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Joss Whedon - About "Serenity" Movie - About.com Interview

Thursday 22 September 2005, by Webmaster

Exclusive Joss Whedon Interview - Serenity Movie Talk

Part One: Killing People and Making the New Star Wars

Joss Whedon needs no introduction to fans of Serenity, so here is the transcript of my interview with Whedon at the press junket for Serenity.

I will warn though, there are mild vague spoilers the likes of which true Joss Whedon fans should know to expect. But just in case, please do not read this if you want to see the movie for the first time totally blind. I would be happy for you to come back and read this after you see Serenity:

How do you create that desperate tone where anything can happen? Well, killing people helps, but basically, looking at this from the point of view of somebody who didn’t see the series or doesn’t know my work, I like to create a world that feels like it’s spanning different genres so that somebody’s making jokes and then somebody’s in trouble.

Rare Hollywood PhotosNostalgic true B&W photo prints Movie, sports & music starsjpthemint.zoovy.com Because there’s that sort of dissonance of genre, that sort of all over the place-ness, you don’t know exactly what movie you’re in. I kind of liken it to a Hong Kong sensibility. They will just break into song, they don’t care, then gunfights, whatever. What’s great about that is it does give you this very freeing and almost terrifying exhilaration of I really don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know if this guy’s going to live. I don’t know if the good guys are going to win. Whereas in a lot of genre movies, you know, ‘Okay, here’s the part where... and here’s the part where... and now...’ Obviously there are some moments that you want to get to. You want to get to a moment where our hero stops running and turns around. You want to get to a moment where somebody finds their strength. But at the same time, you just want to keep people off balance. And I think as much as the grittiness and the grueling nature of what these guys go through, the very fact of the humor and the emotion that I put in it as well kind of makes people uncertain as to where we’re going to go with it.

Is it still possible to create an experience like seeing Star Wars for the first time when we’re so exposed to special effects? Well, you know, that’s true except that special effects have nothing to do with it in the end of the day. The fact that they had a special effect that could create a light saber is 1/10 as important as the fact of a light saber. The imagination that created it. I felt about The Matrix unlike I’ve ever felt during a movie. I was just completely blown away by that experience and that had to do with technology that we really didn’t know about yet being used correctly. But at the same time, I don’t think we’ll ever recapture exactly what Star Wars did. That’s why we’re still obsessed with it this many years later. And why so much of my movie is informed by it. I think of Serenity as the angry, adolescent son of Star Wars. But I have had a couple of people say to me, ‘I haven’t felt like that since I was 12 and I saw Star Wars’ which is, as compliments go, pretty much the one.

Part Two: More Star Wars Talk and Han Solo

But also marketing now makes it impossible to go into a movie not expecting anything. Well, it is totally different, although Star Wars, I was reading about it as a fan. I was reading the comic before it came out. Now everything is insider but the good news about that is a movie like this sort of completely bucks the Hollywood paradigm. They don’t make movies without a marquee name to headline it or a concept that’s so no brainer. This is really a story movie as opposed to a concept movie. And I know that makes it difficult to sell, so the idea that everybody knows everything means that people get to get inside the process and find out the one thing that’s going to be able to sell this movie which is the fact that I think it’s good.

Did Nathan Fillion tell you he was doing Harrison Ford or was that your idea? No, it wasn’t my idea.

Star Wars collectiblesToys, figures & prop replicas POTF & Vintage Star Wars toyswww.collectorsgalleryonline.com It’s something that Nathan as an actor has sort of always taken with him, not just in playing Malcolm Reynolds, but in playing any hero in a marquee movie. What he loves about Harrison Ford is the reality of how human he is while he’s being heroic and how goofy he can be at the same time. Nathan is even more precise with that. Nathan can do really just straight up comedies as well as any trained comedian. He is hilarious. At the same time, when he gets angry, his character, I’m genuinely afraid of him. He has great moral weight. Obviously, Malcolm Reynolds owes something to Han Solo so the distinctions become more readily apparent, but I think Harrison is somebody that Nathan’s been watching for some time.

