Cybersurfing: Wachowski Brothers "Speed" Below the Radar


SPEED RACER – the Wachowski Brothers’ feature film adaptation of the old anime TV series – is now in theatres. Cinematical has a bunch of interviews posted, including one with producer Joel Silver, who explains the absence of the directors from the press junket:

Producer Joel Silver explained how his ownership of the property led to him being contacted by the Wachowskis. While extolling their virtues, he even addressed their absence from the press day: “They never believe in engaging in this part of the process. I remember my friend Tom Cruise told me when he went to start working on Eyes Wide Shut, he went ‘There’s Kubrick sitting in the director’s chair!’ And I’m not trying to make a parallel between Stanley and the boys, but he didn’t want to engage in this stuff, either. And that creates a mystique. He was just a regular guy working, he didn’t want to leave his house, he was just making movies with his crew. … They’re not above it, but what happened is on the first Matrix, they did everything. They did the junkets, they did the tours, they did the articles, they did the one-on-ones … and they said, ‘Look, we don’t like … we’re uncomfortable. If you insist on us doing this, we’re not making any more movies. But if you will let us not do it, we’ll make all the movies you want. … ‘ So I said ‘Fine.’ “* 

There is another, more recent reason that the Wachowskis might want to avoid the press, and I cannot blame Silver for avoiding it. I am referring to the Rolling Stones article that posted on  January 12, 2006, when we were all eagerly anticipating the release of V IS FOR VENDETTA (which the Brothers wrote and produced). Steeped in innuendo and speculation, Peter Wilkinson’s bizarre article attempted to pull back the cloak of secrecy surrounding the directing duo.
I say “bizarre,” because the article plays out like an uncomfortable hybrid of a hit piece and a morality tale. To make a long story short, Wilkinson paints a picture of the elder Wachowski as a cross-dresser who fell in with a West Hollywood dominatrix, left his wife, moved to San Francisco, and now may or may not be considering a gender re-assignment.
What’s bizarre about the piece is not its red-light milieu of leather, sadism, and porn; it’s that Wilkinson’s point (if any) remains almost totally elusive. Why do any of us need to know this? Why should Rolling Stone feel compelled to delve into the private life of someone just because they helped make a successful film franchise?
Karina Longworth at Cinematical offered one answer in this post: that the suckage of the two MATRIX sequels was due to the influence that dominatrix Ilsa Strix wielded over Larry, who was obsessed with her and distracted from his work. However, the Rolling Stone article offers little to support this theory, other than allowing the reader to note that the “rave” scene in MATRIX RELOADED was lame and vaguely reminiscent of soft-core porn. And one anonymous “bondage-world source,” claimed that “Larry was totally concentrating on Ilsa.”
Okay, fine. Even if that were true, how does that explain the problems with the MATRIX sequels? After all, wasn’t Andy around (and presumably not distracted by dominatrixes) to note that there were serious problems with RELOADED and REVOLUTIONS?
In the end, the Rolling Stone article has a kind of fascination about it. With their aversion to the press, the Wachowskis have created a black hole around themselves, and it’s inevitable that someone would attempt to fill the vacuum. Wilkinson confirmed some of the facts of his story by relying on actual documentation (court transcripts, a lease agreement for the home in San Francisco), but most of the juicy details were sourced to acquaintances of Isla Strix, many of whom seemed to have an ax to grind (especially her ex-husband — a female-to-male transsexual, whom Ilsa left to be with Larry, who the article told us was now called “Laurenca”).
The result is a lot of hearsay that doesn’t add up to much of anything, and the overall feeling is that Rolling Stone wanted to get some kind of interview and/or profile of the Wachowskis to tie in with the release of V IS FOR VENDETTA. Unable to get cooperation from the Wachowskis, the magazine had to fill the gap somehow, and this was the result – a shot across the bow meant to show what happens when you don’t cooperate and grant access.
I have no evidence to support this theory, but I will note that ROLLING STONE ran a vaguely similar piece about Eddie Murphy years ago: Murphy had supposedly agreed to an interview, then backed out, so the magazine ran an article that sounded like a paranoid conspiracy theory, with Murphy surrounded by gang of handlers and managers that were keeping him cut off from the real world – isolated, alone, and out of touch. The article didn’t come right out and say it, but the impression it left in the reader was that Murphy was a virtual prisoner, who wanted to do the interview but was prevented by those around him.
Personally, my belief is that, if you don’t get the interview, you should write about something else. Even better, don’t rely on interviews to fill your pages. That’s a lazy tactic – it saves you from having to think of anything to write – you just transcribe what the celebrity says. We might all be better off if magazines devoted more space to writers who had something of their own to say.
*I think Silver’s memory is failing him a bit here: During the release of THE MATRIX, the Wachowski Brothers were already adverse to publicity and declined interviews, allowing Silver to be the mouthpiece for the film. Not that the film needed the big Hollywood hype; it certainly sold on its own merits.

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