Interview conducted by Josh Horowitz
November 5, 2003
Before THE MATRIX rocked our world in 1999 and way before THE MATRIX RELOADED either rocked your world to another level or left you royally disappointed, Larry and Andy Wachowski were already ones to watch in Hollywood.
In 1996, armed with a screenplay credit from the forgettable Stallone/Banderas actioner ASSASSINS, the Chicago-born brothers now seemed to be going somewhere with a critically acclaimed thriller they had written and made their directorial debut on called BOUND. Today, the brothers are as infamous for their refusal to do any interviews as their curious mentions in the gossip columns. But in October of 1996, they were talking and I spoke with them.
At the time, I was hosting a tiny radio show in upstate New York where I was going to school. From the press I had seen on them and the film itself, they seemed like a worthy duo to talk to. Even before they tapped into the cultural zeitgeist with THE MATRIX, I had a soft spot for this interview. I spoke to them by phone and the two were obviously joined at the hip. Forget finishing each other’s sentences. How about speaking the same phrases in unison! Often cracking each other and myself up with their lazy monotone voices, they brought deadpan to a whole new level.
While much of our discussion revolved around BOUND, the two do reveal their sense of humor and a bit of their sensibilities as they weigh in on what happened to ASSASSINS, a script for PLASTIC MAN, and an ambitious science fiction project they were trying to get made. I wonder how that one turned out…
Here is a transcript of my 1996 chat with Larry and Andy Wachowski.
Josh Horowitz: Larry and Andy Wachowski have directed and written the new film BOUND starring Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon. The film tells the story of Corky and Violet and a suitcase filled with two million dollars and it is generating much talk in the film world. I am pleased to welcome the Wachoski brothers. Larry, Andy, welcome.
LARRY AND ANDY WACHOSKI: (IN PERFECT UNISON) Thank you.
JH: This could be considered your big break. It’s your first film that’s generating some press. How difficult was it to get going on this project?
LW: It had it’s difficult moments where things sort of seemed like they would fall apart forever particularly when we were trying to cast it. But as far as actually getting someone behind us, I mean Dino [De Laurentiis] really liked us after he made a lot of money on ASSASSINS.
AW: We were his good friends after that.
LW: We had told him we were interested in directing a movie and he’s a guy who has made a career out of giving people their first break and he’s great that way. He asked us what the story was about and we were a little nervous about telling him the story because he’s sort of this old Italian patriarch and we knew it was going to be about lesbians. We were sort of beating around the bush trying to explain it. “There’s a woman and then there’s another woman…” Dino stopped us and was like…(in an Italian accent) “this first woman, she is a lesbian?!?”
AW: And we were like…uh yeah.
LW: “This second woman…she is a lesbian?!?”
AW: Um yeah, she was…
LW: Then he claps his hands and says “done we have a deal!”
JH: Yeah, I don’t remember any lesbians in GODZILLA 1985.
LW and AW: LAUGHTER
AW: It was all in the subtext.
LW: It was subtext.
JH: What should a moviegoer going to see BOUND expect to see?
LW: Well, we sort of made it for people who are kind of like us who go to the movies a lot and are generally kind of bored by movies today. We tried to make a movie that was entertaining, that had sex and violence because we
like sex and violence. And that had a lot of deeper intellectual concepts. The whole idea of playing in a genre that is so convention heavy as film noir. It’s like you almost have this dialogue with your audience because they know the conventions and you know they know the conventions. You show them something and they say I know what that is and then you start to twist it and that becomes fun because with a genre like film noir, everyone has these assumptions and expectations. And once all of those things are in place, that’s when you can really start to twist it about and mess around with it. And with BOUND, what we really wanted to do on another level was pull at the conventions. Because you begin to wonder why we have these conventions. Why do these stereotypes exist? What are stereotypes and where do they come from? You use that as the subtext. But that’s all the boring stuff.
JH: What were the problems you encountered in casting the film?
AW: We thought we’d write a good script for women giving them the fun roles that generally men get and that women would be lining up around the block. But that wasn’t the case. I guess they’d get to the sex scene and the script would go flying out their sun-roof right onto highway 10 there.
JH: You have Gina Gershon in this. Was there some ribbing about SHOWGIRLS on the set?
LW and AW: (INCREDULOUSLY) Noooooo.
AW: (FACETIOUSLY) No. Not at all. Why would you say that?
