For months now, Hollywood has puzzled over the Wachowskis (né the Wachowski Brothers) and their Cobalt Neural 9 — a project so shrouded in secrecy that Hollywood’s talent agents groused they couldn't even properly advise their clients on whether to read for it. All that was known from various leaks leaks by Jesse Ventura and Arianna Huffington (who both appear in the film as pundits) was that CN9 is a cinema-verité-style film, to be set in the future, centering on a love affair between a U.S. soldier and an Iraqi one. But now, Vulture has obtained intriguing details about the script. Caution: major spoilers ahead!
First, if you don’t understand the title, don’t worry: Our spies who read the screenplay tell us it's gibberish designed to inspire debate as to its meaning; it appears nowhere in the actual script.
Secondly, part of the film takes place in the future all right — nearly a hundred from now. But its main story is told in Cloverfield-esque flashbacks by digital archeologists sorting through “found footage” from CNN and chips from old digital cameras from the U.S. occupation of Iraq. The heroes are indeed a gay American soldier named (with little irony) "Butch" and an Iraqi soldier turned militant. Butch is endearing, young, and a ravishingly handsome Marine. Our spies tell us that he "just wants to fuck and kill everything" in Iraq — until, that is, he falls in love with the Iraqi.
The two meet while Butch is on a combat patrol in Iraq during the second Gulf War, and soon enough, the two are engaged in graphically described sex (actual line from the script: "They rut like animals behind this fence") albeit while disguised in burqas. The two soldiers’ relationship blossoms, and Butch begins to get to know his lover's family. But after he inadvertently draws attention to their ancestral home, disaster strikes. This tragedy radicalizes the pair and they become convinced that the only way to rid the world of evil is to kill the architect of the invasion, the then-president of the United States, George W. Bush. And so, during one of the president’s secret sorties to Iraq, they attempt to assassinate him.
Currently, we’re told that the Wachowskis are developing two projects simultaneously and will shoot whichever gets financed first. One, of course, is Cobalt Neural 9. The other is their adaptation of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, with Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) writing the screenplay, and the Wachowskis producing and possibly directing a few of the novel’s six interlocking story lines. (Unlike Cobalt, Cloud Atlas has already attracted stars like Halle Berry, Tom Hanks, and Natalie Portman, who are all attached, and James McAvoy, who has an offer outstanding.)
Cobalt Neural 9 would cost only an estimated $20 million, while their Atlas is a much larger blockbuster that would likely require studio financing to meet its expected $80 million to $100 million budget.
One rep we spoke to tells us that the Iraq movie will “never, ever” be made by a studio — but points out that with the money the Wachowskis pocketed from the Matrix films, they could easily self- or co-finance CN9 independently. Indeed, we hear the siblings had been planning to shoot in L.A., Germany, and Morocco as soon as next month, though that may have changed.
We'll keep you posted on further details, but the project may become harder to track: We’re told the Wachowskis are demanding that all interested agents come directly to the office of Warner Bros. casting executive Lora Kennedy to read the screenplay on her couch, and that, in the interest of secrecy, they plan to change its title again soon.