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CROSS DRESSED TO KILL; HOW THE MATRIX'S LARRY WACHOWSKI FELL FOR A BONDAGE QUEEN AND STARTED DRESSING UP AS A WOMAN.

Byline: By JOHN HISCOCK

Hollywood is renowned as the world capital of excessive, freakish behaviour. But the real-life tale of The Matrix co-director Larry Wachowski could be one of the most bizarre that even this outlandish town has ever seen. Having become a hugely influential player in the film world, Wachowski, 40, left his wife of 15 years and set up home with a professional dominatrix renowned for inflicting extreme pain, while indulging his love of cross-dressing as a woman.

Already a recluse, Wachowski has now virtually retired from filmmaking and today's release, the action thriller V For Vendetta, may be the last project we see from him and his brother Andy.

"They love everything about moviemaking except the press," confirmed Joel Silver, who produced the Matrix films and V For Vendetta with the Wachowskis.

The brothers' latest film - for which they wrote the screenplay but didn't direct - concerns the activities of a masked bomber who is destroying London landmarks. It stars Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving who are out giving interviews and publicising the film, but the Wachowskis are in seclusion, refusing to meet the press and avoiding anyone they do not know. Part of the reason, say those who know them, is Larry Wachowski's bizarre lifestyle as a cross-dresser. He now lives with bondage queen Ilsa Strix - known as the blonde bombshell of domination - and their bizarre relationship has destroyed two marriages and possibly brought to an end one of the most influential filmmaking partnerships of the past decade.

Once a balding, burly, masculine house painter, Larry Wachowski is now a decidedly feminine looking man with porcelain skin and rosy cheeks who wears long hoop earrings. He has changed his name from Laurence to Laurenca and is reportedly taking female hormones before undergoing sex-change surgery.

"In high heels he's 6ft 3in. A big tall drag queen," says Ilsa's ex-husband Buck Angel, himself a transsexual who was born female. Angel claims Wachowski is obsessed with Marilyn Monroe and likes to wear a blonde wig, pink dresses and stiletto heels before being punished by his mistress and acting as her slave.

Larry Wachowski met the bullwhip-cracking Mistress Strix in a West Hollywood club called The Dungeon - devoted to bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism - in January 2001.

Buck Angel later recalled his first meeting with Larry at the club. "I saw him dressed in panties, nylons and a wig, with full-blown makeup," he said. "He was lying there very much at peace, looking very, very happy."

Larry became obsessed with the bondage queen and returned frequently for domination sessions. He sent her elaborate bouquets of flowers, and bought her books, clothes and shoes. According to Buck, Ilsa gave up thousands of dollars in income by giving Larry free bondage sessions that would sometimes last all night.

Larry left his childhood sweetheart wife Thea Bloom, for the curvaceous Mistress Strix - born Karen Ingrid Winslow in 1967 - who has starred in several videos, including Dance Of The Whip, Hellcats In High Heels and Queen Of Pain, all of which feature her having her way with both male and female slaves. Larry and Ilsa have set up house together in the Castro district of San Francisco and also spend part of each year in London.

In her divorce petition, Wachowski's wife said, "Larry has been extremely dishonest with me in our personal life". She said their separation was "based on very intimate circumstances which I do not elaborate on at this time for reasons of his personal privacy".

Andy, 38, and Larry have turned down repeated requests for interviews and although they were on the set of V For Vendetta when it was filmed in London and Berlin last spring, they both hid from photographers and interviewers. They also have a 'no publicity' clause in their contract with Warner Bros, which is releasing the film.

Their tightly-knit group of friends, and the cast and crew of their movies are fiercely protective of them and refuse to talk about their peculiarities.

Natalie Portman, who plays the shaven-headed rebel girl who teams up with the terrorist bomber in V For Vendetta, says, "They're amazing people - approachable nice guys who are passionate about movies, but they don't want to talk about themselves."

But, according to reports coming out of Hollywood, the brothers may have taken their aversion to the spotlight to its ultimate conclusion and decided to retire from moviemaking altogether. V For Vendetta, which they began working on before the Matrix films, is their first project for three years and they have no others planned.

V For Vendetta has had its problems and is causing controversy because its hero is a terrorist bomber who blows up the Old Bailey, the Post Office Tower and the Houses of Parliament. In addition, Alan Moore, the British author of the graphic novel on which the film is based, has described the brothers' screenplay as "imbecilic".

As usual, the Wachowskis - who grew up in Chicago where they worked as housepainters and carpenters - have made no comment on any of the issues.

Having more than enough money to live in luxury for the rest of their lives - the Matrix trilogy grossed over a billion dollars for Warner Bros - they may never work again. They are free to indulge themselves in unusual lifestyles without repercussions.

As Buck Angel told an interviewer, "Larry is living a lie. He has been cross-dressing for years and everybody knows it. But in Hollywood, money talks. And if you are the director of a hit like The Matrix, you can get away with anything."

V For Vendetta is released today.

'Larry was dressed in panties, nylons and a wig with full make-up'

CAPTION(S):

ON SET: Andy and Larry filming The Matrix' FORMER LIFE: With ex wife Thea Bloom' JILTED: Buck Angel, whose wife left him for Larry Wachowski' WHO WEARS THE TROUSERS? Larry and dominatrix Ilsa
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 17, 2006
Words:980
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