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Every Project From The Wachowskis Never Made

Lana and Lilly Wachowski are among the most visionary and divisive filmmakers in modern Hollywood. "The Matrix" series remains by far their most financially successful and mainstream-accessible project: Aside from 2005's "V For Vendetta," which the Wachowskis wrote and produced but did not direct, nearly every post-"Matrix" Wachowski work has struggled at the box office and been controversial among critics. For those who can get on the sisters' hyper-stylized, anime-inspired, proudly queer wavelength, however, their ambitious "failures" are still way more interesting than most filmmakers' successes. Candy-colored "Speed Racer," timeline-jumping "Cloud Atlas," and even loopy space opera "Jupiter Ascending" all have dedicated fans.

It's a miracle the Wachowskis have been able to get so many wild projects off the ground. For every film they've made, however, there are several projects that fell by the wayside. Sometimes, these productions were studio franchise projects that the Wachowskis themselves lost interest in. Other times, they were original properties the sisters believed in deeply, but proved too risky to fund. While it's not impossible that some of these forgotten projects could eventually see the light of day, in all cases, it's incredibly unlikely that they will. These are the projects the Wachowskis never made, from sci-fi sagas to Batman reboots.


The first screenplay the Wachowskis ever wrote was "Carnivore," an original horror story about a cannibal soup kitchen that takes the phrase "eat the rich" literally. Inspired by schlock impresario Roger Corman and his book, "How I Made A Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime," the siblings started writing "Carnivore" with the intention of being able to produce it on a low-budget. But soon, they realized their script was getting a little too ambitious for that. Professional agents liked the writing, but felt it was too un-commercial to produce. The 1995 flop "Assassins" was actually the Wachowskis' attempt to create a more "commercial" script.

After the success of "The Matrix," studios became more interested in producing "Carnivore." Legendary "Dawn of the Dead" director George Romero was in talks to direct the movie for Trimark in 1999. The project was still in active development after Trimark merged with Lionsgate in 2001, and in 2003, it almost became "Matrix" cinematographer Bill Pope's directorial debut. But ultimately, all of these attempts to produce "Carnivore" fell apart.

Plastic Man

The Wachowskis have always been into comics. Before they broke into the film industry, they were writing Clive Barker's "Ectokid," "Hellraiser," and "Nightbreed" comics at Marvel. When the Wachowskis made it to Hollywood, they decided to try their hand at a comic book adaptation. Not too surprising, right? But you might not have expected said adaptation to be about DC's stretchy comedic superhero, Plastic Man.

A draft of the script, which reinvents Patrick "Eel" O'Brian as an environmentalist who cries over the fact that his pee is no longer biodegradable, was written in 1995, and attached to Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment. But things didn't pan out, and "Plastic Man" entered development hell. The script leaked online in 2003, receiving positive reviews. Rumors flared up in 2008 that the project was going to be the Wachowskis' "Speed Racer" follow-up, with Keanu Reeves in the leading role. But the sourcing was weak, and Reeves himself denied those rumors.

Vertical Run

Very little information is available on the Wachowski sisters' potential adaptation of Joseph R. Garber's 1995 thriller novel "Vertical Run." Both The Wrap's PowerGrid and The Tracking Board confirm that the Wachowskis wrote the script in the '90s. We also know that Jon Peters, the producer who infamously wanted Superman to fight a giant mechanical spider and is played by Bradley Cooper in Paul Thomas Anderson's "Licorice Pizza," was attached. Other than that, almost no information about the abandoned film exists online.

We can get a decent idea of what this movie might have looked like from the source novel, however. "Vertical Run" follows a Vietnam veteran and businessman named David Elliot, who has to escape his office when everyone in the building suddenly tries to kill him. This "Die Hard"-esque plot could have been a great exercise for the Wachowskis' action skills, which are rarely deployed without the science-fiction elements they've come to be primarily associated with.