JH: Well, I heard it a got a little bit of bad press.
LW: You guys just didn’t understand it.
JH: Was Dino De Laurentiis a close collaborator on the project or did he give you guys free reign?
LW: He’s a guy who pretty much lets you do what you want. In the end, when you finish the film, he give his opinions. There are opinions he wants paid attention to.
AW: I mean he’s been in the business for 300 years.
LW: He saw the first week of dailies and he was satisfied that we knew what we were doing and he pretty much left us alone until we were done.
JH: How does an idea like BOUND begin?
LW: Like I said, we really like the genre. People have made a lot of other comparisons but Billy Wilder is really is a heavy influence on BOUND. We felt that film noir was a genre where you could create a really contained story. We knew we wanted to be totally on a set as much as we could to get the kind of style level we were looking for. We had this idea about a woman who you would see on the street and make a host of sexual assumptions and they would all be wrong and that sort of lent itself to this constant idea of surfaces and truth under surfaces.
JH: You guys wrote the screenplay for ASSASSINS starring Sylvester Stallone a few years ago. Was that a good experience for you two?
AW: You’re just trying to get us into trouble!
JH: What went wrong on that?
LW: The film was not really based on the screenplay. The one thing that sort of bothered us is that people would blame us for the screenplay and it’s like Richard Donner is one of the few directors in Hollywood that can make whatever movie he wants exactly the way he wants it. No one will stop him and that’s essentially what happened. He brought in Brian Helgeland and they totally rewrote the script. We tried to take our names off of it but the WGA doesn’t let you. So our names are forever there.
JH: How did you guys start collaborating together? According to the press notes you started at age four or something…
LW: We didn’t know how to answer that question in the press thing. I don’t know. We’ve just been hanging out forever together. After college we started a carpentry business. While we were doing that, we wrote some comic books and while we were doing that, we read Roger Corman’s autobiography which was truly inspirational and we decided to try to write a script for a low budget horror movie. We wrote one and that was it.
JH: Was film always ideally what you guys wanted to end up in?
AW: I guess. We’ve always loved going to the movies. We’ve been going to the movies since we were kids. Our mom and dad are big movie fans. They’d take us out on these movie orgys where we’d see sometimes three movies in a day.
JH: How do you two work together? Are you yelling at each other in a room? What’s the process like exactly?
LW: Well, since we know that my ideas are always better we have an understanding in place. That was Andy by the way.
AW: No, that was Larry!
LW: Andy, Andy, Andy! Andy sucks.
JH: But seriously, is it a pretty easy relationship?
LW: You can kind of tell what’s working and what isn’t. We work on part of the script ourselves and then we switch. And we work on each other’s and rewrite each other’s stuff. It sort of works out that way.
JH: I understand you guys wrote a film for PLASTIC MAN. Is this actually going to be made into a film one day?
AW: You never know. For a while there, it looked like it was going to be another ASSASSINS.
LW: Originally they liked the script a lot and then they got a director and he didn’t like the script. I don’t know why directors sign on to these projects and completely rewrite everything but he rewrote it and now I guess he’s not on the project anymore so we’ll see.
JH: Was there a lot of research going to the comic book for that?
LW: We had read the comic book. We sort of thought it might be a funny idea. It’s probably the closest script to a comedy we’ll write. We thought it could be kind of cool. The basic idea we came up with was that he would be an environmentalist, almost like an Earth First-er type guy. The funny scene we thought of that was kind of the start of it all was like he goes to the bathroom after he becomes Plastic Man and his urine is no longer bio-degradable so he like wants to kill himself.
JH: Are your writing styles different? Does one of you like more action in a film or something?
AW: I tend to use more scatalogical humor than Larry.
LW: That’s true. All of the butt jokes are Andy’s.
JH: So what’s next for both of you? What are you working on now?
LW: There’s a science fiction project that we really want to make but it’s very expensive as they keep telling us so we’ll see. Hopefully it will happen.
JH: Down the line are you both going to work independently or are you going to stay together?
LW: Well, we’re both very very lazy and having someone else do half the work is very convenient.
JH: Do you have a prepared response when interviewers compare you to all those other famous brother filmmaking teams like the Coen brothers?
AW: We haven’t quite gotten that response down pat yet.
LW: It’s going to happen. It’s automatic. We’re brothers. They’re brothers. We want to be compared to more sisters.
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