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FireflyJoss Whedon - About "Serenity" Movie - Nytimes.com Interview
Sunday 25 September 2005, by Webmaster
WHEN Fox canceled "Firefly" after 11 episodes in 2002, the show’s creator, Joss Whedon ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Angel"), vowed he would not rest until he continued the story. On Friday, Universal Pictures will release "Serenity," the movie version of this science fiction/western hybrid, in which a group of space smugglers stumble upon a galaxy-wide coverup. The regular cast of the television series revive their roles, led by Nathan Fillion as Capt. Mal Reynolds. Mr. Whedon spoke with Kate Aurthur about sequels, about going from television to movies, and about finding closure. Skip to next paragraph Multimedia Trailer for ’Serenity’ Readers Forum: Television
Enlarge This Image George Loucas
Joss Whedon created the sci-fi world of "Firefly" first on television and now on film.
KATE AURTHUR Why didn’t "Firefly" work on Fox?
JOSS WHEDON I think it was a bad match. They were twitchy about the concept. They really accepted it because they desperately wanted something. This is what I passionately wanted to do, and I had a deal with them. They definitely never wanted it. And they wouldn’t show it very often, or advertise it very much.
Q. How did the "Firefly" DVD’s success help this movie get made?
A. Universal was interested the moment they saw the shows themselves. And we were in predeveloping stages, didn’t have a green light yet, when the DVD sales happened. Whether or not that light would ever have gone green without them is impossible to say. Certainly it gave Universal a higher measure of confidence. And it didn’t hurt my feelings, either.
Q. The budget has been reported to be around $45 million, which is pretty low for a big science fiction movie.
A. Universal was interested in taking what is obviously a risk on a movie that doesn’t have a simple premise or a single giant movie star. And there’s a line, a ceiling to that. They’re not going to spend $100 million on a movie that you really have to get people to come to.
Q. Did anyone at Universal say, "Hey, how about Harrison Ford?"
A. They understood that the package was this world, these characters, these actors and me. They absolutely knew that saying that would be saying, "That’s great, but we want it to be a comedy about a guy who comes back as a dog."
Q. This sounds very collaborative.
A. I’ve got to tell you, I’ve never had an experience like this, nor did I ever expect to. Not only were they unswerving and loyal and unmeddlesome, but they taught me things about movie making that I didn’t know. I learned at the feet of these people - and these are executives I’m talking about!
Q. There’ve been tons of advance screenings for fans who knew where to look. But isn’t the challenge for "Serenity" finding people who don’t know where to look?
A. The idea was always that if the fans got excited enough, made enough noise, somebody fan-adjacent would go, "What’s that noise?" And somebody near him would go, "What’s that noise?" It was about those people, the people who don’t know where to look, but then they start to see it or hear about it.
Q. How do you make a movie for people who have never heard of "Firefly" while still appeasing the rabid fans?
A. The challenge is structural: keeping your eye on - without repeating or contradicting - what you’ve done, creating something that seems not only coherent, but inevitable. Not only just a way to tell the story, but the way to tell the story. That’s a hard thing to do. Apart from that, it’s really the same as any movie. Do we understand what’s going on? That’s a good one. Do we care? Do we like these people and do we get excited when they’re on an adventure?
Q. You kill off a few main characters in the movie. What’s the thinking there?
A. It wasn’t my first instinct. And then I realized, again, I’m making this movie as a singular event for people who’ve never seen the show, with an understanding there will never be another. Now, that doesn’t mean there will never be another - that means you have to make your movie that way. Taking out some beloved characters means that everybody’s life is on the table. Without that, the last half-hour is a bunch of noise to me.
Q. You’re now moving on to the very high-profile "Wonder Woman" movie. Is that more pressure?
A. It’s a little less frightening, because I think I know what the sales pitch is - it’s Wonder Woman!
Q. You wrote - with Brett Matthews - comic books bridging the gap between the end of "Firefly" and the beginning of the movie. Is that something you do for your own pleasure, to keep the fans interested, or to clarify the story in your mind?
A. The first two you said, stoke the fans and keep myself happy, are kind of indistinguishable. Because I am - and always will be - the biggest fanboy. I write from a fanboy place: what would it be great to see this character do? So the idea of a comic book that bridges the TV show and the movie was so exciting to me. I just felt like, "Ooh, more."
Q. You announced last year that you were quitting TV. Do you still mean it?
A. I love TV. I still have tons of things I’d love to do on TV. But I’ve also always wanted to make movies, and they were saying, "Come on in." The intention is to go back when I feel there’s a place for me.
Q. With all these sci-fi and horror shows starting this season, do you feel like you missed that boom?
A. I feel like it’s a boom that I helped start, but oddly enough, not a boom I was that interested in starting. The only time I’ve ever heard somebody say, "This is the result of ’Buffy’ " and felt actually that it was true, and was really proud of, was "Veronica Mars." Because that’s what I was really interested in: the humor and the pathos and the pain, and the heightened reality of high school. And a girl who is just awesome.
Q. You were, obviously, devastated at how things with "Firefly" went down. Did making this movie help?
A. Something was created out of this, but something died, too - "Firefly" and "Serenity" are different. The cancellation of "Firefly" is not something I feel myself ever getting over, because I still have those hundred stories in my head. But I’ll settle for three or four really big ones. And if I have to, I’ll settle for one.