Joss for a minute: A brief chat with Joss Whedon
He wrote episodes of “Rosanne” and penned the screenplays for “Alien Resurrection” and “Toy Story,” but, inevitably, what Joss Whedon is best known for is having created “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel.” Most recently, he shifted from the small screen to the silver screen, helming the feature film “Serenity,” inspired by his sci-fi series, “Firefly,” but he’s currently working on the screenplay for the feature film version of “Wonder Woman,” which he’ll also be directing. Whedon put his muse on hold for a few minutes to hype the forthcoming release of “Serenity” on DVD, and, in an all-too-brief chat with Bullz-Eye, he discussed his feelings on how the movie did at the box office, the odds of seeing the characters from “Buffy” and “Angel” again in straight-to-DVD features, and in no way holds back when describing how the studio effed up his “Alien” script.
Joss Whedon: Howdy.
Bullz-Eye: Hello! How are you?
BE: Had a busy day of press?
JW: Uh, not terrible, not terrible.
BE: Excellent. Well, I know we’ve got limited time, so I’ll just getright to it. How did you feel about the box office take of “Serenity”? I mean, I know...
JW: I wished it was more!
BE: (Laughs) Well, that answers that! I mean, obviously, I know the fans were there...and I count myself among that number. I even paid full price; I didn’t go for the matinee.
JW: Ah, bless your heart. You’re not one of those matinee scammers.
BE: No, not me, sir! So, obviously, you had hoped for more, but did it meet your expectations, at least?
JW: You know, I didn’t really have expectations. I really knew that it was very much up in the air. There was no way... (Hesitates) I mean, I learned a lot about how scary and confusing marketing is for people who are good at it and know it like the back of their hand. It’s very difficult to get a feeling for whether or not people are aware of the product because you spend all your time around people who are (aware), the type of people who made it. So you get yourself into this hermetically sealed world where the only thing anyone ever talks about is the product, so you think, “Oh! Everybody knows about it!” And, then, you walk ten feet to the left and nobody’s ever heard of it, and you go, “Okayyyyyy, which is it? How much of the world is that part, and how much is the other?” And, honestly, the people who have the most tracking and the most polls and the most money and whatever don’t know any better than you do. You just can’t. It’s just a crap shoot. And this was a very hard film to promote. I mean, there’s no stars, it’s a complicated premise...there’s nothing easy about it. So it was, uh... (Hesitates again) I knew it was going to be a challenge, but, at the end of the day, I just sort of threw my hands up. It did...well, it’s going to, eventually (laughs)...make money and not, uh, disgrace my nation. But it didn’t set the world on fire and turn everybody into “Serenity” keychain wearers, and that’s sad, but the most important thing is that the people who saw it seemed to enjoy it, and I’ll take that over anything.
BE: Was the money that was taken in when the fans paid full price to see the early screenings, was that factored into the take?
JW: Mm-hmm. Yeah. But, ultimately, it’s a tiny amount of the movie take. It seems like a lot because there were so many screenings, but then you do the math and it’s about the same as the box office from one theater on one weekend. But, yeah, it’s in there.
BE: What special features are we to find on the DVD?
JW: Well, you know, I’ve done something that I like to call a commentary... (Laughs) No, I’m kidding. Well, I mean, I have done one, but... (Trails off) There’s a bunch of little docs, obviously there are outtakes and deleted scenes...and, although I’m very proud of not shooting things that I don’t need, there seem to be a lot of deleted scenes, so maybe I should stop being proud all the time! Um...and, you know, we had a crew with us not just while we were filming, but when I took the cast to the (sci-fi) conventions, and, really, throughout the whole process, so it was very organic. We got a lot of docu footage about bringing (“Firefly”) back and what it was like and the experience of the actors...because this wasn’t just me. There were 10 of us in this together, from the show to the movie, and the capturing of that, I thought they did a really good job.
BE: I know you’re working on a “Serenity” comic book, but do you have visions of a follow-up “Serenity” movie, even if it’s straight to DVD?
JW: Uh, you know, I have every vision. Even an opera. It’s very beautiful, very beautiful, full of pain, but full of love. (Laughs) Ultimately, you know, I’m just waiting to see how things fall out. The DVD sales will, of course, affect the future of the “Serenity” world...or universe, I should say. But I can’t predict that any better than I could predict what would happen at the box office, so I’m just waiting to see, and I’ll just keep waiting until someone comes to me and says, “More TV! More movies!” Or whatever it is. Whatever format it is. If it’s a chance to work with these actors again, to live in this world again, I’m there!
