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 Not so shiny: Plenty of drama for Buffy creator Joss Whedon

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PostSubject: Not so shiny: Plenty of drama for Buffy creator Joss Whedon    Wed Aug 25, 2010 12:20 pm

There are some lessons you learn at the breakfast table and there are some lessons you refuse to learn. It's true for men in tights and capes and superhero boots. And it's just as true for those who write about them.

Joss Whedon is a third-generation television and film writer. His grandfather, a playwright, wrote for The Dick Van Dyke Show and his father wrote for The Golden Girls and Benson. Whedon himself began writing for Roseanne straight out of college and worked as the script doctor – or re-writer – for the films Speed, Alien: Resurrection and Toy Story. By the turn of this century he had created three critically acclaimed television series – Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly – that tapped into the zeitgeist like few others. (And inspired numerous academic papers on iconography, mythology and undermining sexual stereotyping, plus a PhD entitled Retrospection and Anticipation and the Cult Following of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.)

Whedon's cultural reach extended from TV shows into their natural bedfellows, the comics and graphic novels that spurred his interest as a child. As well as contributing to the X-Men comic book series (and pining for the chance to direct rather than just script-doctor one of the X-Men films), Whedon saw his Buffy and Angel characters extend their lives in high-quality comics that featured a similar mix of knowingness and mayhem as the TV shows.

"Doing comics was really fun,” Whedon says. “There was one moment when I got an email from the head of Marvel saying, 'Just so we're clear, your team is going to be . . .' and he listed the people I was going to have [working] on it. I looked at the email and had what I refer to as a 'nerdgasm'. I was so happy that it almost frightened me. That was one of the most perfect moments I could have."

Between the three generations of Whedons there probably aren't many lessons about the perils of the craft they haven't experienced. And just as many lessons they chose to ignore. It's why Joss Whedon could find himself in his car in Los Angeles seven years ago, shaking his head at his own madness. He'd just pitched, to a very cool reception among the film executives, a Batman film that would return to the origins of the crusader-vigilante. He was talking personal epiphanies, they were talking franchise. He left empty, they went on to make a blockbuster.

You idiot, he told himself. How many more times do I need to be told that the machine doesn't care? The machine is not aware of what is in your heart as a storyteller.

That trip ended back in the office just in time to hear that the Fox Network had cancelled Firefly before its first season had even been completed. As Whedon later recounted, he now had his answer to the question posed in the car. “Oh! So, uh, just once more. OK!”

But it wasn't just once more. And he knew it. Since that ugly LA afternoon, Whedon, now 46, with an Emmy on the shelf and an Oscar nomination in the drawer, has tallied up a few more examples of why no sensible person should go into the film and television business. And why he can't stop. Obsessive? “People who aren't obsessive go home at the end of the day and don't think about their work,” Whedon says. “I've read about them."

The cancelled Firefly (“still the greatest grief I have about my career”) begat his first film as director, the Firefly “sequel” Serenity. It didn't do Batman business but as a space-western with wit and social consciousness it made money and, along the way, gave him another young female character who – literally and metaphorically – kicked arse.

Then he thought he was signed to direct a Wonder Woman film, only to find that was a promise written in smoke rather than ink. But his return to television last year with the series Dollhouse allowed him to begin exploring the moral and social implications of identity, memory and manipulation. That is, until differing views on its direction saw creator and network part ways.

Still, Whedon has written two films that are due out in the next year – the horror comedy The Cabin in the Woods (delayed a year by MGM, so desperate for a 3D hit that it's remodelling the film) and Captain America: The First Avenger, the first in a new franchise of comic book-inspired superhero action films that will peak in 2012 with the Whedon-directed The Avengers.

“Right now I'm working on a movie that's got enormous stipulations and is going to be changing and fluid every second. I've come up with dozens of scenes and lines and exchanges and monologues that I adore that are not going to be in it,” he says of The Avengers. “But while I'm writing them they feed me, excite me and they ultimately inform the character. It all goes in.”

