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Aleksandar Hemon Profiles The Reclusive Wachowskis In The New Yorker As Cloud Atlas Nears Its Debut

By Steven Pate in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 5, 2012 7:00PM

2012_09_05_wachowski.gif The legendary reclusiveness of the Wachowskis has been adding to their mystique ever since The Matrix transformed from an ambitious and personal science fiction project into a global box office juggernaut. But with Cloud Atlas, their most ambitious film since The Matrix saga, set to debut to audiences at the Toronto International Film Festival this weekend, the Beverly natives have a perfectly-timed long-form New Yorker profile hitting the Internet and newsstands to capitalize on all that pent-up curiosity.

Allowing Chicago resident and rising literary star Aleksandar Hemon to tell their story makes a ton of sense. Hemon clearly appreciates the care the Wachowskis have taken to adapt David Mitchell's spell-binding best seller, a narrative nesting doll of six separate but related stories whose daring structure would seem to resist cinematic transformation, despite significant financing and production obstacles.

“Cloud Atlas” had been subjected to an economic-modelling process and the numbers had come back too low. The template that had been used, according to the Wachowskis, was Darren Aronofsky’s “The Fountain” (2006), because it had three autonomous story lines set in different eras; “The Fountain,” which had a mixed critical response, had lost almost twenty million dollars.

“The problem with market-driven art-making is that movies are green-lit based on past movies,” Lana told me. “So, as nature abhors a vacuum, the system abhors originality. Originality cannot be economically modelled.” The template for “The Matrix,” the Wachowskis recalled, had been “Johnny Mnemonic,” a 1995 Keanu Reeves flop.

No film deserves to be compared to The Fountain. But the Wachowskis got their film in the end, with Tom Hanks, dubbed "our [generation's] Jimmy Stewart" by Lana, playing four roles.

The Wachowskis made a few waves a month ago when
Lana Wachowski "revealed" her transition from Larry in a promotional video. With the New Yorker article, there follows some inevitable focus on Hemon's tapdance through the pronoun-strewn minefield of transgender profile subjects.

What struck us more was just how simpatico author and subject seemed to be:

Seemingly untouched by Hollywood, [the Wachowskis] did not project the jadedness that is a common symptom of stardom. Lana was one of the best-read people I’d ever met; Andy had a wry sense of humor; they were both devout Bulls fans. We also shared a militant belief in the art of narration and a passionate love for Chicago.”

We're rooting for the Wachowskis, but they have taken on a Herculean task. Cloud Atlas is a grandly ambitious film, equal parts heady literary trip and dazzling special effects contraption. It's so big that the siblings enlisted Tom Tykwer of Run Lola Run as a third director for the project. Andy Wachowski called it an attempt to get back to "the spectacle of the sixties and seventies, the touchstone movies," citing specifically Kubrick's 2001. With so few movies getting people into theaters, we sure like the sound of that.