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FireflyJoss Whedon - "Serenity" Movie - Weeklydig.com Interview
By Chris Braiotta
Wednesday 28 September 2005, by Webmaster
Buffy originator and Dig writer forge bond over sick foot fetish
Serenity is the most satisfying sci-fi action-adventure film in years. As the follow-up to Joss Whedon’s cruelly abbreviated television series, Firefly, the film sidesteps the urge to bloat up into stately sagahood while following the working lives of a fitfully noble gaggle of smugglers. Led by Captain Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), the crew is made up of old war buddies and others gathered along the way-including the mysterious River Tam (Summer Glau), a broken child genius on the lam from a shadowy government project.
I talked with Whedon about the challenges of moving from a TV series to a feature film, the poetry of dream sequences and how to film feet.
How did you handle transitioning characters from a drawn-out, episodic kind of storytelling like Firefly, to the brief confines of a movie like Serenity?
There are a lot of choices you have to make. In the show, I had a lot of chances for Mal to have disagreements with Book [the preacher] about faith, how Mal doesn’t have any and resents people who do. For the movie, I had to whittle all that down to a single snide comment. Also, in Mal’s relationship with Inara [Morena Baccarin], I couldn’t really go into their entire past. I had to rely on the shorthand that “she’s the one he left behind.” I just had to imply their past. Luckily, I had this group of people that had worked together on a year’s worth of TV that could really bring a level of history and backstory to their performance, and I could just sort of trust that that would be there so I could focus on letting the action move along.
So in paring down the story to shorthand, do you feel like you wound up with a subtler, more streamlined story, or that you lost some nuance?
You know, I’ve said something that I meant to say more, because I thought, “That was clever!” And that is that a television show is a question, and a movie is an answer. With TV, it’s all about exploring the permutations of a story. If you provide the answer, people don’t come back. A movie, though, is a self-enclosed thing. It answers the question. You don’t have the luxury like you do with serial television to depend on the hours of story that came before to indulge in that sort of freedom to experiment.
It’s interesting you say that, because a lot of people see TV as being the domain of the lowest common denominator, and movies as being where experimentation and character-based stories happen.
Do people still think that? I think that TV gives you the opportunity to work in the sort of exploration that you otherwise can only get out of a really big novel. For me, the TV that I’ve really been taken by is definitely serial television like My So-Called Life or Twin Peaks, where a story is carried through the entire show, where it’s not about hitting the reset button. A lot of bad TV is about the reset button, about forgetting whatever happened in the episode before. “Don’t let Jessica Fletcher in! Just don’t let her in!” Or “It’s a werewolf, Scully! It’s been a werewolf for 10 years! It’s a werewolf!”
I saw the film almost three months ago, and the one image that’s really stuck with me is this shot you got of Summer Glau’s feet as she prowls through the ship, and it’s completely menacing because she’s moving with this inhuman cat’s grace. There were early cuts where people asked me if I had some kind of foot fetish. There was this one shot, in the dream sequence: There’s a close-up of her foot as she walks on the desk, and she put down each ... toe ... one ... at ... a ... time. I had to tell her that it was too beautiful. We couldn’t use something that graceful. It took you right out of the film.
Even for a dream sequence?
There are rules to dream sequences. They may seem arbitrary, but there are rules. Because a dream sequence is like poetry, and a bad line of poetry really jumps out at you. But I first came to know her when she played a ballerina on Angel, and I knew that she’d be able to bring that sort of physicality to the role.
I thought it was really remarkable that in this science-fiction action-adventure movie, the most cinematic moment didn’t come from supernovas and spaceships, but from a girl’s foot. You don’t need supernovas and explosions when you have Summer Glau.
And her prehensile toes.
And her prehensile toes.
SERENITY RATED | PG-13 OPENS | FRIDAY, 9.30.05