Joss Whedon

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Joss Whedon
Joss Whedon by Gage Skidmore 4.jpg
Joss Whedon at the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con International
Born Joseph Hill Whedon
(1964-06-23) June 23, 1964 (age 49)
New York, New York, U.S.
Alma mater Wesleyan University
Occupation Writer, director, producer, composer, actor
Years active 1989–present
Notable work(s)
Style Science fiction, supernatural drama, comedy-drama, superhero
Spouse(s) Kai Cole (1991–present)
Children 2
Relatives John Whedon (grandfather)
Tom Whedon (father)
Jed Whedon (brother)
Zack Whedon (brother)
from the BBC programme Front Row, December 26, 2013.1

Joseph Hill "Joss" Whedon2 (/ˈhwdən/; born June 23, 1964) is an American screenwriter, film and television director, film and television producer, comic book author, composer, and actor. He is the founder of Mutant Enemy Productions and co-founder of Bellwether Pictures. He is best known as the creator of the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997–2003), Angel (1999–2004), Firefly (2002–03), Dollhouse (2009–10) and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013–present) as well as Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (2008). Whedon co-wrote Toy Story (1995), wrote and directed Serenity (2005), co-wrote and produced the horror film The Cabin in the Woods (2012), and wrote and directed the film adaptation Marvel's The Avengers (2012),34 the third highest-grossing film of all time.

Whedon is notable for his work in the comic books Astonishing X-Men, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel: After the Fall and Runaways. He is also known for his collaborations in online media. Many of Whedon's projects have cult status.5

From a family of screenwriters, he is the grandson of John Whedon, the son of Tom Whedon, and the brother of Zack and Jed Whedon. In May 2013, Whedon was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Wesleyan University.6

Early life

Joss Whedon was born in New York City. He has been described as the world's first third-generation TV writer,7 as he is the son of Tom Whedon, a screenwriter for The Electric Company in the 1970s and The Golden Girls in the 1980s, and the grandson of John Whedon, a writer for The Donna Reed Show in the 1950s.89 His mother, Lee Stearns, taught history at Riverdale Country School as Lee Whedon,10 and was an aspiring novelist.8 Whedon is the younger brother of Samuel and Matthew Whedon and older brother of writers Jed and Zack Whedon.11

Whedon graduated from Wesleyan University in 1987. Before going to Wesleyan, he spent two years at Winchester College in England. He attended Riverdale Country School in New York City where his mother taught history.12 At a young age he was a prolific writer, loved Monty Python and showed great interest in acting.13

Career

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

(From left to right) Tom Lenk, Emma Caulfield, Alexis Denisof, Alyson Hannigan, Anthony Stewart Head, Whedon, Michelle Trachtenberg at the Buffy cast party.

In 1997, Whedon created his first TV show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The series depicts Buffy Summers, the latest in a line of young women called to battle against vampires, demons, and other forces of darkness. The inspiration for the idea came directly from his aversion to seeing the Hollywood formula of "the little blonde girl who goes into a dark alley and gets killed in every horror movie".14 Whedon said he wanted to subvert the idea and create someone who was a hero.15 This conception came from "the very first mission statement of the show, which was the joy of female power: having it, using it, sharing it".16

Most of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was shot on locations in and around Los Angeles, California. Whedon worked primarily with composers like Christophe Beck (seasons 2–4),17 Thomas Wander (seasons 5–6)18 and Douglas Romayne (season 7).19 The writing process came together from conversations about the emotional issues facing Buffy Summers, and how she would confront them in terms of her battle against supernatural forces.20 Whedon, Steven S. DeKnight, Jane Espenson, David Fury, Drew Goddard, Drew Z. Greenberg, David Greenwalt, Rebecca Rand Kirshner, Marti Noxon and Doug Petrie had the most writing credits.21 Whedon usually directed episodes from his own scripts that held the most cathartic moments in Buffy's story.22

