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Joss WhedonJoss Whedon - About Buffy/Serenity/Wonder Woman - Empireonline.co.uk Interview
Wednesday 26 October 2005, by Webmaster
The Joss takes us through Serenity, Buffy and Wonder Woman
He brought us two of the finest TV series ever to grace the screen - Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. His attempt to bring us a third, Firefly, was horribly curtailed when evil TV execs (maybe they were vampires?) cancelled it midway through season one. But the hero of Hollywood, the man they call Whedon, was not about to give up that easy, and brought Firefly back as the feature film Serenity. Here, we talk to The Man himself, about his projects past, present and future...
Was Firefly dearer to you than Buffy?
You can’t choose between your children, but I certainly have fought harder. This was the child that was sick or abducted or something. I certainly went through more with Firefly and Serenity than I had before. The experience we all had together was not like making a movie, it was like being in a regional theatre together or a comedy troupe or a club.
Firefly was the child that was sick or abducted or something. I fought harder for it.
You’ve had two second chances now - one with Buffy, after it failed as a movie, and now with Firefly - are do you see yourself as blessed? You know, so much of it is luck. The one experience feeds into the other. Because It happened once [with Buffy] I thought "well I’ve seen it happen ’cause it happened to me. But there was a huge amount of determination as well and it seemed a natural progression from TV to film. The thing is, when I create something, I tend to create the world and not just the narrative. I tend to create something with enough texture either to run for may years as a TV series or to expand from one medium to another. The fact that this works in those two different mediums is due to the fact that I think like a science fiction geek. I go, "What are the rules of this world?" If the screen is showing me this, I want to know what’s over there and what’s over there. I’m not going to film them ’cause we can’t afford to build them but I have to know what they are and if somebody’s coming into the room, I have to know where they’re coming from.
I remember we had a guest director on Firefly and he was telling the characters where they were coming from and I remember telling him, "those are not places on the ship that these characters would be". And I knew that he neither knew nor cared. I need to have everything, the whole tapestry. So the TV show works as a movie and they don’t always.
You’ve had more than a few hard knocks in the movie business; next to that TV must seem warm and fuzzy.
Well it did. It had a fuzzy warm period, then it had a period I like to call ’reality’. Part of my extraordinary luck was to get into American television during this one bubble, where it was expanding but not falling apart. It was stretching but not breaking. The little networks were coming up and they needed an identity and there was room for a guy like me to step in and do what he wanted. That started the year I started Buffy. The cancellation of Angel, when ratings were good and budgets were low, was the exact and literal end of that era.
So no looking back?
Well, here’s the thing. I didn’t grow up loving television. American television to me was always kind of low brow. But then I started working in television and thought "wow, you can really do beautiful stuff here". But now, I’ve finally made a movie and been treated like a filmmaker, which is very different to being treated like a screenwriter. I’ve now had the best of both worlds and the fact of the matter is I’m now in love with both. There’s just no two ways about it.
I didn’t grow up loving television. American television to me was always kind of low brow
I’m desperate to go back to TV but it’s really a situation where I have to go back with enough power to... I can’t go through another Firefly. Just to love something that much and have it pulled out from under me. I can have a film poorly received but the fact is that it’s out there, you did it and you have the sense of accomplishment regardless. With a TV show you create it to go on and when it doesn’t it gives you the kind of feeling I am just not capable of living through again.
Where does your genre-bending style of storytelling come from?
My little ADD-style of filmmaking, it’ll be interesting to see if it catches on, if people can really take the ride. I think that it works, I think that it works in Serenity because we spent a long time making it work. I had this hodge-podge of stuff that was lovely and we sifted it through audience after audience to see what did and didn’t fit. Getting from A to B to C to Z to 6 to Alpha is a very delicate ride and smoothing out that ride has been what the editing process was. But I think now it’s placed and paced in such a way that people, even if they’re not used to my sensibility, can accept it and think ’oh, I thought that was funny, a little something I didn’t expect.’
You know, it’s to the enormous credit of Universal that they made Serenity at all because it clearly was going to be straddling genres and pingponging back and forth and that is not American sensibility, or at least its not one that Americans retreat into very often. That makes marketing very confusing and, of course, in this business marketing is king.
So, is a sequel the way forward here?
A second film wouldn’t happen in two seconds but if everything went swimmingly, then yes I think a sequel would be the thing. Some people have asked about a new series but I don’t think that’s where the thinking would be.
Wonder Woman is obviously a big studio film. After the difficulties you’ve had in the past do you have any trepidations about that?
I was very spoiled by Universal and I’ve never in my life worked on anything with so much support, enthusiasm, trust and intelligence. With Wonder Woman... well, I grew up wanting to be a studio writer. I wanted to make big summer movies for big studios, to make movies that will excite an audience and get people in their seats.
I grew up wanting to be a studio writer. I wanted to make big summer movies
I think that my biggest frustration has come from the fact that when rewrites and things that I’ve done have been pissed on it cost the studios money. Every time they’ve let me do what it is that I do they’ve made money and every time they’ve shut me down they have made less money and that makes me a little crazy. My instincts are very commercial - not blandly commercial, not simply commercial, but I’m there to please the audience. I’m not there to challenge them to a point where they go "This is obscene and bizarre and I don’t’ know where I stand". I’m not cool enough to be that guy. I’m the guy who wants them to love the movie they just saw, which is I think what the studio is looking for. The thing with studios is that coming in as a filmmaker is very different than as a writer, because they’re looking to the vision of the guy who’s going to shoot it and in this case he gets along really well with the writer! [Laughs] not perfectly but pretty well. I also have Joel Silver batting for me and he is a fairly powerful fella.
I want to make the movie that Warner Bros want me to make. They’re not sure what that movie is exactly but they knew enough to tell me the right things to make me want to make it, so I think we’re on the same page.
You’ve just got to hope it’s the next X-Men 2 and not the next Elektra. Holy God yes. But what I really want to do is the first Wonder Woman. Because ultimately we work off of models that are accepted. I thought there was a surprising amount of Spider-man in the latest Batman. I thought it was the best Batman by a country mile, and that makes sense because Spider-Man was the first comic book movie that really worked. Everybody owes something to someone else and Wonder Woman’s no different. The question is how do I make it really distinguish itself amongst superheroes, so that it’s just not the next one. And that... well, that’s my problem.
INTERVIEW: JAMES DYER