. Lilly says: "We think movies are fairly boring and predictable. We want to screw with audiences' expectations."[40] In terms of themes expressed in 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,"[41] "interconnectivity and about truth beneath the surface"[42] and "the paradox of choice and choicelessness".[43] The Wachowskis cited the art of comic book artist Geof Darrow as an influence on the look of The Matrix. Also, they said that Ghost in the Shell, Ninja Scroll, and Akira were anime that inspired them, saying "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."

The Wachowskis cited Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey as a major influence for Cloud Atlas.[44] They first saw the film when they were ten and seven, respectively.[2]

Lana has most been influenced by 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner, Ma vie en rose, and My Neighbor Totoro.[45] Both Wachowskis are fans of the Ghost in the Shell, Akira, Wicked City, Ninja Scroll and Fist of the North Star anime films.[46]

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, they do not want to include deleted scenes in such releases, as this would suggest that their films suffer from incompleteness. They love their finished products and believe them complete.[47][48] For the same reason, they have not released their films for home video with director's or extended cuts. They also avoid recording audio commentary tracks, having participated only on the track recorded for the LaserDisc of Bound. The sisters say they learned that offering an interpretation of their movies means that viewers will be less likely to express their own interpretation.[49][50] They are not interested in the typical commentaries featuring cast and crew, wanting the films to stand on their own.

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 ensure a positive environment. "It's like family. Everyone is very respectful of each other," says Lana.[51] They used the same practice while selecting the television crew for their Netflix show, Sense8.

Some of their most notable frequent collaborators are:

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.[60] It is also where the films were edited together, after the various FX vendors sent their finished work.[61] EON's internal VFX team, ESC, did a number of visual effect shots for the two Matrix sequels and coordinated the other vendors.[61] ESC was shut down in summer 2004.[62] Anarchos Productions (credited in Cloud Atlas as Anarchos Pictures)[63] is their production company[64][65] that has been billed for all their films starting with V for Vendetta.[66]

Kinowerks is their pre- and post-production and effects studio, based in the Ravenswood neighbourhood of Chicago.[67] It has been acclaimed for its green-friendly design.[68] Roger Ebert was invited to watch a restored print of The Godfather in the Kinowerks facilities and met the Wachowskis,[69] but he was oblivious to the fact the studio belonged to them. The Chicago Tribune's Christopher Pirelli, the facility is very low-key: "an industrial building that appears neither old nor especially new" and "It could be an upscale dentist's office" while the "inside is rather unexpected" and has numerous mementos of past film projects.[70]

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:

Unrealized projects[edit]

In 2008,[71] the Wachowskis were producing for Madhouse an animated film based on their comic book company's Shaolin Cowboy,[72][73] titled Shaolin Cowboy in The Tomb of Doom.[74] The feature is co-directed by the comic book's creator Geof Darrow and Seiji Mizushima, a Japanese director.[71] 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.[75]

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 a conspiracy thriller titled CN-9 (or Cobalt Neural 9), with a setting of a gay romance against the Iraq war; the project failed to find financing.[76] The sisters are still keen to make it, even if in a different form than film.[77]

The Wachowskis wrote the scripts of Carnivore and the Plastic Man, the latter based on the DC Comics superhero of the same name. Neither project has been produced.[19][78][79]

Personal life[edit]

Lilly has been married to Alisa Blasingame since 1991.[80] Lana married Thea Bloom in 1993; they divorced in 2002. She subsequently began dating Karin Winslow; they married in 2009.[2][3] Winslow is a board member of the Chicago House and Social Service Agency.[81][82]

Raised by a "hardcore atheist" father and an "ex-Catholic turned Shamanist" mother,[41] the duo once described their religious beliefs as non-denominational.[47] Lana is a vegetarian.[83]

Lana's gender transition[edit]

Rumors that Lana Wachowski was transitioning spread in the early 2000s though neither sibling spoke directly on the subject at the time.[84] In 2003 Gothamist.com reported the possible gender reassignment.[85] In a 2007 interview Joel Silver, the producer of numerous Wachowski films, said that the rumors concerning the gender reassignment surgery were "all untrue", saying that "they just don't do interviews, so people make things up." Crew members working on Speed Racer said similarly.[86]

Lana completed the transition after Speed Racer's release in 2008,[87] and by at least December 2010, trade magazines and newspapers referred to "Lana (formerly Larry) Wachowski".[76][88] and to the duo as "Andy and Lana Wachowski."[89] On some documents her name is shown as Laurenca Wachowski.[16][84][90] In July 2012, Lana made her first public appearance after transitioning, in a video discussing the creative process behind Cloud Atlas.[91] Lana is the first major Hollywood director to come out as transgender.[7]

In October 2012 Lana Wachowski received the Human Rights Campaign's Visibility Award.[92] In her acceptance speech, she revealed that once during her youth, she had considered committing suicide because of her feelings of confusion about identity. Her acceptance speech was one of the longest public appearances by either of the notoriously reclusive siblings. Lana said that, although she and her sister had not publicly commented on her transitioning during the previous decade, it was not because she was ashamed of it, nor had she kept it a secret from her family and friends. Rather, she and her sister are both generally shy about the news media and prefer to maintain their privacy. Comparing media exposure to losing one's virginity as an irreversible event that only happens once, the Wachowskis had tried to stay out of the public eye. They feared losing their privacy and the ability to go to public places without being noticed and harassed as celebrities.