The issue of inevitable compromise and restraint imposed is a fascinating element throughout Whedon's career. He may have a genuine cult status among the geeks and freaks. He may have created the hilarious and hugely popular online musical comedy-action spoof Dr Horrible's Sing-Along Blog during the 2008 writers' strike. But the bulk of his work has been for mainstream film companies and networks or the relatively conservative end of cable networks. Does he secretly – or not so secretly – prefer an environment that comes with explicit and implicit constraints as a means of sparking creativity?

“In a way, yes. I feel that movies got more imaginatively dirty after the Hays Code was introduced in America,” he says, referring to the self-censorship guidelines under which many US films were made between 1930 and 1968. “There's something about having restrictions that does make you want to be sly about how you come at something. I do think that fighting against something, if it's a real creative collaboration, the frisson between what the artist is trying to get out there and what the market place expects, creates very exciting entertainment.”

The problem can come when you butt your head against a wall and it doesn't break but you do. He's often laughed about the pain of scripts in limbo, of films derailed, of utterly ridiculous decisions, such as a network deciding not to screen the opening episodes of a series until after the rest of the show had screened. More seriously, he says that the cancellation of Firefly not only made him “the sourest man alive” but had an unexpected and potentially devastating side effect.

“I stopped having ideas, which for me is an extremely rare experience,” Whedon says. “It was something much more subtle [than losing hope], it took away my ability to think in terms of episodic television. For years.”

He says that almost casually, as if losing the focal point of your life – of your family's life for three generations – was a hiccup. Is one of the skills of being a successful writer and a director being able to handle what you might call these little creative deaths?

“It has to be but I'm not entirely sure that it's a skill that I've learned or know anyone who has,” he sighs. “I have to feel this emotionally raw because I have to believe when I write something it's going to exist. You have to have a certain naivety, almost Memento-like, and get bitch-slapped over and over.

"You've got to go in with an enormous amount of confidence because everyone is going to question everything you do. You have to be the person who believes when nobody else does.”

It seems that rather than the five stages of grief, for writers there is just one stage: wiping your memory and starting again, like the characters in Dollhouse.

"Yeah, pretty much. Anger, anger, anger. Anger. Bargaining,” he deadpans. "Honestly, this year with my career, I've been going, OK, is it over? Are they done with me and is it time for me to start doing really small or make a graceful exit? Because I'm OK. I have my family, I love to write, I'll always write, they can't stop me doing that.

"But maybe I'm not going to get my shot to reach a mass audience. But then I got The Avengers. So, clearly, I'm an idiot.”

He describes directing The Avengers as the job “I've waited for my whole life” but says in the same breath that if it was cancelled tomorrow, “I'd go join my family on the vacation I'm not on and start working on things I've put on hold to do this.” Sanguine or fatalistic?

“I have always felt, my whole life, that everything could be taken away at any second. It has actually been a huge problem for me that I know that,” he says. “I certainly will do everything in my power not to have that happen, everything in my power to make it good. That's my power, that's all I've got. All I can do is make it good enough for somebody to see it twice.”

That's a unique special power. I wonder what kind of costume someone with that special power would wear. “There's a codpiece, so I don't wear it, because a codpiece is embarrassing. Also, I'm always stepping on the cape.”

Joss Whedon will speak at the Opera House Concert Hall on August 29 at 3pm. Tickets sold out.

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PostSubject: Re: Not so shiny: Plenty of drama for Buffy creator Joss Whedon    Sat Sep 11, 2010 8:03 pm

I wish Buffy was still around, I miss this series more than anything. I am currently rewatching and reliving the BEST SERIES EVER! Favourite character has to be Spike, the British Bad Vamp. Angel and his angst annoyed me, much prefered him as Angelus (sp).
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PostSubject: Re: Not so shiny: Plenty of drama for Buffy creator Joss Whedon    Sun Sep 12, 2010 11:12 am

angel was way better in his own serie.

If you really really miss Buffy, Joss did an 8th season in comic books format
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PostSubject: Re: Not so shiny: Plenty of drama for Buffy creator Joss Whedon    Sun Sep 12, 2010 11:15 am

its still not the same Sad i really miss it as well! such a good series!

i quite liked angel in his own series as well, but then i loved him in buffy as well Razz Razz and also spike! i liked buffy with both of them, i hated riley!

