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Lana Wachowski

Lana Wachowski

Cloud Atlas

Harper's Bazaar

March 2013

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For Cloud Atlas co-director Lana Wachowski, the film’s unconventional storyline encouraged her to open up in public about her gender reassignment

A decade ago, Larry Wachowski, one half of the sibling duo who directed the Matrix trilogy, revealed to his family that he was transgender and declared his wish to undergo gender reassignment surgery. At the time, he and his brother Andy were shooting The Matrix sequels in Sydney, Australia, and, after years of secret torment, Larry found himself contemplating suicide. Their mother flew over from Chicago on a family-sanctioned SOS mission; Larry confessed all in a “tear-soaked baptism”, and Lana was born.

Now, for the first time, Lana is talking about the experience. The reason is Cloud Atlas, a film adaptation of David Mitchell’s 2004 novel, which Lana and Andy co-directed with Tom Tykwer. It’s a deeply personal project in which the Wachowskis invested their own money. But her reasons for speaking openly about her transition reach beyond mere film promotion. “If I had remained invisible,” she says, quoting from Cloud Atlas, “the truth would stay hidden, and I couldn’t allow that.”

When we meet at the Beverly Hilton in LA, Lana makes an instant impression. Tall and rangy, with a shock of pink and purple dreadlocks and wearing a loose grey tunic over black leggings, she is thoughtful and charming woman and seems relieved to talk candidly about her life.

“I felt a responsibility,” she says, “not only to people in this time and place, but also in the past. To my younger self, to other people who are thinking about dark decisions; maybe I can inspire them. The kindness, courage and generosity of individuals open up the door to potential future better worlds.”

It’s a karmic worldview beautifully dramatised in Cloud Atlas, a construct of interlocking stories that spans from the 19th-century South Seas to post-apocalyptic Hawaii. The film stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and Hugh Grant, all playing multiple characters to convey the idea that the soul is immutable across boundaries.

“Some people get upset because Cloud Atlas doesn’t fit into their conventional ways of understanding a movie,” Lana says. “They also get angry with me because I represent something that transcends their limited definition of what gender is.”

“It’s not like Lana was knocked over the head or had a series of strokes and now she’s suddenly a different person,” adds Andy. “She’s the same person; she’s just engendered differently.”

It’s a better world for Lana now. She married the “love of my life” three years ago and has embraced her gender. “My relationships don’t have the same feeling of inauthenticity that they once had,” she says. “But my artistic process with Andy, which has always been one of the better things in my life, has remained the same.”

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