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Joss Whedon

Joss Whedon - "Serenity" Movie - Comcast.net Interview

Louis Miller

Tuesday 20 December 2005, by Webmaster

‘Serenity’ Now - A Conversation with Director Joss Whedon

Following in the literary career path of both his father and grandfather, one might say that writing is in Joss Whedon’s blood. After honing his TV writing chops on the larger-than-life sitcom, ‘Rosanne,’ in the late ‘80s, Whedon went on to garner legions of fans by creating the ‘Buffy the Vampire’ franchise that launched a stake-wielding Sarah Michelle Gellar into the spotlight. He has also received an Oscar nomination for his work penning the animated blockbuster ‘Toy Story.’ Whedon’s interests soon turned to galaxies far, far away, as he helped write the screenplay for the futuristic space cowboy animated tale, ‘Titan A.E.,’ and created the renegade crew from ‘Firefly’ TV series, the same show that ultimately led to his feature film directorial debut, ‘Serenity’ (view trailer). But how do you go about explaining the stories behind nine leading characters, a totalitarian government, and a marauding race of cannibals within a movie’s two-hour time constraint? Joss took the time to try to explain it all to us recently, as he also dodged any question about his upcoming ‘Wonder Woman’ movie.

What was your first reaction when you heard that Firefly was being cancelled?

Joy. Unbridled, giddy joy. I laughed and laughed. Um, next question (laughs). No, my first reaction was, quite simply, denial. Denial that sits on your DVD shelf. I would not accept it. I was like Ed Harris in ‘The Abyss.’ I just wouldn’t let her go.

Do you usually put so much of yourself into your work?

Yeah, I really do. From the very first [time], when they were making the movie of ‘Buffy,’ if you had asked me when I was wringing my hands over lines being rewritten by actors if I can just grow up and get over it, but actually no, you can’t. Because you can’t sit down at your desk and say, ‘Oh, well, this will do,’ or, ‘This will be ruined later.’ If you’re not in love with what you’re making, then you have no business making it. It is always completely personal to me. That doesn’t mean that I don’t pay very close attention to the technical things. If I made utterly personal films, they would be boring and really just histrionic. But the fact is, I create a connection to what I’m doing [with my movies] that is as real as any connection in my real life, sadly (laughs).

You’ve basically said you would do anything in your power to bring the Firefly series back. What’s the craziest thing that has entailed?

You know, even though I think the last three years of my life have been one unending string of crazy, there wasn’t any single thing that - I wasn’t buying a car next to actor Dennis Woodruff saying, ‘Make my movie.’ Ultimately, Universal stepped in and made things easier than I ever expected. They ‘got it.’ And if somebody gets it, you don’t have to explain anything. So it never got really crazy. I went about it pretty methodically, in fact. I sat down with people and asked, ‘Who is everybody we can go to? Where can this land? Where does this have a chance?’ I just kept my head in the game, which is not usually where it is.

‘Serenity’ writer and director Joss Whedon (AP Photo/Paul Ashby).

So is the story finished?

The, um, the movie is finished. And the story is told. The world is not finished. There’s more to tell, but that’s always the case with everything I do and whether I get the chance to tell [it] or not it is up to somebody else. So I made sure that this movie had completion and didn’t feel like a glorified prequel. It’s its own piece and it wraps everything up. I have a sense of closure that I never had, and I can walk away satisfied. But if somebody tells me not to walk away, I’ll turn right back around.

There were originally plans to make this a trilogy, right?

No, that’s a myth. The original plan was to just make a movie. Had Universal said that they would like to make a trilogy, I would have said, ‘Huzzah!’ But they were taking a gamble on a movie with no-name actors, a first-time director, a universe that’s damn hard to explain, and a premise that’s the same. It was nothing less than a gamble and bless their hearts for gambling once. They weren’t about to say, ‘Let’s do a three-fer!’

Your fans [known as browncoats] are ridiculously dedicated to everything you do. Do you ever get scared of them?

(Laughs) I’ve been scared once or twice, but only in reaction to certain character deaths have made me wish I was in another room. But that’s really my own fault. Ultimately, no. It’s a very sweet atmosphere. People are very giving and understanding. You know, I’m not the Beatles. And this is the thing I’m going for: It’s not about me. It’s about the work, which I love, too. So when I’m in a room with a bunch of fans, it’s not like they’re tearing my clothes off. They want to talk about the work, which happens to be the thing that I love talking about. So ultimately, I don’t really have scary stories. I thought I’d have a lot more.

When you were writing ‘Serenity,’ how much of the political situation in the movie is fiction, and how much is actually where you see the world headed?

You know, it’s all fiction. But it contains what I think are essential truths about humans, which is the way we are. I don’t think that’s going to change. I think society will change more in the next 20 years than it does in my movie, which is 500 years. It’s set 500 years in the future. But that’s structurally. In terms of the human condition - how conflicted we are, how right and wrong we are, our capacities for good and evil, complicated human attractions - that’s never going to change.

Political movies seem to be very en vogue now. What I like about the Firefly series and this movie is that they show the humanity on both sides of the equation.

I think the Alliance comes off very evil because we didn’t really have the time in the movie to show the other side of that, which we did on the show. We only showed it at its worst, but at the same time the villain has a point of view and everyone [else] has a different point of view. If they don’t, then they’re not antagonists. They’re just bowling pins. Absolutely have to have a dissenting point of view that is valid, even if the person who has it is a thug.

So where are things with ‘Wonder Woman’ now?

It’s still at my keyboard. Oops, I’m out of time!