Hard Boiled

Comic artist Geof Darrow was hired to do concept art for "The Matrix" because the Wachowskis loved his work on edgy comic miniseries "Hard Boiled." The cyberpunk aesthetic present in "Hard Boiled" is indeed reminiscent of the visuals present in "The Matrix" — Darrow was a terrific choice. But the Wachowskis were not only interested in collaborating with Darrow — they wanted to adapt "Hard Boiled" into an animated movie.

Though Darrow was on board with the project, "Hard Boiled" writer Frank Miller objected to the idea of an animated adaptation. While Miller's iconic Batman comics "The Dark Knight Returns" and "Batman: Year One" were eventually given faithful animated adaptations, Miller has shown a clear preference for effects-heavy live-action adaptations when it comes to his original work. After leaving the Wachowskis' hands, the movie rights to "Hard Boiled" have been attached to a number of directors, including David Fincher and Miller himself. Most recently, Ben Wheatley was said to be holding the "Hard Boiled" reins, with Tom Hiddleston set to star as the protagonist, cyborg tax collector Carl Seltz. However, no further news has been announced since 2016.

King Conan: Crown of Iron

1982's "Conan the Barbarian" is a film the Wachowskis have regularly discussed being fans of – there's a reason Capheus of "Sense8" watches it repeatedly. In 2000, hot off the success of the first "Matrix" film, the siblings teamed up with John Milius, director and co-writer of "Conan," to develop a sequel following an older version of the legendary barbarian. Milius would write and direct this new film, while the Wachowskis would develop the story and handle second-unit duties (and simultaneously direct the "Matrix" sequels). Stan Lee was set to serve as executive producer and a creative consultant.

But in 2004, the Wachowskis decided to leave "King Conan: Crown of Iron." This happened shortly after original star Arnold Schwarzenegger became governor of California, but the film's demise can't be laid entirely at the feet of the Governator. Rather, artistic conflicts between the Wachowskis and Milius were to blame. Based on Lana Wachowski's later criticism of Milius' pro-war politics, it seems possible that these conflicts were political in nature, as well as artistic.

Batman: Year One

After the campy disaster that was 1997's "Batman & Robin," Warner Bros. looked to Frank Miller's "Batman: Year One" as a guide for how to reboot the Batman movie series in a darker, more serious manner. Director Darren Aronofsky, however, pushed the adaptation in a direction that was too dark, even for Miller's taste. In 2000, the Wachowskis were brought in to offer their own proposal for a "Batman: Year One" movie. This flick was poised to be more faithful to Miller's story, while also drawing from Neal Adams' celebrated 1970s run on "Batman."

The studio liked their pitch, and offered them extensive creative control. But ultimately, it came down to choosing between the "Matrix" sequels and "Batman," and the Wachowskis preferred to work on their own original series. After they exited the project, Joss Whedon got a crack at crafting his own "Batman: Year One" script. However, it was Christopher Nolan who ultimately succeeded in rebooting the "Batman" movies with 2005's "Batman Begins."

Shaolin Cowboy and the Tomb of Doom

In 2004, following the completion of the original "Matrix" trilogy, the Wachowskis decided to return to comics. They formed the publishing company Burlyman Entertainment alongside "Matrix" concept artists Geof Darrow and Steve Skroce. In addition to a number of "Matrix" comics, Burlyman put out two irregularly-published ongoing series: "Doc Frankenstein" and "Shaolin Cowboy." The latter, a surrealist kung-fu Western written and illustrated by Darrow, nearly received an anime adaptation.

Titled "Shaolin Cowboy and the Tomb of Doom," this anime feature film was set to bring together the Wachowskis, Darrow, Japanese animation studio Madhouse, and Seiji Mizushima of "Fullmetal Alchemist" fame. According to Darrow, Mizushima was especially interested in hiring Steve Buscemi to voice a poodle. In production in 2008, the movie is reportedly half-complete, but unable to move forward without further funding. Thankfully for Darrow and the fans, this movie falling apart wasn't the end for "Shaolin Cowboy" – Dark Horse acquired the series' rights from Burlyman in 2011, and allowed Darrow to continue the comics.

