Leading up to the secret screening, I had a pretty good idea that our cover had been blown, and I reached out to Judd Apatow to help me play some Twitter games to try to confuse the issue. It worked well enough that on the morning of the secret screening, someone walked by and told me, "Hey, man, you guys think you're being sneaky, but I saw Judd Apatow in the bathroom this morning. I know you're screening 'This Is 40.'" I did my best to look upset that they had figured me out, even as the Drafthouse was busy sneaking the Wachowskis up an outside staircase on the far side of the building.
When I announced the title onstage, the energy in the room surged, and both sold-out theaters seemed excited to hear they'd be seeing the movie. But when I introduced Lana and Andy and they walked out onstage, the theater went crazy, almost 2/3 of the crowd rising to their feet, giving them a standing ovation simply for showing up. Andy took the microphone first, saying, "I'm Andy Wachowski, and this is my sister Lana. You may know that Lana used to be Larry, and we used to be the Wachowski Brothers. Now? We are the Wachowski Starship." Huge response from the crowd, and then Lana took a moment to thank everyone for coming out and to introduce the movie.
Afterwards, pretty much every single seat was still occupied when we took the stage to start the Q&A. I was still emotional from seeing the finished film for the first time, and I think the full standing ovation the Wachowskis got this time, this one for the film and what they accomplished with it, made them emotional as well.
There's a short highlights reel from the Q&A that Fantastic Fest put together, and you can check it out here:
When everything finished and we were chased out of the theater because we were running late, the publicists for Fantastic Fest invited them to join everyone at the Highball for drinks and conversation. I seriously don't think a single person at the festival would have been shocked or offended if they'd chosen instead to go back to their hotel or out to a private post-screening dinner. The Q&A was such a love-fest from the crowd that I think everyone would have been happy to have had that be the full encounter.
But Fantastic Fest has a mysterious pull on people. It's such a great atmosphere, and it's so relaxed. After the "Frankenweenie" screening on opening night, Tim Burton and his family went bowling at the Highball. All during the festival, you could find filmmakers and fans alike singing karaoke, eating onion rings, or just plain tying one on, all at the Highball. There's something inherently social about the festival, more so than any other fest I attend.
Sure enough, Lana and Andy hung out for a few hours, and they took plenty of time to talk to fans who approached them, to enjoy a few drinks, and to happily answer pretty much every other question or observation I still had for them. I got to discuss the "Animatrix" with Andy Wachowski, talking to him about the satisfaction of being able to explore some of the stranger, smaller corners of the world they created, and I was entertained by the zeal with which Andy dismissed my claim that Austin is a great food town, telling me that there is no food town like Chicago. "The sandwiches," he said, almost dreamily, "all the sandwiches."
They talked a bit about their next film, "Jupiter Ascending," which sounds like a big science-fiction action piece that will star Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis. The stories they told about casting the two stars and their reactions to the news were endearing, and it sounds like they're neck-deep in the world-building part of the process right now. When I commented on how much I loved the water-based surfaces of the streets in the Nu Seoul sequences in "Cloud Atlas," Andy talked about how hard it is to be fresh and cohesive when you're designing architecture and infrastructure, and how that's always the hardest part with a science-fiction film. Lana talked about how they have a big visual idea for "Jupiter Ascending" that is like the evolutionary jump from bullet-time, but how it's going to be expensive and difficult, and might not be possible.
The most animated I saw Lana get all night, though, was when she told me about a trip she took to see the studios where Roy Andersson works and makes his movies. It was a pilgrimage for her, and as she talked about the excitement she felt when she got to see the rooms where he films, where he builds his environments, and she described his shooting schedules, I recognized in her the same thing that I've recognized in many of the people I hold closest in this world, an ability to be moved and inspired by the act of creation, by the potential of art.
In the end, I was the one that had to leave first so I could make it to a midnight screening, and as I left the Highball, the Wachowskis were still there, still happily chatting with fans, and they seemed about a million miles away from the reclusive figures they'd seemed just one month earlier. I have no idea if we'll see more press from them, or if we'll ever do another interview, but I felt like more than most people I interview, they dropped their guard and they presented themselves as who they are, with no filters. No matter what else they are and no matter what else they do, on some level, they are still just the two kids who grew up together, the Wachowskis, two lifelong fans of science-fiction and filmmaking, trying to entertain one another and hoping to leave some mark on these genres that have marked them so very deeply.
"Cloud Atlas" arrives in theaters October 26.