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PostSubject: Re: Not so shiny: Plenty of drama for Buffy creator Joss Whedon    Sun Sep 12, 2010 11:19 am

Spike was definitely the best in BTVS. Angel was less his brooding self in his own serie, way better haha

But the bestest of the best was the 2 of them together in Angel's season 5!

"Angel... you're..."
"Spike... Don't."
"You're a bloody puppet!!!!"

lol!
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PostSubject: Re: Not so shiny: Plenty of drama for Buffy creator Joss Whedon    Sun Sep 12, 2010 11:35 am

haha i loved it when spike joined buffy!

i think part of spikes charm is his "british" accent (i say that as it's not reeeally how we talk but it was a very good attempt!) i loved his expressions!

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PostSubject: Re: Not so shiny: Plenty of drama for Buffy creator Joss Whedon    Mon Sep 13, 2010 6:40 pm

I think I am on the last disc of season 2, sooo good. Spike is currently still pretending to be disabled. Looooove him so much. Yeah his funny english accent gets me every time (where is he supposed to be from in England?) - I am sure I used to know this but have totally forgotten! *blonde*

I didnt know about the comic book format, will have to find out more, I must have been living under a stone at the time! I always wanted to go to a Buffy convention, never did... Sad thanks for letting me know Haily_Fangs! *high five*

Re: Angel in his own series, I really enjoyed it the first time I watched it, so am def going to re-watch again. Fav character from Angel was Harmony she is such a dolt!
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PostSubject: Re: Not so shiny: Plenty of drama for Buffy creator Joss Whedon    Mon Sep 13, 2010 9:31 pm

my fave character from Angel is Illyria. She's so cool and can't understand human, which makes the season even better.
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PostSubject: Re: Not so shiny: Plenty of drama for Buffy creator Joss Whedon    Mon Sep 13, 2010 9:31 pm

btw, Spike is from London Wink
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PostSubject: Re: Not so shiny: Plenty of drama for Buffy creator Joss Whedon    Tue Sep 14, 2010 10:31 am

Ah, well he does an ok London accent but not the best, but I think that's why I loved him!

I meant I loved it when Spike joined Angel, not Buffy, my bad Smile

I'd love to go to a Buffy convention!

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PostSubject: Re: Not so shiny: Plenty of drama for Buffy creator Joss Whedon    Tue Sep 14, 2010 11:46 am

there is one here in October I think, but I won't go 'cause it's in Toroton (again, they're all there...)
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PostSubject: Re: Not so shiny: Plenty of drama for Buffy creator Joss Whedon    Tue Sep 14, 2010 3:25 pm

Really London? Well I am foreign myself so am useless at accents. Maybe it is becauae he is old, so of course it is old fashioned accent, which explains why I didnt get it! Sorted!

Kawaii Fairy - we need to fly over to Toronto, I can play in the snow then! Woohoo! (Ia it in the winter?)

Yes - Illyria was a really good character, I loved her bluntness and the way she saw things. Gutted to loose Fred as I really enjoyed her as a character as well.

What did you think of Jasmin? I personally didnt enjoy her in the show.
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PostSubject: Re: Not so shiny: Plenty of drama for Buffy creator Joss Whedon    Tue Sep 14, 2010 11:11 pm

we normally don't have snow until late November (exc eptin the far North of the country).

I totally hate Angel's season 4, so I don't like Jasmine either (especially after what she did to Cordelia...)
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PostSubject: Re: Not so shiny: Plenty of drama for Buffy creator Joss Whedon    Wed Sep 15, 2010 11:29 am

Aw I agree, I really liked Cordi!

Yes we shall fly over there then! Off we go to play in the snow, in November Smile

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PostSubject: Re: Not so shiny: Plenty of drama for Buffy creator Joss Whedon    Thu Sep 16, 2010 5:55 pm

Hailey_Fangs, I am in process of persuading my boyf to move to Canada on the basis of snow alone. I LOVE snow!!!

Kawaii**Fairy - Lets go!! You can go pink powderpuff and I am going to go in blue. (I am thinking snow outfits) and then we kidnap James Marsters....... this plan is coming together!

