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From Thestar.com


Joss Whedon - "Serenity" Movie - Thestar.com Article - Spoilers

Sunday 25 September 2005, by Webmaster

Just don’t call Joss Whedon a genius TV auteur rides

a wave of Serenity Strong fan support helped film happen


LOS ANGELES-Joss Whedon bolts out of his chair and grabs a fork, makes an apology and proceeds to scratch his back with the flatware. Like a hyperactive kid, he wanders around, fidgets, sits and gets up again.

Maybe it’s the jetlag.

Having just returned from Australia, where he was promoting his first full-control feature film, the 100-per-cent alien-free space western Serenity, he’s now entrenched in a room at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles, doing one-on-one interviews about his work as a writer and director.

When he was asked at a press conference earlier in the day, by a delightfully un-astute member of the press, whether he, having created television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly, was some sort of "geek guru," he said he preferred "nerd llama."

Asked next if he thinks there is an audience outside the Firefly fan base, he said sweetly: "No. I made this to wreak vengeance upon Universal. They killed my father."

Said studio ponied up $47 million for the feature continuation of the defunct Firefly, which only ran for 11 out-of-sequence episodes on Fox. Making a feature out of a failed show is an unprecedented turn, thanks to tenacious fans, a.k.a. the Browncoats, so named for the rebels in the Serenity/Firefly universe. They bought the DVDs - which contains a few extra, unaired episodes - by the bushel to watch and re-watch the adventures of the crew of the good ship Serenity.

Cast member Gina Torres, who plays one of Whedon’s trademark warrior women, ZoŽ, still appears incredulous the movie got made and that the cast returned intact.

"When a television show ends as inauspiciously as it unfortunately ended, because most of the population didn’t know it was on, you just don’t think you’re going to see those characters again, other than maybe at 3 in the morning on the sci-fi channel, so it was a wonderful thing, it was quite miraculous."

Miraculous maybe, but not unexpected for those who know the 41-year-old Whedon, Oscar-nominated for co-writing Toy Story, can do no wrong and will find a way to serve up his lessons on life, heroism, family, sacrifice, redemption and the greatness of tight pants, no matter the obstacles.

If you google "Joss Whedon" and "genius" you get some 84,000 matches. He squirms at the label.

"I do not believe that I’m a genius. And the day I do believe that I’m a genius it will show up in my work ... the only living genius I know of is Stephen Sondheim ... I would almost use it about the Coen brothers. I’m torn between `genius’ and `savant’ - the more times I see The Hudsucker Proxy the more levels it works on.

"I feel very fortunate that I can do what I can do, which is basically to communicate. Communicate people’s ideas about themselves, that’s what I think I’m good at."

For the record, googling "Coen brothers" and "genius" nets 93,000 results.

The hero in Serenity, Mal (played by Nathan Fillion), is a criminal for hire. The villain, known only as "the operative" (Chiwetel Ejiofor), believes he has right on his side and will stop at nothing for his ideals. He is surprised he can’t persuade Mal to hand over a young fugitive, River, who knows things about the government of The Alliance that she shouldn’t. Mayhem ensues and bad things happen to good people.

"I’m not trying to make a polemic and it’s definitely not a partisan film in the sense that Mal is, if not a Republican, certainly a libertarian, he’s certainly a less-government kinda guy. He’s the opposite of me in many ways," Whedon says.

"But at the same time, when a great superpower, however benevolent they may be, meddles in the affairs of a world they don’t really understand - and sometimes they end up helping - but they destroy a lot of things in the process and sometimes they end up not helping at all and the fact that that’s what’s currently happening ... Let’s put it this way: When I wrote it, it was topical and I hoped by the time I filmed it, it wouldn’t be."

It’s difficult to talk about Whedon without mentioning the pain he loves to inflict upon his audience. He famously doesn’t give the audience what it wants, but what it needs. Watching Buffy and Angel you got worried if any of the characters ever showed the slightest sign of happiness, because, bam, there came the hammer hard. Without spoiling too much, it’s safe to say that no one’s safe in Serenity either.

"If everybody gets too happy, you got yourself nothing. Someone once said, `Drama is conflict.’ They didn’t say, `Drama is everybody getting along having no problems.’"

There will always be room for a sequel, should Serenity succeed. In the meantime, Whedon is hard at work on the screenplay for the Wonder Woman movie; he’s also considering whether to go further into the Buffyverse.

He’s also nurturing his inner fanboy by watching Veronica Mars, a television show he loves so much he felt compelled to post a love letter on the fan-blog dedicated to all things him, http://www.whedonesque.com.

"I was on fire. We had just watched the last five episodes in one day and I was just freaking out," he says, wild-eyed. "I understand Buffy fans better watching that show and so does my wife. There’s so much pain and there’s so much humour and the stories are so tight and the characters are so well-drawn and you just. Care. So. Much. And to have all of that in one package is so rare. I was a junkie. I just had to share how cool it was. And I’ve realized if you do that, people notice. It’s nice. Somebody else will go, `I just love Veronica Mars.’"

"When people said they’re calling this the next Buffy, for once I actually thought it was a compliment." Incidentally, Rob Thomas, the creator of Veronica, has invited Whedon to guest on the show and he’ll appear in episode six of the upcoming season.

Whedon’s work is studied in universities, it’s the subject of academic conferences and about a dozen books in print.

"Who’s gonna feel bad about that? I’ve worked enormously hard on every episode of every show I’ve ever done, not just to have it be interesting, but to have a very specific reason to put it on ... And so there’s been, with my writers, a great deal of discussion about philosophy and politics and message and structure, so to have it be a field of study, feels like we actually communicated.... Language is my drug."

Glad to be of service to the academic community, just as long as they don’t call him, you know ...

"I’m proud of the fact that I work really hard, but the genius thing - I don’t use the g-word. I am a god, however. That’s true. An angry, jealous god."