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Joss Whedon

Joss Whedon - 2007 Comic Con International - Hollywood.com Interview

Monday 6 August 2007, by Webmaster

Comic-Con 07’s Fantatsic Filmmakers: Joss Whedon Goes into ’Sugar Shock’

Joss Whedon is a master storyteller. From his first job as a screenwriter on Roseanne to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer heyday back in the 1990s the stories kept coming. When Fox canceled his scifi series Firefly in 2002, he was already busy bringing Malcolm Reynolds and his crew to the big screen for his 2005 hit Serenity. You could say telling fantastic stories is kind of Whedon’s thing.

So what’s next for the writer who even earned an Oscar nomination for his Toy Story screenplay? He’s hard at work behind the scenes right now getting ready to bring his next big flick to a theater near you. A supernatural thriller called Goners. That’s not all. Whedon continues to oversee Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 in comic book form and just launched an online comic with Dark Horse Presents called Sugar Shock.

Hollywood.com got in depth with Whedon to find out the latest on his past, present and future projects.

Hollywood.com: What is the future of Firefly and Serenity?

Joss Whedon: The Serenity special edition DVD is coming out, because the DVD keeps selling so well. They cannot keep it on the shelves. They tell me this themselves. This is good news. One hopes that it might sell so well that one day somebody goes, ""You know what? I could put this up again."" Maybe not on the same level, but with what you can accomplish now with special effects every week, it becomes astronomically cheaper to get things done…In a heartbeat I would do it, with these guys. I’d do animated. I’d do it radio. I’d do whatever it took to work with these actors again and to write those characters. Right now, there is nothing in the wind. And, happily, my actors are very intensely employed. For the love of God, my little girl [Summer Glau] is a Terminator [on Fox’s forthcoming series The Sarah Connor Chronicles].

HW: And how do you feel about Nathan Fillion moving onto Wisteria Lane as the newest neighbor on Desperate Housewives?

JW: I suspect he’s going to have trouble – romantic, suspenseful trouble.

HW: What are some of the untold stories that you wish could get out there? Where do you hope to take these characters?

JW: The darkest places of the universe. The first stories I pitched to Nathan, were— Imagine pitching Buffy with "The Body", that’s the episode, when the mother dies. It’s like I had an episode in mind that was so appalling. Everything was appalling. It was dark. It was tough. It was mean. It was as unbelievably romantic as only something that is dark and tough and mean could be. I still, everyday, think of those stories that I will never get to tell.

HW: When was the last time that you got to see the cast?

JW: The hub around which everything revolves is Nathan, he’s the one who has the cookouts that everybody manages to come to and Adam [Baldwin] brings his kids, and Alan [Tudyk]’s there, and Summer and Morena [Baccarin]. I do see Summer sometimes. She’s actually the only one that I knew before, because she had been on Angel. I see any or all of them when I can. They work so much, those times are few, and also me with the kids. I’m not getting out that much…Anytime we could hang out, we’ve always had fun.

HW: Do you hang out with the Buffy cast as well?

JW: I don’t see everybody from that. I run into some people, Aly [Hannigan] and Alexis [Denisof] I see all the time because they’re dear friends and neighbors, and Tony [Head] was just staying with them, so I saw Tony with Aly and Alexis. And Amy [Acker], from Angel is also a great friend. She and her husband James and their kids were running around our house at the Cape. Some of them, I just run into. Some of them, I’ve kept very close and some of them I haven’t seen at all. It’s more just like, after Buffy – On the seventh year of Buffy, my wife was pregnant so I really did sort of go into a different mode. Sort of shut down.

HW: What is the future of Buffy in the film? Is there a grand plan in place?

JW: The future of Buffy in the film is that the girl who plays Buffy is going to go make a bunch of films. That’s pretty much the future of Buffy. Honestly, the future of Buffy right now is in comic books. I had to do some stuff that did not take. If anything happens, it would be extremely tangential, and the Buffy-verse, with all our beloved Scoobies and whatnot, I do not think it will see film again.

