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Wachowski, Lana

Entry updated 23 February 2017. Tagged: Film, People.

(1965-    ) US filmmaker known until 2008 as Laurence (Larry) Wachowski, who regularly works in partnership with younger sister Lilly (formerly Andy) Wachowski (1967-    ). The team came to attention in the early 1990s with their coarsely satirical Horror script Carnivore; this was not filmed, but landed them the writing of action flop Assassins (1995), on the back of which they pitched producer Joel Silver an ambitious (and expensive) Cyberpunk venture about Conceptual Breakthrough and Virtual Reality entitled The Matrix (1999). Unwilling to commit to a high-risk project with untried directors, Silver first assigned them the low-budget lesbian crime drama Bound (1996). The Matrix was duly greenlit and released in 1999, with massive commercial success and cultural impact, and the Wachowskis followed it up with the 2003 rollout of an elaborately coordinated cross-media franchise comprising two film sequels shot back-to-back, The Matrix Reloaded (2003) and The Matrix Revolutions (2003); nine Anime shorts under the umbrella title The Animatrix (2003); a Videogame, Enter the Matrix; and a print collection of earlier-released webcomics, The Matrix Comics (two volumes, 2003-2004).

Their first post-Matrix project was a long-gestated adaptation of V for Vendetta, which they wrote and produced but ultimately passed to their regular collaborator James McTeigue to direct; it met a mixed reception but implanted an enduring icon of protest in V's Guy Fawkes mask. In 2006 they did uncredited work on The Invasion, the troubled remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) that was eventually released, with reshoots by McTeigue, in 2007. A major departure from their string of consistently dark, adult fantasies was the brashly colourful and juvenile live-action Anime adaptation Speed Racer (2008), a bold but disastrously unsuccessful experiment in reinventing the family blockbuster. After an abortive attempt to revive their pre-Matrix project of a film version of Jack Cole's vintage Comics character Plastic Man, the Wachowskis teamed up with German director Tom Tykwer to adapt and direct the audacious centuries-spanning epic Cloud Atlas (2012) from David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas (2004); the Wachowskis filmed the two sf segments. Next came an original Space Opera, Jupiter Ascending (2015), the first of a prospective franchise whose fate – given the negative press and low attendance accorded the film – seems uncertain. More interesting was Sense8 (2015-current), a Television story-arc also involving J Michael Straczynski and projected to run at least five seasons; filming of the second season began in 2015.

If the burst of pent-up creative energies in the mid-nineties that produced The Matrix, Bound, and the first V for Vendetta and Plastic Man drafts seemed to dissipate in the decade-long effort of showrunning the subsequent Matrix franchise, Cloud Atlas demonstrated that the Wachowskis remain consistently adventurous filmmakers who look outward from Hollywood – they have not made a film in North America since Bound – to untapped sources of inspiration, which have often drawn especially on Asian film and comics. Their impatience with the familiar led them to strike gold once, and could easily do so again. [NL]

Lana Wachowski

born Chicago, Illinois: 21 June 1965


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