The Matrix trilogy is the most successful cinematic venture of the past several decades — together, all three films have grossed over three billion dollars worldwide, an impressive accomplishment within any genre (let alone science fiction.) The attention of audiences worldwide has certainly been captured by the mind-bending storyline and phenomenal special effects, but the perennial question remains: What does it all mean?
Early Life and Career
Lana Wachowski was born on June 21, 1965, to parents Lynne and Ron Wachowski. Lana grew up as Laurence Wachowski (also known as Larry Wachowski) in Chicago, Illinois, with younger sibling Andy. Though biologically male, as a child Larry also identified with girls, existing between both genders and later struggling with depression and suicidal ideation due to great social stigma.
Wachowski attended Whiney M. Young Magnet High School, taking on TV and theater programs, before going on to Bard College. She eventually dropped out to work for a time as a carpenter with her sibling back in their home city. The two were also consummate devotees of fantasy fiction and comic books, and wrote for a Marvel Comics imprint series, Ectokid.
Writing 'Assassins' and Directing 'Bound'
The Wachowskis started working in Hollywood with producer Joel Silver by penning a script for the Sylvester Stallone and Antonio Banderas action flick Assassins (1995). They were then given directing and screenwriting duties for the sultry, women-centered heist film Bound (1996), starring Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly.
Launching 'The Matrix'
The siblings ended up directing and co-writing a groundbreaking work that explored existential philosophies in a dynamic storyline: The Matrix. The 1999 film, starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne and Carrie-Anne Moss, had a story that scrutinized the virtual world of a future era and revolutionized the interplay of action choreography and CGI effects. The movie grossed more than $460 million worldwide and was followed by two 2003 sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. Though enjoying huge success, the siblings decided to maintain their privacy.
The Wachowskis returned to the comic world for their next project, producing and writing the 2006 film adaptation of the Alan Moore graphic novel V for Vendetta. The movie, directed by James McTeigue, starred Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman as characters in a dystopic England undergoing revolution as sparked by a masked figure.
In 2008, the siblings produced, directed and co-wrote a kaleidoscopic adaptation of the 1960s animated series Speed Racer. The two returned to working as producers with McTeigue for 2009's Ninja Assassin.
'Cloud Atlas' and Coming Out
2012 was a momentous year for the Wachowskis. In late October, they released their adaptation of the David Mitchell novel Cloud Atlas, which they co-directed with German filmmaker Tom Tykwer, and which features Halle Berry and Tom Hanks.
Also in 2012, Lana began making public statements about her experience as a transgender person. Openly living as a woman since 2000, she talked about her outlook on gender during promotions for Atlas and in an eloquent gala speech for the Human Rights Campaign. She received HRC's Visibility Award in 2012.
In February 2015, the Wachowskis released their next film, Jupiter Ascending, a space opera starring Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum and Eddie Redmayne. Though offering majestic visuals, the movie was panned by critics and opened to moderate box office attendance. Later in the year the duo released the better received Netflix series Sense8, following a group of individuals across the globe who are supernaturally connected.
In March 2016, Lana's sibling Andy came out as transgender as well, announcing her name to be Lilly in a public statement released by the Windy City Times.