HW: Why did you feel it was important to continue that storyline in a comic book form?

JW: I actually didn’t think it was important at all. They were just like, ""Oh, we want to do a comic, for maybe after the show."" The whole time they did the Buffy comic, I had been very restrictive about what they could do, so as not to upset the storyline. I eighty-sixed the storyline if it was too much like something we were going to be doing on the show. It was kind of a straightjacket for them. So they were like, ""Can we do stuff after the show?"" And originally Jane Espenson was going to be doing it, and she dropped out. And I was thinking about it. ""Yeah, I could do that. Why don’t I do that?"" So it wasn’t like a grand plan was achieved or a message America must have. It was more like, ""Yeah, I could do that.""…Season 8 is different, it has its very own arc and it’s very own conflict and it’s very own villain and all that good stuff. It’ll lay out very differently because it’ll take a period of several years, not several, but a few, and have a lot of side trips and sort of weird conjugative storytelling, because that’s what I like…Then the more I started working on it, the funner it got and the more meaningful it got. When I write issue #10, most of it is Buffy and Willow talking. It goes to some very, really sad places, and really sweet and really out there [places, with] their complicated friendship. It wasn’t just, ""Look! Dawn’s a Giant! Which, believe me, Dawn’s-a-giant is the greatest thing in the history of my life. Dawn’s-a-giant makes me so happy I can barely contain myself. But then I started to feel characters and their pain and the funny. It was like coming home. It became important to me, much more than I’d expected.

HW: Buffy’s really lived on in so many different mediums, such as the Buffy the Musical: Once More, With Feeling. How do you feel about the fans creating something of their own from the Buffy series?

JW: [Joking] That sucks. The fact is it’s unbelievably great. I’ve had the experience of meeting dozens of people who are like, ""I’ve just been a Buffy fan in the last year."" That sort of opportunity didn’t exist three years before Buffy went on the air. That’s always crazy exciting. With the musical, I’ve always wanted to make a musical. Not just the Buffy one. I mean I’ve always wanted to do one. Since then, I would love nothing more than to make a musical. It would be so time consuming, I wouldn’t be able to do anything else. I’m trying to do a bunch of things at once. So I’m trying to really focus on it, but it is something that’s very important to me. I’m sitting here. I’m like, ""I’m in a theater full of people who are singing along to a television episode I made five years ago for $2.5 million dollars."" Is it really that hard to make a musical? Maybe not. It just opens up a world of possibility. It’s exciting on every level. It’s exciting in terms of my past and it’s exciting in terms of my future.

HW: If you ever got the chance to make a musical, would it be for television or film? Would you write the songs yourself?

JW: Yeah. I mean I wrote the music and lyrics of the Buffy musical. I love to write songs. I haven’t done it as much as I was doing it back then, because I had these weird small — What are they called? Oh, children. They took up most of my brain for the last couple of years, because I adore them…Honestly, stage, screen, big screen, little screen, I don’t give a damn if I can make somebody sing a song. I love film musicals and stage musicals for different reasons but with equal passion. I think ultimately I would gear towards a film because it’s so much harder. I mean there’s such a narrow field for stage musicals…I’m starting to realize that my place may be where it was with Buffy, which is under the radar.

HW: Have you thought of a storyline yet? What about characters?

JW: I have many. But I think what I really want to do is kind of like a science fiction musical. Because those are two genres you don’t really ever mix. And now people are thinking, ""Yes."" Like "Cops" and "Rock." But I actually believe that there’s this way to do it. I’m going to keep those cards. I don’t have anything specific. Like I said, that’s long-term. I’ve stayed away from that because it would be so labor-intensive. I don’t write quickly when it comes to musicals. It’s harder.

HW: In the more of the immediate future what’s coming up for you?

