The Wachowskis Open Up About Their Careers And Adapting Cloud Atlas
The Wachowskis have been considered revolutionary filmmakers since 1999 when their film The Matrix was released in theaters. Also since 1999, the filmmakers have been in radio silence, refusing to do any press for their movies as part of the contract they signed when The Matrix went into production. That’s why it was so surprising to see Andy and Lana (formerly Larry) Wachowski introduce the trailer for the movie Cloud Atlas with co-director Tom Tykwer a month ago. The filmmaking siblings have been front and center to do promotion for Cloud Atlas and have been really candid about how they got started in Hollywood, why Larry Wachowski became Lana Wachowski, and how Cloud Atlas was made even though Warner Bros didn’t want to finance the production.
In a new piece from The New Yorker, the siblings do something they haven’t done in 14 years; provide public access to their personal and professional lives. The eight-page piece entitled “The Wachowskis’ World beyond The Matrix,” written by Aleksandar Hemon, gives a detailed account of their production process and why they are affectionately called “one mind, two bodies.” The piece almost serves as an oral history of the last 15 years of the Wachowskis, from their first script, Carnivore; their directorial debut, Bound; the pop culture phenomenon of The Matrix; and the making of Cloud Atlas with Tykwer. Strangely, the piece willfully omits the Wachowskis’ 2008 film Speed Racer but gives an account for director James McTeigue’s V for Vendetta, where the duo served as the film’s producers and screenwriters.
The making of Cloud Atlas was a gigantic undertaking that started on the set of V for Vendetta when Lana Wachowski noticed the film’s star, Natalie Portman, feverishly reading a copy of David Mitchell’s expansive novel. Lana Wachowski was also taken with the novel and shared the book with her younger brother Andy (sharing books has been a tradition between the siblings since childhood). The pair had their problems adapting the ambiguous and “unfilmable” novel. They brought on Tom Tykwer to help with the script because they felt his sensibility could make the process easier. Tykwer, who the Wachowskis lovingly refer to as “our long-lost brother,” helped tackle the novel, but the trio ran into a speed bump when the novel’s author was deeply opposed to a film adaptation of his work. Mitchell met with the trio and read what they’ve put together and fell in love with the script. He even at one point called the adaptation better than his original novel.
Once Cloud Atlas was completed, Warner Bros. was reluctant to finance the project, at least partly because of the commercial failure of Darren Aronofsky’s 2006 film The Fountain, which also had multiple storylines and an ambitious production. But once the WB executives saw a 171-minute cut of Cloud Atlas, they “delivered a spontaneous burst of applause,” much to the filmmakers’ surprise. If you’re a fan of the Wachowskis, or Tykwer, or have any interest in the making of Cloud Atlas, you’ll definitely want to check out the full New Yorker piece.
Cloud Atlas hits theaters on October 26th.