”I couldn’t stand the idea of one more person asking me who was going to play Wonder Woman,” says director Joss Whedon, explaining why he — a perennial Comic-Con favorite — didn’t pop up on a panel in 2006. Now unlassoed from said movie project, Whedon last week returned to speak at the Nerd Prom, unleashing a spate of projects — a number of them Buffy-related — to orgiastic effect. Among the crowd-pleasers: Ripper, a 90-minute TV movie for the BBC about Buffy’s watcher, Giles; Goners, his original movie for Universal that’s still in development and presently in rewrites; Cabin in the Woods, a horror movie coscripted with Drew Goddard (Cloverfield) that he’s shopping around; and two comics, a Buffy ”season 9” story arc and a Serenity miniseries. As Comic-Con wound down, Whedon sat down with EW to elaborate on his breakup with Wonder Woman, his larger designs for the Buffyverse, and how Comic-Con helps him forget about his day job.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You mentioned during your panel that it’s been a rough couple of years. Are you speaking, in particular, of your aborted Wonder Woman movie?
JOSS WHEDON: I in no way want this to be a slam on Warner Bros., but the fact of the matter is, it was a waste of my time. We never [wanted] to make the same movie; none of us knew that. And it was a waste of their time because I had a lot of trouble writing — not just writing that, but writing at all. Part of it had to do with having just finished Serenity. I ran into James Gunn, who’d just done his first film, Slither. And he was like, ”The director in me killed the writer in me.” And we fell on each other. It was like finding a support group. After you direct and edit something, you just realize everything is negotiable. The line that you died for, you pull without hesitation because [the script] seems a little long. He was like, ”Every time I sit down to write I think, Is this even going to make it in?” And you can’t write like that.
Joel Silver bought another Wonder Woman script while you were still on the project. Did you see that coming?
I was warned by a friend that it was happening. And I was already well aware that people were not liking what I was doing. So I don’t feel like I was blindsided. I sent them an outline for a new draft that I felt was exactly what I wanted, and they didn’t want to do it. Joel told me that. And I was like, ”Can you tell me what they want? Can you tell me what they don’t like?” The answer was ”No.” Then I was like, ”Okay, but I’m certainly not going to start from scratch.”
There were rumors that your other film project, Goners, may have been distracting you.
Not while I was doing Wonder Woman. And [Warner Bros.] knew that. I sold Goners to Universal with the understanding that Wonder Woman was happening [first]. If Goners had completely unveiled itself in a perfect structure and the way it needed to be, I would have sat down and written it and maybe it would’ve gone first. But I really kept Goners at bay because of Wonder Woman. There’s also a lot of…there’s personal stuff that I’m not interested in talking about that was difficult. And then there’s also wonderful stuff that was difficult, which was my children. I had to create a system whereby I could get a full day’s work [done] and still be the father that I want to be.
So why throw yourself into Buffy comics?
I miss television. I miss the quick turnaround. Get it done, get it out, every month or every week. Movies move glacially, and that’s really frustrating…. A lot of my forward looking involves looking back. Because I do still love the universes I created and the people that I worked with.
Lost writer Brian K. Vaughn will take over writing the Buffy comic this fall…
Then it’ll be Drew Goddard, [novelist/Jack & Bobby creator] Brad Meltzer…I’m actually working out the ”season,” as we call it. But it’s delightful for me to work on. The idea was always bringing in different writers, people who’ve either been on our show or powerhouses in comic books. I’m giving everybody an arc to do — or in some cases a one-shot if they didn’t have the time. I’ve already mapped out the entire 40-issue ”season.”
Where is the story going to go?
It’s been indicated that there are people who are trying to get rid of the slayers because they represent the same kind of magic as the demons. So I’m putting the slayers in the global spotlight for a little bit — really getting to talk about shifts in power and trying to put an end to magic. That’s what Buffy’s fighting against. It’s an epic story. I’ve asked Brad to plot out the last 10 issues with me and then write the first half, and I’ll write the second half. But I’m overseeing every script, every story, every page.
And what about Ripper — is that going to hit BBC America?
It’s BBC [right now], in England. It’s still being worked out. The character is still part of the Buffy franchise that Fox owns. We want to make sure that everybody gets respected. And everything is contingent on the script. I have an outline, but I don’t have a script yet.
Anthony Stewart Head (who plays Giles) is willing to wait?
Yeah, Tony and I had dinner and he’s like, ”Oh yeah, I hate this idea!” I pitched him the story — he’s heard some of it before. But a story point [finally] fell into place. For years, I hadn’t been able to figure it out. Let’s just say something very bad is happening, and I couldn’t figure out why.
So, careerwise, do you feel like things are finally falling into place again?
Honestly, this is a transitional stage in my career. Last year I didn’t do a panel because I had nothing to talk about. I went from running three shows [Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly] to making a movie [Serenity] to kind of coming to a screeching halt in terms of what I was putting out to the public — except for comic books. And I’m doing a lot of assessing: ”What exactly am I looking for?”
Then why bother showing up here?
This year I spoke because I do have things going on, and I felt like the fans had been very patient. The trick is not just go, ”Well, I did Buffy, so I am just going to go there and get some fame juice.” You don’t want to be that guy who’s like, [In a desperate voice] ”Hey! You want your picture taken with me? I’m that guy who did Buffy. Remember?” You suddenly start to feel like Sam Rockwell in Galaxy Quest. [But regardless] I’ll be showing up for the reason I showed up last year — I said I didn’t do a panel, I didn’t say I didn’t come. It’s Comic-Con! This is Christmas for me. And I like to look at the pulp art, I like to look at the costumes, I like to look at everything….
Sam Raimi told us he wore a zombie mask so that he could walk around the floor unrecognized.
I like that. Did it work? I talked to Seth Green and Seth was like, ”Don’t wear a disguise. It won’t help. Even if you’re dressed as Spider-Man, they’ll still know it’s you. Trust me.” People do say, ”Hi, can I take a picture?” or something. But it isn’t like I’m this rock star.
Who do you think benefits most from this sort of cross-pollination of fanboys and Hollywood at Comic-Con?
Um…me! As a fan. Just because there’s stuff to do, stuff to look at. Ultimately everybody who’s trying to benefit was working at the Con. And every now and then I’ll see an agent on the phone being all grousy standing next to a Boba Fett. And I’ll be like, ”Dude, check out the Fett! You’re missing the point.”