Larry and Andy Wachowski, the brothers behind the MATRIX trilogy, are well-known for the low-profile they keep: even when they have a big movie (that the studio would no doubt love them to promote) they don’t grant interviews. It’s been three years since the last MATRIX, and we haven’t heard much from them, but now they have a new production scheduled to open in March: V IS FOR VENDETTA (based on the graphic novel). Yet still they prefer to remain behind the scenes, maintaining their cloak of secrecy.
Rolling Stone tries to take a peak behind that cloak, and the result is this bizarre article by Peter Wilkinson, “The Mystery of Larry Wachowski.” I say “bizarre,” because it plays out like a 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 reassignment.
What’s bizarre about the piece is not its red-light milieu of leather, sadism, and porn; it’s that Wilkinson 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 Cinematic offers one possible answer: 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 film 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 really sucked big-time and was vaguely reminiscent of a soft-core porn film. And one anonymous “bondage-world source,” claims 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. The Wachowskis have created a black hole around themselves, and it’s inevitable that someone would try to fill the vacuum. Reporter Wilkinson seems to have 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 are sourced to acquaintances of Isla Strix, and a lot of them seem to have an ax to grind (especially her ex-husband — a female-to-male transsexual, whom Ilsa left to be with Larry, 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 upcoming release of V IS FOR VENDETTA. Unable to get cooperation from Larry and Andy, the magazine had to fill the gap somehow, and this is the result — a sort of hit piece meant to show what happens when you don’t cooperate and grant access.
I have no evidence to support this theory at all, but I will note that ROLLING STONE ran a vaguely similar story about Eddie Murphy years ago: Murphy had supposedly agreed to an interview, then backed out, so the magazine ran a piece 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 being 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.