BE: And speaking of straight to DVD, the latest rumor, of course, is that there are going to be “Buffy-verse” movies rather than be on the WB Network. (Writer’s note: for the non-geeks out there, that would be any events going on within the worlds created for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel”) What’s the truth on that?
JW: The truth on that is, it’s an idea that’s being floated, and we’re waiting to see if we can make it viable. I’ve got my fingers crossed. It could be a really cool idea.
BE: Okay, I’ve cut down my list to just one question for each of your shows, so as not to totally geek out.
BE: Were there ever really any plans to continue “Buffy” with Michele Trachtenberg (who played Buffy’s sister, Dawn) taking over the central role?
JW: Nope. No, there weren’t. I mean, I love Michele, and I do think that she had more to offer than we got to see, but, ultimately, I don’t think I would anchor the show around her because...well, she really was Buffy’s sister. Not like Niles and Frasier, necessarily, but similar enough that you’re telling too much of the same story. If there was a spin-off, she would of course been asked to be a major part of it, but not the central, titular character. I mean, not not central, but just not the one. There are a couple of characters around whom I would build a series, but, mostly, it would just be different groups. If it came to DVD movies or something, then that’s different. Then, every character has their own reason to headline a movie, including Dawn...although I think Michele is probably off doing other things...because you find that it’s easier to do for two hours than it is to do for, say, seven seasons.
BE: With “Angel,” was there ever really any chance in hell that it was going to get a sixth season, or did the WB basically just say, “Okay, that’s it; you get one reprieve, but that’s all, no matter how good it gets”...?
JW: You know what? There probably was a chance in hell. I look back and think back at all the people who fought so hard. I was so exhausted by what had happened with “Firefly” and with the fifth season of “Angel,” which I worked a lot harder on than I had expected to, that I feel like, as I have grown older – and, oddly, shorter – I could’ve maybe fought. It never occurred to me that I could fight. When the head of the network tells you you’re cancelled, it never occurred to me to say, “Well, no, it’s not!” And I kinda regret that. I just thought that the law had been laid down. Now, I look back and think, what care I for the law? I’ve broken it enough times, and I probably could’ve then, had I not been so tired.
BE: What was up with the “Firefly” stars dropping into roles on “Buffy” and “Angel”? Did you promise them work if their show tanked?
JW: No, you know, I was against it at first. I thought, it’ll seem incestuous and weird. But then, they’re, like, Joss, nobody saw “Firefly.” No one will know. You know these actors are great, you know you love working with them, you know you need somebody bigger than life for the role, and, so, get over it. And I did. Rather dramatically. (Pauses) And they’re telling me that my time is up.
BE: (Panicked) Already?!?
JW: You got one more you want to throw in...?
BE: (Flipping through remaining questions) Uh, yeah...how about “Woman Woman”?
JW: Ah, yes...
BE: What’s the story? When are you gonna let the oddsmakers in Vegas relax and cast Princess Diana already?
JW: Oh, you know, I want those oddsmakers to just sweat, sweat, sweat. I’m writing the script, and when I’m done writing, I’ll give it to them, and they’ll either go, “Why, this is wonderful,” and start casting, or, “Gee, Joss, we like you as a person, but, uh...” So we’re still just so far from that yet. And I like being far from it. I like the Diana that’s in my mind right now. I don’t want to put her to a face just yet.
BE: Okay, and I’ve got one final one, and I promise this is it, but my editor’s as big a geek as I am (You wish, Pop Boy – Ed.), and he wanted to know how different was the final version of “Alien Resurrection” when compared to your script? I mean, was it really dramatic...?
JW: Uh...you know, it wasn’t a question of doing everything differently, although they changed the ending, it was mostly a matter of doing everything wrong. They said the lines...mostly...but they said them all wrong. And they cast it wrong. And they designed it wrong. And they scored it wrong. They did everything wrong that they could possibly do. There’s actually a fascinating lesson in filmmaking, because everything that they did reflects back to the script or looks like something from the script, and people assume that, if I hated it, then they’d changed the script...but it wasn’t so much that they’d changed the script; it’s that they just executed it in such a ghastly fashion as to render it almost unwatchable. (Pauses) Good times. (Pauses again) Well, I really must go...
BE: Alright, well, I really enjoyed talking to you, and I’m sorry it was so short.
JW: So am I.
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