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Mr Matrix and his dominatrix; HOW 'CROSS-DRESS' FILM GENIUS LARRY FELL FOR BONDAGE QUEEN.

Byline: DAVID EDWARDS

EVEN by Hollywood's bizarre standards, it's a tale that for sheer weirdness, is right off the scale.

The Matrix Reloaded may be wowing audiences with its spectacular special effects and technology but its director and mastermind is busy creating another set of fireworks.

Larry Wachowski has abandoned his wife of nine years - childhood sweetheart Thea - to pursue a sado-masochistic relationship with a dominatrix.

Now he's being sued by his estranged wife, who is furious after she was asked to help pay for a luxury lovenest for the couple.

Thea Bloom has already convinced a Los Angeles judge to sign an order which means Wachowski won't earn another penny from the film - which has grossed $134million in the first week of its US release - and its sequel until he comes clean about his finances.

"Larry has been extremely dishonest with me in our personal life," she says, "and I believe he is hiding information from me regarding our financial affairs.

"I confronted him about the companies having received almost $16million (pounds 10m) which I didn't know about. He admitted they'd received large amounts but that there was hardly any left.

"He has no understanding of his legal obligations to me and now wants me to co-operate in his purchase of a $2.7million (pounds 1.6m) home in San Francisco."

The order was made a day before Wachowski attended Reloaded's premiere at the Cannes Film Festival last week.

Sporting dangly earrings and a knitted cap, he was accompanied by 36-year-old Karin Winslow - a well-known sado-masochistic dominatrix, who had just left her trans-sexual husband and taken on Wachowski as her "slave".

WATCHING the Cannes highlights at his flat in New Orleans was her estranged husband, Jake Miller.

"I want people to know the truth," he says. "When Larry walked down that red carpet with my wife he was probably wearing a bra and panties under his suit.

"He's been cross-dressing for years and everybody knows it. But in Hollywood, money talks. And if you are a director of a hit like The Matrix, you can get away with anything. I hope Larry is man enough to admit who - or what - he is."

Jake's claims might go some way to explaining the secrecy which Wachowski - and his brother Andy - have always cloaked themselves in.

"We don't like the idea of selling ourselves," says Andy, 35, who co-directed the films, which star Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne and Carrie-Anne Moss.

Even growing up, the brothers made little impression on teachers at the Whitney Young High School in Chicago. Physics teacher Michael McIntosh says: "Nobody really has any specific memories of them - they seemed to keep themselves to themselves."

Born to a businessman father and a mother who worked as a nurse, the brothers went to university but dropped out to work in housepainting, carpentry, construction and comic-book writing.

Then, in 1984, Larry fell for Thea, finally marrying her nine years later.

The brothers eventually hit paydirt with Assassins, which was made into a film starring Sylvester Stallone, and later with Bound.

In 1998, the studios gave them the green light to create The Matrix. Set in a future where machines have enslaved humans in a virtual reality, the film easily overshadowed the Star Wars prequel, The Phantom Menace and made the brothers "players" overnight. In 2000, Wachowski and Thea bought a pounds 1.1million house in Venice, LA.

It might have seemed an extravagance but Wachowski was about to become very rich.

For the two Matrix sequels, the brothers were promised pounds 10million which they would split 50-50. They also earned an advance of pounds 1.5million for the video game and got a cut of the box-office receipts. It was a year after moving to LA that Wachowski first walked into The Dungeon fetish club. It was there he met Karin, who was earning pounds 156 an hour whipping and beating clients.

Karin first experimented with S&M after leaving school and by then had become one of the most famous dominatrixes in the city.

In one interview, she said: "My favourite activities range from worshipping my stiletto heel to piercing, rope-suspension bondage and bullwhipping."

At the time, she was happily married to Jake, who, although born a girl, underwent a sex-change operation in 1995, three years before he married Karin.

JAKE, now 40, stresses: "What she did was not prostitution. There were three rooms set up to cater for every fetish. They were filled with whips and chains and sex toys.

"Karin had never appeared starstruck before but she told me: 'The director of The Matrix came to see me today!'

"A few days later, Karin told me she had a special client and we went into the bondage room and there was this man lying there in a dress, no panties and blonde wig.

"Karin said: 'That's Larry Wachowski.' I said hello and told him he looked pretty. Karin said Larry wanted to be called Lana and, from then on, that was his name." Unknown to Jake, Karin became infatuated with her client and when Wachowski left for Australia in August 2001, he begged her to go with him. "By this stage, I knew she was falling in love with him," says Jake. "I let her go to Australia because I was scared of losing her. When she got back, things had changed. She told me Larry worshipped her.

"She said Larry's favourite colour is pink and that he loves wearing leather skirts. He is also obsessed with Marilyn Monroe and spiky heels."

The trio met up at a nightclub to try to resolve the situation but, recalls Jake, it ended in failure. "They walked in looking like giant drag queens. Larry could barely look me in the eye. Karin said, 'Lana's feeling very shy tonight'. It was a disaster and I left. That's when I realised my marriage was over."

Karin last spoke to Jake a week ago, when she told him of their plans to buy a home in San Francisco - the plan which finally made Thea snap. Jake says: "Karin also told me Larry was taking hormone pills. When you look at the picture of them on the red carpet, he looks feminine."

Today, Larry and Karin share a mansion in Venice, yards from the home he had with Thea, and he isn't getting any more out-going.

"I didn't know he had anything to do with The Matrix," says one neighbour. "I don't see them that much as they stay indoors." The Wachowskis have always shunned the limelight, insisting on a no-publicity clause in contracts.

But as lawyers prepare for Larry's showdown with Thea, he's now learning that there is no such thing as a Hollywood life out of the spotlight.

CAPTION(S):

FANTASY FIGURE? Carrie-Anne Moss; BESOTTED: Larry Wachowski with Karin in Los Angeles; ESTRANGED: Wachowski steps out with his wife Thea Bloom; BETRAYED: An extract from wife Thea Bloom's statement; POWER TRIP: Dominatrix Karin Winslow has set up home with 'slave' Wachowski
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 23, 2003
Words:1168
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