An epic interview with the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer: From 'Cloud Atlas' to 'Jupiter Ascending'
I feel like a guy who has been hunting Bigfoot for a decade who finally, absolutely, completely has proven the existence of Bigfoot, and beyond that, was shocked to realize that Bigfoot is pretty much just a smart, funny couple of science-fiction nerds from Chicago.
After all, at the start of 2012, Andy and Lana Wachowski were a complete mystery to me. They are currently more high-profile and front and center than ever before as they prepare to try to open their most invigorating gamble so far, "Cloud Atlas," which they co-directed, co-wrote, and co-edited with "Run Lola Run" director Tom Tykwer. They raised the money independently and are releasing the film through Warner Bros. on October 26th in the US following a premiere at the Toronto Film Festival in early September and a secret screening at Fantastic Fest at the end of the month.
So right now, that mystery is not nearly as much of a mystery as it used to be, and in the course of that happening, I've gotten a chance to talk about the new film, their previous work, and even what we can expect from "Jupiter Ascending," their next science-fiction film. I have, in essence, come face to face with Bigfoot and gotten every answer I might have wanted and then some.
People should listen when these guys are excited about something they've made. I think "The Matrix" remains one of the great pure pop movies ever, a huge punch landed dead center, and I respect the way they built out the world they created in games, sequels, and animation. I've written about those movies and about "Speed Racer" and "V For Vendetta," and during all of that, they managed to stay fairly low-profile. The work speaks for itself, and the Wachowskis were just names on the screen to the vast majority of their audience.
Like anyone who is familiar with their work, I knew certain things about them. Obviously, there are the films which I've seen, and I've read many of their unproduced screenplays like "Carnivore" and "Plastic Man" and "Assassins," which was radically different on the page than it was onscreen, and even before they had one of their scripts produced, I just plain liked their writing. I read a lot of screenplays, and they've always been entertaining as a read, no matter what the subject. It's a case of voice being more important than the story being told.
On the personal side, I knew that they were intensely private and notoriously press-shy, and I had to guess that at least part of that was because of Lana Wachowski's gender transition over the last decade. Looking at how some of the press has handled any and every mention of the two of them during this process, I understood why they would make the decision to simply avoid doing press of any kind, and at the same time, furious that the actions of the worst of the press kept other people from just being able to have a conversation with the filmmakers about the work itself.
When I was at the Cannes festival this past May, I caught wind of some buyers-only screenings of "Cloud Atlas," and I did everything I could short of fist-fighting a security guard to get in to see the movie early. While I had to leave France disappointed, my efforts were not unnoticed, and in June, I was asked to come see "Cloud Atlas," which was pretty much locked as a cut, although not mixed at that point.
At that point, after seeing what they'd done, I redoubled my efforts and I sent a long, impassioned e-mail to the studio making my case. This is a big film, full of big ideas and big performances, and I felt like there was a real conversation to be had here if they were at all open to it. I didn't hear anything for months, and I was starting to suspect it would be business as usual this time around.
Then at the start of the festival, just after I touched down in Toronto, I got the official word. A general time and a specific place.
Finally. Bigfoot would pose for a photo, and all I had to do was show up with my camera.