Movie Talk

Lana Wachowski Opens Up About Feeling “Betwixt”

lana wachowskiAndy and Lana Wachowski are some of the most reclusive filmmakers working in Hollywood. In the past, they've refused to do press events for any of their movies, from their hugely influential "Matrix" trilogy to "V for Vendetta," which they produced, to "Speed Racer." But for their upcoming staggeringly ambitious movie, "Cloud Atlas," which premieres this week at the Toronto Film Festival, they've decided to talk with the New Yorker's Aleksandar Hemon in a lengthy profile.

While the article devotes pages to their new movie's long and difficult production -- it's fascinating, if you have a few minutes to spare, read it -- the piece also offers a few rare insights into the famously private filmmaking siblings. Until 2002, Lana was known as Larry. In the profile, Lana opens up about her long and painful transition.

While growing up on the South Side of Chicago, Larry was confused about her gender as early as the third grade, when he transferred to a Catholic school. When the students lined up according to sex, young Larry wasn't sure where to line up. "I just stopped in between [the two lines]. I stood for a long moment with everyone staring at me, including the nun. She told me to get in line. I was stuck -- I couldn't move. I think some unconscious part of me figured I was exactly where I belonged: betwixt."

[Related: 'Cloud Atlas' directors reveal more than just back story]

Larry dealt with this uncertainty by retreating into movies and books and concocting elaborate stories with his brother Andy. Fast forward a couple of decades. The Wachowskis are the toast of Hollywood after the release of "The Matrix," though Larry was feeling increasingly depressed about his gender identity. His marriage collapsed. Things came to a head in 2002, during the production of the next two "Matrix" movies.

"For years, I couldn't even say the words 'transgendered' or 'transsexual,'" Lana told the New Yorker. "When I began to admit it to myself, I knew I would eventually have to tell my parents and my brother and my sisters. This fact would inject such terror into me that I would not sleep for days."

Sensing that something was wrong with her son, Lana's mother, Lynne, flew out to the production in Australia. There, Larry admitted the truth. "I'm transgender. I'm a girl," he told her. Thankfully, Lynne and everyone else in the family unconditionally accepted the news. Days later, the whole Wachowski clan went out to dinner in Sydney with Lana dressed as a woman for the first time publicly. Soon after, Lana returned to the set as her new self and continued with her job.

[Related: 'Lawless' director John Hillcoat talks about Nick Cave, on-set fights, and Guy Pearce's hair]

"I chose to change my exteriority to bring it closer into alignment with my interiority. My biggest fears were all about losing my family. Once they accepted me, everything else has been a piece of cake."

In 2009, Lana remarried another woman. Though she gets asked a lot, she demurs in answering whether or not she has made the full transformation to a woman.

"I prefer to keep this information between my wife and me."

See Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tywker introduce 'Cloud Atlas':

'Cloud Atlas' Directors' Introduction

'Cloud Atlas' Extended Trailer