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FireflyJoss Whedon - About "Serenity Movie - Theaustralian.news.com.au Interview
By Sophie Tedmanson
Wednesday 14 September 2005, by Webmaster
Outsider finds Serenity in another universe
YOU can understand why Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, has a thing for the Mad Max films. With rugged landscapes, savage violence and post-apocalyptic adventures, there are obvious influences of George Miller’s films in many of Whedon’s creations, especially in his new movie Serenity, with deadly bad guys called Reevers who look like something from the legendary road movies.
"I’ve been talking a lot about the different precursors [to Serenity] and there’s Star Wars, Aliens ... and the one I keep leaving out is Mad Max," Whedon says.
"We tried so hard not to make the Reevers look too much like Mad Max rejects ... [but] some of them do. It’s inevitable that you’re going to run into some of that territory when somebody does it first and they do it right."
Whedon describes the second Mad Max instalment, The Road Warrior (1981), as a perfect film. He also cites Milos Forman’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), for which Jack Nicholson won his first Oscar, and the 1956 musical comedy The Court Jester, which starred Danny Kaye.
He means perfect in the all-encompassing sense, in that the film-maker gets it right on all counts, from script to screen.
"There are very few movies that I think of as kind of perfect and they are not always my favourite movies necessarily but [ones where] I just sort of go: ’I think that’s perfect."’
Whedon - a multi-tasker who writes, directs, produces and composes soundtracks - is sitting in an empty bar at the top of a Sydney hotel, trying to politely stifle the yawns that keep coming as a result of his jet lag. He is on his visit to Australia to promote Serenity, based on his ill-fated television series Firefly. The series, about a crew trying to survive aboard a small spaceship 500 years in the future, was canned in the US before the first series ended in 2002.
But the show’s fans helped keep it alive by buying copies of the series DVD in bulk and making Universal Pictures take enough notice to ask Whedon to make a feature film.
Whedon screenplays are known for their wit, clever dialogue and cultural references. They include the 1996 animated feature Toy Story, which Whedon co-wrote.
He loves English literature, especially Shakespeare - "English was the only subject that I actually completed my A Levels in" - and he studied Russian, German and Latin.
"The poetry of everyday speech is something that has always fascinated me and the great thing about Serenity was I really got to create a language and it was really just based on other things that I’d experienced or read or seen: Elizabethan English, turn-of-the-century Pennsylvanian Dutch, some Irish.
"I’ll take a colloquialism from anybody and make them up [with] bits and pieces and when you do that, and it all starts to flow and you get it right, it’s an extraordinary feeling. It’s like writing music, it’s not just like writingdialogue."
Most of Whedon’s works involve made-up worlds and he explains his attraction to science fiction as something that "comes from being an outsider".
"A lot of the great science fiction works are very complex sociological examinations of the human condition," he says.
"They really are entire universes and if somebody is very alone, then they can go and live in them. I think the attraction, more than anything else for me, is a world that I am welcome in, better than the one that I am in. [But] now I feel this world is pretty good: I have a job, I have a family and I’ve started to live like a person might, and that was a long time coming."
Whedon is also famous for creating strong female characters: Buffy has long been hailed as an alternative feminist. Serenity centres on the mysterious and powerful River, and Whedon’s next feature is a remake of the TV series Wonder Woman. "I was raised by a remarkable and very strong, intelligent and uncompromising woman," he says. "And I’m married to one who is almost exactly the same, only nicer, and I’ve just always been very attracted to that.
"I grew up with a father I was afraid of, older brothers I was afraid of, a stepsister that I loved very much, who was a real friend, and a mother who I admired just enormously. So if you look at my family structure you’d go: ’OK, he would tend to understand some of the evil of patriarchy and the idea of oppression’ - I was also very little - but then there’s also a level that I can’t really put my finger on.
"I know my favourite book is still The Little Princess. I think it’s also perfect, and I think it would also be a perfect movie."
So why doesn’t he make it?
"I’ve thought about it," he smiles. "But my obsession with these small, dark-haired, girl-women with extraordinary powers, which is evident in Serenity ... this I cannot exactly explain. Then again, I’m not entirely sure I’m supposed to.
"If I could explain it, it might go away. It’s like I don’t want to know the magician’s tricks and I’m the magician."
Serenity opens on September 29.