Explaining her decision to appear at the HRC event, Lana 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."[93]

In February 2014, Lana received the Freedom Award from Equality Illinois at their annual gala in Chicago.[94][95][96]

Lilly's gender transition[edit]

In March 2016, Lilly Wachowski also came out as a transgender woman, issuing a statement to the Windy City Times after a visit from a reporter from the Daily Mail newspaper.[8][9][10][97] While on the red carpet of the 27th GLAAD Media Awards, Lilly commented she had been hiding she was transgender throughout her "whole life".[98]

Gaming[edit]

Lana and Lilly are self-proclaimed gamers. As teens they spent their weekends in the attic playing Dungeons & Dragons.[2] They liken the process of the playing parties that imagined 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.[99]

On the video game front, they had been exchanging letters with Hideo Kojima and met him during a Famitsu interview in late 1999.[100] 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.[101][102] 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; this proved helpful during development.[103] The Wachowskis owned both a PlayStation 2 and Xbox video game console and played several games such as Splinter Cell and Halo 2.[104] They reportedly destroyed their Xbox during a Halo deathmatch.[101] Actor Collin Chou recounts an instance of visiting their office and finding them playing video games on the floor.[105] Lilly is a fan of the Death Jr. PlayStation Portable game.[106]

Asked about their feelings about 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.
— The Wachowskis[107]

Works[edit]

Films[edit]

Year Title Functioned as Notes
Directors Screenwriters Producers Executive producers
1995 Assassins Yes Their script was "totally rewritten"[22] 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"[2] to the point they chose to call it their "abortion".[17] 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 Yes Documentary
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[2][108][109] which includes the design and direction of V's climactic fight against Creedy's men.[110]
2007 The Invasion Rewrites (uncredited) Reportedly the studio brought them in to rewrite 30% of the film[111] (with Collider reporting over 66%)[112] 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 Lilly's request and they also picked the subject matter of love.[113]
2015 Jupiter Ascending Yes Yes Yes

Television[edit]

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

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.[114] The production team behind the video collectively call themselves AFAS.[115]

Additionally classifying themselves as "lifelong rabid Bulls fans" they created a revamped introductory animation for Chicago Bulls to open the 2006–2007 regular season.[116]

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.[117][118] Also directed the game's trailer.[119][120]
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".[107][121] Furthermore they reviewed and dictated changes to Chadwick's early drafts, such as prohibiting the death of one character.[122] 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,[123] the Wachowskis edited footage from the previously released films, anime and game to retell the story from the point of view of Neo.[104] Additionally they scripted new locations and encounters, some of them being scrapped content from the films,[124] 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 Lana 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 Lana Wachowski is credited as a writer on issue 17.
1993 Clive Barker's Book of the Damned Yes Lana Wachowski is credited as a writer on volumes 1, 2 and 4.
1993–1994 Ectokid Yes Lana Wachowski is credited as a writer on issues 3–9. Lilly 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–[52][125] Doc Frankenstein Yes Yes Based on an original idea of Geof Darrow, later reworked by Steve Skroce, the duo ended up writing it.[126]
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.[127]

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[128] trade paperback of Ex Machina comic book, being big fans of it.[129] Additionally Lana Wachowski wrote the introduction to the 2012 published No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics collection of LGBTQ comic book stories.[130]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Title Result
1997 Deauville American Film Festival Grand Special Prize Bound Nominated
Fantasporto Best Film Won
Outfest Grand Jury Award – Honorable Mention:
Outstanding American Narrative Feature
Won
Saturn Awards Best Writing Nominated
Stockholm Film Festival Honorable Mention Won
2000 Amanda Awards Best Foreign Feature Film The Matrix Nominated
Hugo Awards Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form Nominated
Mainichi Film Concours Readers' Choice Award for Best Foreign Language Film Won
Nebula Awards Best Script Nominated
Saturn Awards Best Director Won
Best Writing Nominated
2004 Golden Raspberry Awards Worst Director The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions Nominated
2007 Hugo Awards Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form V for Vendetta Nominated
Nebula Awards Best Script Nominated
Saturn Awards Best Writing Nominated
2012 Online Film Critics Society Awards Best Adapted Screenplay (shared with Tom Tykwer) Cloud Atlas Nominated
2013 German Film Awards Outstanding Feature Film (shared with Grant Hill, Stefan Arndt and Tom Tykwer) Nominated
Best Direction (shared with Tom Tykwer) Nominated
2016 Golden Raspberry Awards Worst Director Jupiter Ascending Nominated
Worst Screenplay Nominated

References[edit]

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  36. ^ http://deadline.com/2015/02/jupiter-ascending-wachowskis-channing-tatum-mila-kunis-box-office-bomb-1201369053/
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