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FireflyJoss Whedon - "Serenity" Movie - His future, his terms - Spoilers
By Phil Davis
Tuesday 4 October 2005, by Webmaster
Screenwriter Joss Whedon, whose Serenity opened Friday, takes up directing in an effort to protect his creations.
For all his success, Hollywood has been hard on Joss Whedon.
A third-generation screenwriter, Whedon’s early years were marred by a rough stint on Roseanne. Then his beloved Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie script was given a sickening, silly twist on the big screen.
They took his screenwriting credit from Speed and messed up his Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) in Alien: Resurrection. TV execs shot down his space-western series Firefly in 2003; then drove a stake through the heart of his Buffy TV spinoff Angel a year later. He had already sent Buffy into retirement after a successful seven-season run on TV.
Firefly was one setback too many. Whedon decided to fight for it. And, with the backing of a formidable fan base, the 41-year-old writer-director won.
His first feature film, the $40-million Firefly-spinoff Serenity, opened Friday in theaters. He is working on bringing Wonder Woman to the big screen in 2007, again as both writer and director. Never again will he put one of his "babies" in the hands of another director.
"I never intended to give anything away," said Whedon, whose script-doctoring earned an Oscar nod for Toy Story. "My babies were taken from me. I’ve always thought that writing is half of storytelling. Directing is the other."
He is now immersed in Wonder Woman.
"I am writing it now. It is not easy," Whedon said. "She is such an anachronism. She comes, literally, from Paradise Island into our flawed world."
Does he have a star in mind? "Oh, no. The mandate always was write it. Then we’ll figure it out."
He plans to again start writing for the X-Men comic book series. Whedon grew up on comics. He has written a graphic novel called Fray that takes his Vampire Slayer mythology into the future. He also has mapped out comics based on Angel and Serenity, though others will do the writing.
"Comics are definitely part of my scheme because I loves them," Whedon said.
Whedon is also working on a new screenplay called Goners. "It’s a horror fantasy," he said. "More I cannot say. It’s a completely original thing."
At least for now, it is unlikely Buffy will again take up slaying or anyone will find out how Angel fared against that demon horde in the series finale.
"I’m more into the new guys," Whedon said. "I need to go beyond what I’ve done before, if only to prove to myself I can do it."
He might make a Serenity sequel if the current movie makes enough money. He hopes his blend of action and humor will be a hit.
"I do think action movies have gotten particularly ponderous, especially since The Matrix," Whedon said. "They took the template without the brilliance. The idea of making jokes in science fiction is almost taboo. And that’s not how people are. Humor defines people so well. It makes them live and breathe."
His vision of the frontier of space is harsh. The idea for Firefly came to him while reading the brutal Civil War novel The Killer Angels.
"The suicidal bravery of pioneers is something I found just as fascinating as the Millennium Falcon (Han Solo’s ship in Star Wars)," Whedon said. "That’s something I really haven’t seen or felt in science fiction."
That makes for a hard ride for Serenity’s crew, a fact that doesn’t sit well with some of his fans.
"It’s a tough movie and not everybody comes out unscathed," Whedon said. "Ultimately the movie has to have some integrity. So yeah, I made it tough on some people and it ain’t always pretty. And that is not easy for me. But I know what the narrative required and the narrative is more important than me."
Whedon owes a lot to his fans. When Fox TV dumped Firefly after airing only 11 of 14 episodes, Whedon fans were loud in their displeasure. They flexed economic muscle by collectively spending more than $17-million buying up copies of the Firefly DVD. They bought ads supporting Whedon in Hollywood trade publications. "You keep flying," the ads said. "We’ll keep watching."
Whedon won the support of Barry Mendel, a producer whose eclectic tastes brought to the screen such originals as Rushmore, The Sixth Sense and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.
"Is this the first grass-roots action film? It may be," Whedon said, chuckling.
"It is a very strange phenomenon."