Inside The Matrix

With The Matrix, writer/directors Andy and Larry Wachowski have mixed genres to create a major hit…
By James E Brooks

selected from Starburst #251

If you were to enter the Matrix website looking for information on the writer- directors of the new virtual reality hit, this is what you would find: 'Larry and Andy Wachowski have been working together for 30 years. Their most recent feature film, Bound, which they wrote and directed, stars Gina Gershorn, Jennifer Tilly, and Joe Pantoliano. Little else is know about them.'

The MatrixIt's entirely appropriate, then, that the interview with them just weeks before The Matrix opens is a conference call, with all the participants faceless on the networked telephone lines. The brothers are laconic, their voices marked with a drawl, with Larry doing most of the talking.

Although obviously an action movie, The Matrix is just as much about ideas and concepts that cut to the core of reality and existence. The first natural question would be, then, where did the story come from? Larry begins by saying, "We [Larry and Andy] were working on some comic books, writing some stuff, and a friend of ours asked if we had an idea for a series and we didn't. Because of that, we started talking about ideas that we liked and it sort of bubbled up over the course of a couple of days."

"We used to write for Marvel Comics for a couple of years," Andy adds. "We wrote a lot of Horror comics for Clive Barker."

That background in comics shows in every frame of The Matrix, not only in the composition of the shots, but the way in which the story is told. The brothers see a close kinship between the two media. "We're amazed when people get all over film-makers and say, 'Oh, that's too stylized!'" Larry says. "Movies, like comic books, are a visual medium. In a lot of movies, people forget to tell stories with pictures, they like to tell the story like it was on TV or radio - "

"Or a play…" Andy interjects.

"Or a play," Larry agrees. "So we're very conscious of trying to put images on the screen that people haven't seen before. Or that we haven't seen before. You know, you go to movies all the time and you just get bored at the same kind of things over and over."

Their transition from comic books to movies came around 1995 when the brothers wrote their first movie, Assassins, directed by Richard Donner and starring Sylvester Stallone and Antonio Banderas. "We wrote this script that Dino De Laurentiis bought and sold to Warner Brothers," Larry explains. "That made a whole bunch of money so Dino said, 'Well, what are you going to do next?' We wanted to direct a movie so we told him our idea for Bound. It's funny, he's like this old Italian patriarch and we're wondering, 'Do we come out and say this is about a lesbian couple?' So there we are, 'Well, there's this girl and she is sort of like… involved with this other girl.' And Dino says, 'This first girl, is she a lesbian?' And we say, 'Yeah.' And he says, 'And the second girl is a lesbian?' We said, 'Yeah,' again. And Dino says, 'Done! We have a deal!'"

Bound, of course, was an immediate critical hit, but even its success was not enough to insure smooth sailing for The Matrix. "Nobody understood the script," Larry says. "Nobody in Hollywood liked it, they thought it was too dense. They were too confused by it. There was one guy at Warner Brothers and Joel Silver, who both liked Bound, and even though they really didn't understand The Matrix they believed in us. They asked us to keep trying to explain the story to them and eventually we hired a bunch of our friends who are comic book artists to go off and draw the entire movie…"

"So that we could actually sit down and go over the movie with them page by page," Andy says.

"So we did and they got more excited about it," Larry adds, then goes on to say, "Our goal was to make an intellectual action movie. We like action movies, we like fighting, we like guns. But we are pretty tired of movies not having any ideas in them. We tried to infuse this movie with as many relevant ideas as we could."

All The Matix images © Warner Bros
Read the full range of Matrix Interviews in Starburst 251.
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