Speed Racer sequel

No Wachowski film's reputation has turned around quite as dramatically as that of 2008's "Speed Racer." At the time of the film's release, the majority of critics hated it, dismissing the out-there feature as too long, too silly, and entirely too headache-inducing. Nowadays, when "Speed Racer" is brought up in conversation, it's often remembered more positively as both a loving recreation of the classic anime and an experimental work of art. In some ways, "Speed Racer" was ahead of its time — its joyously unrealistic style broke ground for the likes of "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World" and "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse."

Being ahead of one's time, however, doesn't make it easy to get a sequel produced. Ahead of the "Speed Racer" release, producer Joel Silver confirmed that the Wachowskis had ideas for a sequel, should the movie be a hit. Actors Rain and Christina Ricci expressed interest in returning for such a film. Any chance of this sequel getting made, however, was crushed by the film's box office failure: "Speed Racer" made only $93.9 million worldwide on a $120 million budget.

Cobalt Neural 9

How do you follow up the artistic ambition and box office failure of "Speed Racer"? If you're Lana and Lilly Wachowski, you convince Arianna Huffington, Jesse Ventura, Salman Rushdie, and Cornel West to discuss the Iraq War as test footage for "Cobalt Neural 9." A truly boundary-pushing movie about an American and an Iraqi soldier falling in love (via Vulture), "Cobalt Neutral 9" also included a plot to assassinate George W. Bush. From that summary alone, it's easy to understand why the film struggled to find financing.

The Wachowskis clearly believed in this story: According to a 2012 interview with The AV Club, the sisters invested $5 million of their own funds into the film. At that point, Lilly was convinced the story would be produced in some form, saying, "Somehow, it will get made into some ... thing. That might be a puppet show." Years later, no such "puppet show" exists, and both sisters are busy. Moreover, such a project, given its topical nature, might seem too dated to bother with. The "Cobalt Neutral 9" script has yet to leak online, nor has any test footage emerged, beyond photos initially tweeted by Huffington in 2009.


Will Smith infamously passed on playing the role of Neo in the "The Matrix" — and perhaps even more shockingly, made the horrible "Wild Wild West" instead. According to Smith, he was confused by the Wachowskis' bizarre pitch for the now-legendary film. Over a decade after he turned the siblings down, however, Smith almost had the chance to star in another Wachowski film: A modern take on the Robin Hood legend entitled "Hood."

Announced in 2010 (via The Hollywood Reporter), details about "Hood," or why the project was abandoned, are scarce. It should be noted that 2010 also brought about the release of Ridley Scott's "Robin Hood," a more traditional take on the tale starring Russell Crowe. Fans might speculate that "Hood" was a victim of how busy the Wachowskis were at the time. "Cloud Atlas," "Jupiter Ascending," and "Cobalt Neural 9" were all in varying stages of development at this point — "Hood" could have simply fallen through the cracks amidst higher-priority projects.

Sense8 Season 3

"Sense8," a sci-fi series co-created by the Wachowskis and J. Michael Straczynski for Netflix, follows eight individuals from around the world who become psychically linked. As is typical of Wachowski projects, it gained a devoted cult following while baffling mainstream audiences. Netflix spent a fortune on the show's first two seasons — which, sadly, were not met with high-enough viewership. Sensing the original five-year plan wasn't going to be doable, some attached to the series began to suggest that a proposed Season 3 would be the show's last. But Netflix didn't even want that, canceling the series in 2017.

After massive fan outcry (via Variety), "Sense8" did receive a conclusion in the form of the 2018 finale feature, "Amor Vincit Omnia," written by the future "Matrix Resurrections" writing team of Lana Wachowski, David Mitchell, and Aleksandar Hemon. It received strong reviews from critics and fans alike. Several actors from "Sense8," including Max Riemelt, Brian J. Smith, Toby Onwumere, and Eréndira Ibarra, went on to star in "The Matrix Resurrections."