‘Matrix’ Director’s Gender Transition Makes Her The Highest-Grossing Female Director Of All Time

When Matrix co-director Larry Wachowski became Lana Wachowski, she became the first major Hollywood director to publicly identify as transgender. After undergoing a thorough gender reassignment including, apparently, surgery, Lana recently made a rare appearance in a promotional spot for her hotly anticipated upcoming movie, Cloud Atlas“Hi, I’m Lana,” she says at the beginning of the charming video, sporting pink dreadlocks and a cute semi-sheer black top with a bra visible underneathWachowski’s public embrace of her feminine identity makes her an important figure in the transgender community. But her transition makes her notable for a reason that has been much less widely reported on: She is now the top-grossing female director of all time.

Lana and her brother, Andy, co-directed the hugely profitable Matrix trilogy, starting with The Matrix in 1999. Cloud Atlas, based on the mind-bending novel by David Mitchell, is their first directorial project since the disappointing 2008 family action movie Speed Racer. Cloud Atlas, due in theaters in October, stars Tom Hanks and Halle Berry.

According to numbers compiled by Box Office Mojo, the Wachowski siblings (still listed there as Andy and Larry) are #60 on the list of top-grossing directors. Their movies have made a combined $640.1 million, with an average of $128 million per film. There’s not a single woman above them on the list, which is topped by Steven Spielberg.

The top woman on the list is Betty Thomas at #77, whose biggest movie was Alvin and the Chipmunks 2. Just below her is the better-known Nancy Meyers, known for lady-friendly comedies like like What Women Want and Something’s Gotta Give.

Rumors about Larry Wachowski’s gender identity began circling a decade ago during a nasty divorce from his wife, Thea Bloom. In 2003, Wachowski’s date to the Cannes Film Festival told British tabloids he was a “cross-dresser.” Since then, she has been “quietly transitioning genders,” according to the LA Times.

There are a lot of conversations to be had about why the top 76 money-making directors of all time are men — really, it’s shocking. But for now, let’s just celebrate the fact that Lana Wachowki’s Lana-ness moves women up to #60. And, hey, if Cloud Atlas is a mega-hit, we may have even more to celebrate.

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    • KRose

      I might be slaughtered for this but its seriously an honest question: Does it really count? I mean, if a woman were to be transgender and than get pregnant would we say “First man every to be pregnant!” Also, if a woman were to be #61 would we call her “Second highest-grossing Female Director” under Lana Wachowski? I’m not trying to discount anything but if I were that woman who reached #61, I don’t know how awesome I would feel if I was considered “Second-Highest grossing” behind someone who really was a man.

      • http://twitter.com/publicroad Ruth Graham

        It’s an interesting question, because Lana did most (all?) of her previous directorial work as a man. As someone asked me on Twitter, would you now consider her the first female on her high-school football team? I think that’s a fair question. But transgender people don’t throw away their entire lives when they transition, and — particularly since film directing isn’t gendered on its face — I think it’s legitimate to observe that she is now the highest-ranking woman on the list of top-grossing directors. And I *definitely* believe that all of her work going forward should be considered female-directed; she is not “really” a man anymore, as you put it. She’s a woman.

    • KRose

      I might be slaughtered for this but its seriously an honest question: Does it really count? I mean, if a woman were to be transgender and than get pregnant would we say “First man every to be pregnant!” Also, if a woman were to be #61 would we call her “Second highest-grossing Female Director” under Lana Wachowski? I’m not trying to discount anything but if I were that woman who reached #61, I don’t know how awesome I would feel if I was considered “Second-Highest grossing” behind someone who really was a man.

      • http://twitter.com/publicroad Ruth Graham

        It’s an interesting question, because Lana did most (all?) of her previous directorial work as a man. As someone asked me on Twitter, would you now consider her the first female on her high-school football team? I think that’s a fair question. But transgender people don’t throw away their entire lives when they transition, and — particularly since film directing isn’t gendered on its face — I think it’s legitimate to observe that she is now the highest-ranking woman on the list of top-grossing directors. And I *definitely* believe that all of her work going forward should be considered female-directed; she is not “really” a man anymore, as you put it. She’s a woman.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ladybugspoliticalsniffdown Cathy Brennan

      This is serious bullshit.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ladybugspoliticalsniffdown Cathy Brennan

      This is serious bullshit.

    • michelle

      Concur with Cathy…one should not get to move to the top of the list just by choosing to claim that one is now female. Talk about doing a tremendous disservice to the females who have scratched and clawed to even GET to the table. But then the men never gave a damn about fundamental fairness towards females…

    • michelle

      Concur with Cathy…one should not get to move to the top of the list just by choosing to claim that one is now female. Talk about doing a tremendous disservice to the females who have scratched and clawed to even GET to the table. But then the men never gave a damn about fundamental fairness towards females…

    • canaduck

      This is absurd. A man who grows up as a male, with male privilege and all the according advantages that come along with it, and then after decades of working and producing films as a man…he’s the highest grossing female director of all time? That is profoundly insulting as well as misleading. The Grindstone has posted several articles about how screwed over women are in the film industry, specifically as directors, because there’s such institutional bias–this is just one more step towards that because it makes it appear as if we’re actually doing great.

      If Lana wants to live as a woman, that’s fine, but let’s not pretend that he’s just like Penny Marshall or Betty Thomas or Amy Heckerling or any other woman who had to fight such incredible institutional bias to even get a chance in the industry.

    • canaduck

      This is absurd. A man who grows up as a male, with male privilege and all the according advantages that come along with it, and then after decades of working and producing films as a man…he’s the highest grossing female director of all time? That is profoundly insulting as well as misleading. The Grindstone has posted several articles about how screwed over women are in the film industry, specifically as directors, because there’s such institutional bias–this is just one more step towards that because it makes it appear as if we’re actually doing great.

      If Lana wants to live as a woman, that’s fine, but let’s not pretend that he’s just like Penny Marshall or Betty Thomas or Amy Heckerling or any other woman who had to fight such incredible institutional bias to even get a chance in the industry.

    • Simon

      I support Lana and her transition, and I’m glad that she’s living a more meaningful and honest life as a woman. That said, I don’t think she should qualify. She is living as a woman now, but before she came out, she was living as a man, and people were perceiving her as a man, and interacting with her a man. This no doubt gave her an advantage – she did not have to face the same obstacles when she was a living as a man as a female director would face. I wish Lana the best, and I hope that more female directors AND more LGBT directors get the limelight in the future.

    • Simon

      I support Lana and her transition, and I’m glad that she’s living a more meaningful and honest life as a woman. That said, I don’t think she should qualify. She is living as a woman now, but before she came out, she was living as a man, and people were perceiving her as a man, and interacting with her a man. This no doubt gave her an advantage – she did not have to face the same obstacles when she was a living as a man as a female director would face. I wish Lana the best, and I hope that more female directors AND more LGBT directors get the limelight in the future.

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