JW: Right now I’ve got this movie at Universal, Goners, which I’m still rewriting, which I hope to do, which is a normal large movie. Not large, in the sense of— Large these days has gotten super-size, but large for me. The movie, Goners, is a supernatural thriller. Beyond that, I’m just starting to think about Mutant Enemy as a real production company and getting things off the ground that are really not as gigantic, so I can get things moving quicker. I’m tired of not telling stories. It’s really hard to get on television and birthing any television show is the most painful thing imaginable. Once you have one, you love it so much you forget, so you try to birth another one. Much like the female body…But right now, the thought of trying to get a TV show off the ground is a little daunting. But the thought of making things that are smaller, a little more streamlined and a little more indie, so that I don’t have to spend three and a half years telling every story. It doesn’t feel like who I am. I feel like there are too many stories to tell, and that’s part of why I’ve been working in comics so much, because the turnaround is so quick.

HW: Whatever happened with the planned Wonder Woman script?

JW: I planned to have them like it, but then something went awry.

HW: Where is it right now then?

JW: Probably on a very, very tall shelf. Like really tall, like in one of those tall cabinets from the outside of the office in The Hudsucker Proxy.

HW: Was it a huge disappointment that it didn’t work out?

JW: Yes, disappointing is a word I might use. But it became clear over the course of the process that it wasn’t going to work out. I was disappointed but I was braced for it. What’s really disappointing is spending 18 months of my creative life doing nothing, ultimately nothing. I’m not prepared to do that anymore. I don’t have that many 18 months left.

HW: When did you fall in love with Wonder Woman and was there somebody that you had in mind who would play her?

JW: There wasn’t anybody, and I fell in love with her when I found out how strong she was and how weak that made her.

HW: It didn’t have anything to do with her outfit?

JW: Yes. Well, the outfit that I had in mind may be the reason they shit-canned the script, for all I know. It was the basic outfit but it wasn’t the American flag. It wasn’t stars and stripes. It was like those beautiful over-dyed fabrics like the fabrics of Rome, in a vague sort of color scheme.

HW: Was it more conservative?

JW: No. No, it was still hot, don’t get me wrong. It was more like a skirt with cloth, it was sort of cut that way. Sort of like Brad Pitt with the strips in Troy. Her beauty and her pride in her body was never a problem. I think you can do that without being exploitive…I think mine would have worked really well. Everything about her worked really well, but then again, I’m probably biased.

HW: How long are you planning to continue writing the X-Men and Runaways comics?

JW: I have two more shoots of Runaways and I have two more shoots of X-Men and then the double-sized annual and that will finish off my time at Marvel.

HW: What other comics are you working on?

JW: Buffy will be continuing and I will be jumping in periodically to write, and I’ll be overseeing all of it. I see every script, and every page, and every rough and all that stuff the same way as I did on the show. I am executive producing it, but also I’ll be writing arcs of it periodically throughout, or one-shots, which are really fun to do. Then, of course, there’s my new baby that comes out…on the brand new, completely free on MySpace, Dark Horse Presents, which they’ve just revived. I did a thing for them…[with] Fabio Moon, called Sugar Shock. It’s about an all-girl/robot band. The bassist is a robot. Fabio is an extraordinary artist and it’s the most fun.

HW: Tell me a little bit about the characters?

JW: Well Dandelion is the lead singer and guitarist, Dandelion Nightson. She’s, I think, more like me than anybody I’ve written. She’s insanely bipolar and completely capricious but very dedicated to something or other, and has a particular dislike of Vikings…No one knows why, but she doesn’t like Vikings. Then there’s Wade, the drummer, who’s really sexy, kind of chubby and always takes a groupie home because she’s awesome. L’Lihdra, who is the lead guitarist, she is very tall, very ethereal and very beautiful, white skin, white blonde hair and seems almost from another world and she always wears old-fashioned men’s pinstriped suits. Then there’s the bassist, robot Phil. He’s a robot.

HW: They sound fashion savvy.

JW: Well, actually Dandelion is very fashion savvy because I dressed her up like my wife. I was very specific about what she should wear. Fabio is amazing because he puts it all in.