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Joss Whedon - "Serenity" Movie - Thestar.com Interview

Rob Salem

Monday 19 December 2005, by Webmaster

The Serenity cycle continues with DVD

"There was a line that was cut out of the pilot of the show," recalls Joss Whedon with all due irony: "Once you’re in Serenity, you never leave. You just learn to live there."

Whedon and his crewmates - and their legions of dedicated, die-hard fans - have been living in Serenity since early 2002. Even when there was no "Serenity" to live in.

And now it has all somehow come full circle. The TV show, Firefly, abruptly cancelled halfway through its first season, did well enough in fan-generated DVD sales to inspire its resurrection as the feature film Serenity. After a healthy, if not yet entirely profitable theatrical run, it arrives tomorrow on DVD.

And after that, who knows? A sequel? Another series?

"It would depend on huge numbers from the DVD," writer/director Whedon allows. "Obviously, we are still shy of making our money back from the box office. But we are within shouting distance. Still, it would have to blow up pretty huge for a sequel to be called for.

"Mind you, stranger things have happened. And they do seem to happen to me. So it’s not like I’m shutting the door."

This is not a man who gives up easily. Particularly when it comes to this particular world, an Eastern-accented sci-fi Western set in a dystopian post-war near-future, centered on a ragged band of mercenary space pirates, led by the taciturn (if slightly quippy) battle-scarred veteran, Mal Reynolds, as portrayed by Calgary-born Nathan Fillion.

"I’m never satisfied," Whedon confesses. "I do feel some closure. But closure doesn’t mean closing the book, on those characters, on those actors, on that universe. I always want more. I am a rabid fan. And so, while I’m happy to lay down my arms for a while, if somebody said, `Pick ’em up, let’s do more!’ I wouldn’t hesitate."

Whedon is not Firefly’s only rabid fan - nor is it his only TV creation to generate this level of fannish devotion. Almost three years after its cancellation (and two after its spin-off, Angel), acolytes of Whedon’s cult-hit Buffy the Vampire Slayer still clamour for a sequel series, a movie or, as is most commonly rumoured, series of TV movies.

"Unfortunately," laughs Whedon, "they’re still just rumours. But I am trying to turn them into something else. And so that, hopefully, will be the thing ... and if not, then, unfortunately, it’s just me talking."

Still, even in this rarified environment, there is something distinctly different about the respective after-the-fact affection for Firefly and Buffy.

Firefly fans had the rug pulled from under them after barely a dozen episodes had aired. Buffy buffs could at least look back on a cumulative run of (including Angel) 254.

"They got seven seasons (of Buffy)," acknowledges Whedon. "That’s as many as we had in us. But (Firefly fans) had everything taken away from them."

Commensurate with those feelings of loss and outrage comes a certain odd sense of righteous entitlement. More than merely wanting, or even just deserving a full-on Serenity movie, the Firefly fans feel they actually earned it.

And Whedon enthusiastically agrees. "They really did struggle to make this happen. I owe them a huge debt, not, you know, of money.... It’s easy to forget that, or overplay it, or to start to sound facetious. But they really did mobilize and that really does matter."

For Whedon himself, the Serenity film has proven an ideal transitional vehicle from television to features, though he had toiled for many years as a film writer (from the original Buffy movie to Toy Story to the sequel Alien: Resurrection), Serenity would be the first time he would direct for the big screen.

Not that he’s planning on giving up TV. "Never," he insists. "I love, love, love television. I love it in a way that I don’t love film. They’re two completely separate and different entities. And just because I’m getting a crack at doing what I’ve wanted to do for a long while, i.e. my whole life, doesn’t mean that I have passed television by.

"It wasn’t a stepping stone. Or if it was, it radically stopped being one when I realized exactly how out there and daring and delightful and extraordinary things can be on television."

Still, he won’t deny that he’s enjoying the luxury of the larger palette. "In a way," he admits, "the stakes are higher. The scripts are longer. But at the same time, it’s pretty much the same process. It really is. `Did I find the moment?’ `How do I hit them?’ `Where do I jab that they’re not protecting?’ "

Most significantly, in genre circles, he’s been hitting and jabbing at his computer keyboard, finishing up his long-anticipated script for the Wonder Woman feature he will also direct.

But first, this last bit of "old" business, getting out the Serenity DVD. Unlike Whedon’s often-reticent participation on earlier DVD commentary tracks, this one has him tripping over his own tongue in an effort to try and cram everything in.

"The movie," he says, "was three years in the making. So I had a lot to say."

He has also, he admits, somewhat warmed to the form. "I go back and forth ... I get very nervous and sometimes I worry that I am going to be the most boring man alive. But now that I am a little more at ease with the process, I do kind of enjoy it. I do like showing `behind the curtain’ a little bit."

Particularly in this case: the Serenity DVD’s bonus extras contain several tasty nuggets for the faithful, including, perhaps, a hint of who he may have in mind for the tiara and bullet-bouncing bracelets of his Amazon Princess.

There is a point during his commentary track on the movie’s deleted scenes that he refers to cutting back the role of Inara, portrayed by Morena Baccarin. "But I’ll be making that up to her soon," he cryptically allows on the disc.

Baccarin is one of the names most bandied about as a favoured Wonder Woman candidate.

But Whedon isn’t talking now. "You know," he chuckles, "making up for something and casting her as Wonder Woman are not exactly the same thing.

"But you know what? Honestly, I don’t even think about it. Morena is spectacularly lovely and very talented, and has a lot of the qualities I’m looking for. But I’m writing a character now who does not exist in a physical body. So until that script is finished and I start looking for that physical body, I won’t even have an opinion on the subject."