Interview: Joss Whedon

January 3rd, 2009 by

Today’s interview is a great one with writer-director Joss Whedon that appeared in the journal In Focus, their August / September 2005 issue.

Whedon’s writing credits include Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992), Toy Story (1995), Alien: Resurrection (1997), Titan A.E. (2000), and Serenity (2005), and several TV series he created including “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, “Firefly”, “Angel”, and “Dollhouse” which is currently in production albeit with some ‘creative issues’ we’ve discussed here.

In this lengthy interview, Whedon touches on a number of subjects including “Firefly,” Toy Story, his work on the movie Speed (for which Whedon did not get credit), Wonder Woman, and what TV shows he and his wife watch. Those of you who know Whedon are probably well aware of how outspoken he is. For those of you who don’t, here’s just a taste. First, Whedon talks about how he would have approached writing Return of the Jedi:

Q: Fans and the media have grown fond of comparing “Serenity’s” hero, Mal Reynolds, to “Star Wars’” Han Solo – and when SFX Magazine once asked you, “Which movie would you love to have written?” you replied, “Return of the Jedi.” Had you been given the reins of “Jedi,” where would you have driven it? Would you have given Captain Solo more to do? Would Leia not turn out to be Luke’s sister? Would the “another” Yoda spoke of late in “The Empire Strikes Back” turn out to be not-Leia?

JW: Well, first of all, I believe that my actual answer was the movie that I would have liked to have made was actually “Revenge of the Jedi.” Because that’s what it was originally called.

Q: An important distinction.

JW: It really is. And when they changed it I was very worried. Of course they got their “Revenge” later on, but at the time I didn’t know that.

Everything you said was right on the money. The Millennium Falcon would not be piloted in the climactic scene by Lando Calrissian and a frog. It would have been Han, getting it done. The “other” to whom Yoda referred would of course have been a young, female badass Jedi, because where else would I go with that? It would have not been revealed in the first five minutes that Darth Vader was going to be redeemed. And, yeah, there would have been a little less incest.

And here is what Whedon had to say about his involvement with the movie Alien: Resurrection:

Q: I thought your original screenplay for “Alien: Resurrection” was brilliant – with its epic final battle on Earth, for Earth – and vastly more engrossing than what ultimately made its way to the screen. I have to assume there were budgetary issues, because I can’t imagine another reason anyone would tinker with it.

JW: Well, let me ask you something. This ending that took place on Earth. What happened in it? Where did it take place?

Q: It took place in a forest …

JW: Yes. Oh, wow. That’s the first one. There were five. And it was always either “the director had a vision” or they had a budget issue. And as a script doctor I’ve been called in more than a few times, and the issue is always the same: “We want you to make the third act more exciting and cheaper.” And my response inevitably is, “The problem with the third act is the first two acts.” This response is never listened to. I usually walk away having gotten one or two jokes into a script and made some money and feeling like I am just bereft of life. It’s horrible. The exceptions were “Toy Story” and “Speed,” where they actually let me do something.

In the case of “Alien: Resurrection,” they decided to spend their money in other places than going to Earth. And I just kept saying, “The reason people are here is we’re going to do the thing we’ve never done; we’re gonna go to Earth.” But there were a lot of things that we hadn’t done that we ended up not doing because of a singular lack of vision.

But rather than go into all of the reasons why “Alien: Resurrection” is disappointing to me, I will tell you that, yes, I wrote five endings. The first one was in the forest with the flying threshing machine. The second one was in a futuristic junkyard. The third one was in a maternity ward. And the fourth one was in the desert. Now at this point this had become about money, and I said, “You know, the desert looks like Mars. That’s not Earth; that’s not going to give people that juice.” But I still wrote them the best ending I could that took place in the desert. And then finally they said, “Y’knowww, we just don’t think we need to go to Earth.” So I just gave them dialogue and stuff, but I don’t remember writing, “A withered, granny-lookin’ Pumkinhead-kinda-thing makes out with Ripley.” Pretty sure that stage direction never existed in any of my drafts.

Here’s hoping that “Dollhouse” turns out well. TV needs another great Joss Whedon series.

UPDATE: Found this Q&A with Whedon in the vaults of The Hollywood Reporter, the interview taking place at last year’s Comic Con.

Leave a Reply