Don’t you like the idea of a movie where Han Solo is the star? Who doesn’t? And somebody actually said, ‘Was there pressure from the studio to get Harrison Ford in your movie?’ I was like, ‘Dude, he is.’ And obviously there’s a lot more going on to Nathan than that and obviously Harrison Ford has something that you can’t just ape. But he was definitely a role model. And the idea behind Serenity in the first place really did have to do with the idea of the Millennium Falcon as a real concept. What if you were that guy, forget the aliens and the robots and the force. What if you just had a crappy little spaceship and you had to make a living and you didn’t really care how? How hard would your life be? That to me, the reality of that fantasy is what makes it so fascinating and ultimately that’s the benchmark of everything I do. It’s finding the reality behind the fantasy no matter how absurd the fantasy may be.

Part Three: Dialogue, The Serenity Universe and Gender Talk How do you apply your irreverent dialogue to space in the future? I think it applies to people. Obviously I write humorous dialogue because that’s just the way I am, it’s the way I think. I was raised by a tribe of funny people. And it’s just part of my lexicon, and I also think. And sometimes I make too many jokes, both in my life and in my work. Sometimes they’re like, ‘Okay, you’ve got to cut about nine of those jokes at Mal’s expense that you made in a row because the audience does have to think of him as a hero.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, right. Okay, sorry.’ But it is I think something that does run throughout my work is my irreverence but again, that irreverence comes from the reality of being in a situation as opposed to not taking the situation seriously.

The idea of oh my God, this is really happening to me and this is how I would react to it as opposed to oh, we’re just going to make some homoerotic buddy cop banter in the middle of knocking a lot of other people’s cars upside down.

Could Serenity take place in the same universe as Buffy but the monsters were taken care of long ago? I think you could make an argument for it, but I wouldn’t. The only thing we ever thought of doing is having a drunken and very miserable Spike at a bar just sitting there going, ‘Nothing changes. Trust me, nothing changes.’ That would’ve been in our decadent era. That would have been like season six. But no, I have to think about them as totally separate because they have different sensibilities and they have different sets of rules. It’s very important that Serenity be grounded. I had to go into outer space to come back down to earth but Buffy was a fantasy, a metaphor for rites of passage of our lives and Serenity is something else.

Is it more for boys? No. There are more beautiful, kick ass women per square inch on this screen than I have ever had before. Because in Buffy, it was a concept that needed to be exploited and it’s in fact in the title. By the time you get to Serenity, it’s just accepted as part of both my lexicon and the world’s and to the world of the future. And also, I have a lot of melodrama in what I write. As much as I have comedy, I embrace melodrama. This thing wears its heart on its sleeve very specifically. It’s very emotional and it’s meant to appeal to both sexes because everything I do is meant to get rid of that distinction as much as possible in terms of storytelling.

Part Four: Reavers and the Ensemble What do you watch on TV now? Veronica Mars. Some procedurals, but since we’re going to have to go, I don’t really think my TV viewing habits are going to be relevant enough.

Why do people still call you Josh? Only people with lisps. The rest have gotten it.

Okay, I have more Serenity questions. How tricky was it to go back to Reavers’ backstory? That was part of where we were headed with the series. The mystery of River and the Reavers and all that was always where we were heading so it wasn’t hard at all.

With an ensemble cast, was there anyone it was hard to find something to do for? It is difficult to juggle that many people and if you do it successfully, you get a movie that’s just got a lot of life in it and has a wealth of things to draw from.

Everybody has something because everybody brings something different. That’s why I had them all in the series in the first place. But yeah, it ain’t not tricky.

Were there one or two characters you struggled with? I think Morena suffered the most from the cutting process because the Mal/Inara story was told so much in the looks that a lot of the dialogue became redundant.

Any other projects in the works besides Wonder Woman? Well, that’s enough for now but there may be more.