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Joss WhedonJoss Whedon - About Writing - Nowplayingmag.com Interview Part 2
By Scott Collura
Saturday 10 September 2005, by Webmaster
Whedon on “the Writer’s Greatest Revenge”
In the first part of our interview with Joss Whedon, the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly filled us in on his upcoming feature film version based on the latter TV series. Serenity takes the fan favorite but short-lived show and transplants the “Western in space” themed program to the big screen. Interestingly, the show that first put Whedon on the radar of genre fans was Buffy — which experienced an opposite life cycle from Firefly, starting off as a failed movie only to then be transplanted to the small screen as a TV show. So the question must be asked: Is Whedon trying to change the way things are done in Hollywood?
“I did not set out to try to change the way things are done,” Whedon smiles. “But the answer to your question is yes. I’ve gotten pretty lucky. I didn’t think up the show - that is to say, I was approached with the idea of a Buffy show. I then created it, but I didn’t say, ‘O.K., I’m going to go make this live again.’ After the premiere [of the Buffy movie] my wife said to me - because I wasn’t overly fond with the way the film came out - ‘Maybe now you’ll get to make it the way that you want.’ And I just laughed and laughed: ‘Oh sweetie, that will never happen. You’re so na´ve; you’re such a fool.’ And then obviously who was the fool but I. David Greenwalt, who ran Buffy with me, always used to say it was the writer’s greatest revenge and that I had no idea what this meant, that we were doing this show after the movie had sort of been taken out of my hands.”
Of course, in the case of Serenity Whedon had the TV version of his saga prematurely axed by the Fox network after only a dozen episodes were aired in 2002. But now, more writer’s revenge has arrived in the form of the film, which comes out on September 30.
“I didn’t really think about it this way [with Buffy], but I did think about it with Serenity because it is a movie that isn’t based on any actor’s availability, or a famous comic book, or anything other than the passion of the people who made it,” continues Whedon. “And there’s just a sense of continuity and community in what I’m doing that I believe can exist in Hollywood, and is something a little beautiful. ... There are ways to work, to do things, that people don’t expect to be possible, and these are not things that are Herculean or all that extraordinary. It’s just a question of where you put your energies and what your values are and what you believe in. And yeah, I would love to be able to send a message to everybody in the business that this kind of epic, this kind of passion and loyalty and love can actually get something on the air. I would like that to happen more... To happen to me more!”
Whedon is obviously passionate about his work, and about Serenity in particular. After the success of Buffy, he emerged as something of a genre hero in the eyes of the Hollywood execs who make the big decisions. His name was thrown around as a possible replacement for Bryan Singer as helmer of the third X-Men film (though he ultimately took the job on the currently developing Wonder Woman feature instead), but his strong belief in the validity of the Firefly series kept him committed to reviving it even after it was seemingly dead and buried. He says that’s because he sees Firefly as being better than anything else he’s done on TV (as a collective gasp is heard coming from Buffy fans worldwide).
“It found itself,” he explains. “My other shows took a little while to find their footing [but] I felt that the first episode of this show was going to be not only as good as but as true to what the show was as any episode we’d do. I felt like we nailed it. And when that happens, you just feel like you’ve lived it.”
The ensemble cast of Firefly and Serenity had much to do with Whedon’s love of the project. The nine core actors - Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Adam Baldwin, Morena Baccarin, Jewel Staite, Sean Maher, Summer Glau, and Ron Glass - have all, according to Whedon as well as the actors, formed a bond on and off screen.
“It was a passion project, and it was also the most extraordinary cast I had ever put together, where every single person clicked and the camaraderie existed not just during the show and during the movie but in between,” he says. “People propped each other up when they were down. I just never had a vibe like that [and] it was just the most fun I ever had working on anything. Also, I talked a really big game because I had Buffy and Angel and I thought if you made a show well, that’s the job. That’s it - you’re done. And I found out you can do everything right and still get killed. I had really talked up this show and the future of it to my actors, and honestly, as much as anything else, shame at my arrogance made me fight so hard. I just did not want to let them down. But I had.”
Whedon recalls that he went to the cast and crew the day Firefly was cancelled and told them that he was going to find another home for the franchise, be it on another network, as a TV movie, or in some other form. The idea of a feature film seemed an unlikely alternative, though.
“I got my people together and ... I [said] I don’t want to hear how [other networks are] going to say no. I want to hear what you’re going to say after they say no. Make them change their mind,” says Whedon. “I was absolutely relentless. Unreasonable. A little bit insane! And then what happened is I did get extraordinarily lucky. Mary Parent at Universal, who had met with me before about working together, saw the show... [and greenlit the film]. I feel enormously lucky even though I was sweating blood for a year trying to get this to happen. It still took a great thing falling out of the sky.”
Be sure to check back next week for the third and final part of our Joss Whedon interview.