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Producer Joss Whedon hopes his series-turned-film takes off on DVD

Bruce Kirkland

Sunday 8 January 2006, by Webmaster

Seeking Serenity

Joss Whedon poses with some characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, his first foray into TV. His movie Serenity, starring Edmonton’s Nathan Fillion has just been released on DVD. (File)

There is no revenge, no last laugh for filmmaker Joss Whedon.

"Do I have the last laugh?" the normally elusive Whedon asks rhetorically in a recent telephone interview from Los Angeles. "I don’t think there is a last laugh. But I still have the ability to laugh!"

The 41-year-old Whedon is telling Sun Media about the aftermath of Serenity, the big-screen movie spinoff of his ill-fated but much-loved TV series, Firefly.

He says there is now, finally, a measure of satisfaction. "It doesn’t suck! It’s not the worst feeling."

Serenity, freshly released on DVD, is one of those against-all-odds Hollywood stories - and the DVD culture has a lot to do with what he has accomplished.

Despite the cult success of Whedon’s earlier series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Whedon saw Firefly crash and burn in 2002. The show, for all its rave reviews, was cancelled after only 12 of its 14 original episodes were broadcast.


After sales of the Firefly DVD exploded among his fans - the people who have adopted the name Browncoats as an homage to the series - Whedon eventually got it revived as a movie. And he rocketed on with the same core cast led by rugged Edmontonian Nathan Fillion.

"It was never about vengeance," Whedon says of getting Firefly in front of the cameras again as Serenity.

But he does feel he was royally screwed by Fox television executives, who he says never believed in his show.

"You know, I’ve talked to other people who have created many more successful shows than I have, and they’ve gone through the same thing," Whedon says. "I think in my case, it was particularly egregious. I think I was basically a victim of what I like to call ’dumb people’ - people who are never going to trust anything except what they already know."

The Fox executives did not know what Whedon was doing with Firefly, the story of a band of soldiers who, after being defeated in a civil war, turned to intergalactic banditry, like Jesse James’s gang after the U.S. Civil War.

Their battered ship, paradoxically, was named Serenity. The point was to make reluctant heroes out of everyday, ordinary people in unusual circumstances.

The Fox suits didn’t get it. He was told bluntly that another show, Fast Lane, was "the golden boy" of the studio.

Whedon, facing what he saw as rejection and abuse, dug in for the long haul. "I just loved the show too much. It wasn’t just those stories. It was those actors.


"Those people, the actors, became as dear to me as the characters they were playing and I felt a responsibility to them. I told them this thing was going to go. When it didn’t, I felt like I had sort of lied. I felt dishonoured.

When Serenity was released in theatres last year, it hit a modest $26 million U.S. in North America, plus another $14 million internationally.

"Obviously," Whedon says drily, "It didn’t make its money back. It got close, but you want it to blow up huge and be the next big thing. And it didn’t do that. I’m never satisfied. It wasn’t an embarrassment but it was frustrating that more people didn’t see it."

But Whedon still has faith. Just as the DVD sales for Firefly gave Serenity a life in the first place, the DVD sales for Serenity are expected to push it into profit.

"I think DVD will be a good home for it. I think its momentum will actually start now."