What about the whole Darla/Angel baby? I must re-watch all of these again. I think the actor (cant remember name) who plays Angels kid may star as Sam' s brother in Tru Blood!

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PostSubject: Re: Not so shiny: Plenty of drama for Buffy creator Joss Whedon    Fri Sep 17, 2010 11:04 am

ooh pink yes please!!!

i don't remember angel at all, i will have to watch them all again won't i!

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PostSubject: Re: Not so shiny: Plenty of drama for Buffy creator Joss Whedon    Fri Sep 17, 2010 6:25 pm

I am now on Season 3. Buffy has moved to LA? And as I type been captured by some demons! Exciting stuff! cheers
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PostSubject: Re: Not so shiny: Plenty of drama for Buffy creator Joss Whedon    Fri Sep 17, 2010 11:38 pm

Werewanabe wrote:
Hailey_Fangs, I am in process of persuading my boyf to move to Canada on the basis of snow alone. I LOVE snow!!!

Kawaii**Fairy - Lets go!! You can go pink powderpuff and I am going to go in blue. (I am thinking snow outfits) and then we kidnap James Marsters....... this plan is coming together!

What about the whole Darla/Angel baby? I must re-watch all of these again. I think the actor (cant remember name) who plays Angels kid may star as Sam' s brother in Tru Blood!


The actor who plays Connor (Angel's son) is Vincent Kartheiser and he looks like Sam's brother Tommy, but it<s not him (actually, the guy who plays Tommy is the one who played Lincoln's son LJ in Prison Break)
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PostSubject: Re: Not so shiny: Plenty of drama for Buffy creator Joss Whedon    Sat Sep 18, 2010 3:25 pm

Aw i really wanna watch all these again just don't seem to have time Sad

prison break is another ive never seen, despite having season one on dvd x

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PostSubject: Re: Not so shiny: Plenty of drama for Buffy creator Joss Whedon    Sun Sep 19, 2010 2:41 pm

Prison Break was awesome! Hate the way it ended, though.
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PostSubject: Re: Not so shiny: Plenty of drama for Buffy creator Joss Whedon    Mon Sep 20, 2010 11:33 am

aw how annoying Neutral

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PostSubject: Re: Not so shiny: Plenty of drama for Buffy creator Joss Whedon    Mon Sep 20, 2010 9:59 pm

Haily_Fangs wrote:
Werewanabe wrote:
Hailey_Fangs, I am in process of persuading my boyf to move to Canada on the basis of snow alone. I LOVE snow!!!

Kawaii**Fairy - Lets go!! You can go pink powderpuff and I am going to go in blue. (I am thinking snow outfits) and then we kidnap James Marsters....... this plan is coming together!

What about the whole Darla/Angel baby? I must re-watch all of these again. I think the actor (cant remember name) who plays Angels kid may star as Sam' s brother in Tru Blood!


The actor who plays Connor (Angel's son) is Vincent Kartheiser and he looks like Sam's brother Tommy, but it<s not him (actually, the guy who plays Tommy is the one who played Lincoln's son LJ in Prison Break)

I knew he looked familar! Thanks Hailey_Fangs!! I am also going to kick my boyf, as he was the one who made me think it was Connor! Silly men!!

I loved Prison Break but was so sick of it by the last season, I dont think I actually watched the last episode! My favourite character had to be Sucre.
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PostSubject: Re: Not so shiny: Plenty of drama for Buffy creator Joss Whedon    Fri Sep 24, 2010 11:47 am

haha silly men!

i don't think it will both with prison break then if the ending is so bad!

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PostSubject: Re: Not so shiny: Plenty of drama for Buffy creator Joss Whedon    Fri Sep 24, 2010 5:40 pm

I told boyf off for telling me sams brother was Connor, and he turned around and said that I had said it first! Umm nooo! I think he has lost his marbles and I am actually a little worried! Shocked xx
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PostSubject: Re: Not so shiny: Plenty of drama for Buffy creator Joss Whedon    Mon Sep 27, 2010 12:06 pm

oh dear, he hasn't, that is definately a man thing! both william and my dad do that, it drives me nuts!

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