The series received numerous awards and nominations,23 including an Emmy Award nomination for the 1999 episode "Hush".24 The 2001 episode "The Body" was nominated for a Nebula Award in 2002,25 and the fall 2001 musical episode "Once More, with Feeling" was nominated for a Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo Award and a Best Script Nebula Award.2627 "The Gift" won in the Drama Category for Television's Most Memorable Moment at the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards.28 All written and directed by Whedon, they are considered some the most effective and popular episodes of the series.2930 Since its total of 144 episodes, Buffy the Vampire Slayer became lauded worldwide for its influential themes and impact on popular culture.313233

Angel

As a result of Buffy the Vampire Slayer's success, Whedon was allowed the opportunity to make his 1999 spin-off series, Angel. David Greenwalt and Whedon collaborated on the pilot that was going to be developed for The WB Network.34 During the series' early expansion, efforts were made by the network to mitigate the original concept.35 "Corrupt", a precociously optioned second episode, was entirely abandoned due to the gloominess written into the script.35 James A. Contner—director of the replacement episode—explained, "We were six days into preproduction and suddenly shut down. [...] It was a meeting of the minds between the network, the WB and Fox and Joss and Greenwalt about what the direction of the show would be. [...] [WB and Fox] felt that they didn't want to have [the character] in that place the whole time".36 The tone was softened, establishing in the opening episodes Angel Investigations as an idealistic, shoestring operation.37 It follows Angel (played by David Boreanaz), who works as a private detective in order to "help the helpless".38

Angel premiered on October 5, 1999. It was praised for presenting a unique and progressive version of the archetypal noir hero as a sympathetic vampire detective.39 The series was however at times referred to being lesser than its parent show, regularly dismissed in context of having been derived from a more popular original work.40 Despite this, it won a Saturn Award for Best Network TV Series.41 The three episodes, "Waiting in the Wings",42 "Smile Time" and "Not Fade Away", were nominated for Hugo Awards for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form in 2003 and 2005.43 In addition to Whedon, the writers with the most writing credits include David Greenwalt, Tim Minear, Jeffrey Bell, David Fury, Steven S. DeKnight, Mere Smith, Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain.44

The WB Network announced on February 14, 2004, that Angel would not be brought back for a sixth season.45 Its final episode, "Not Fade Away", aired on May 19, 2004.46 Whedon said of the cancellation, "It was like 'Healthy Guy Falls Dead From Heart Attack.' I believe the reason Angel had trouble on The WB was that it was the only show on the network that wasn't trying to be Buffy. It was a show about grown-ups".47 Fans attempted to revive the show through the means of online petitions, letter-writing campaigns and seeking to influence other networks for a renewal, but to no avail.4548 An official continuation of the story came rather in the form of a comic book series called Angel: After the Fall,49 written by Brian Lynch and Whedon.50

Firefly

Whedon followed Angel with the space western Firefly (2002), starring Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, Adam Baldwin, Jewel Staite, Sean Maher, Summer Glau and Ron Glass. Set in the year 2517, Firefly explores the lives of the people who, on the outskirts of society, make their living as the crew of Serenity, a "Firefly-class" spaceship.51 The series' concept progressed originally after Whedon read The Killer Angels, a book on the Battle of Gettysburg.52

An ever present element was Whedon's injection of anti-totalitarianism,53 writing into the show a historical analogy of the Battle of Gettysburg; the "Battle of Serenity Valley".54 Two of the main characters, Malcolm Reynolds and Zoe Washburne, fought in the "Unification War" and were defeated by The Alliance, an authoritarian regime.55 The beaten soldiers were called "Browncoats" after the brown dusters they wore as their uniforms.5657 Whedon said, "I wanted to play with that classic notion of the frontier: not the people who made history, but the people history stepped on -- the people for whom every act is the creation of civilization".58 Firefly was written as a serious character study,59 encompassing what Whedon called "life when it's hard", and in elaboration said, "This is about nine people looking into the blackness of space and seeing nine different things".60

Tim Minear, who had worked with Whedon in the past, was selected to serve as the series' showrunner.61 It was well received by critics, especially the fusion of American frontier and outer space motifs.62 Despite critical praise, the show had an average of 4.48 million viewers at the time and was ranked 125th in Nielsen ratings, which led to the series' cancellation by Fox.63 Whedon took to Universal Pictures as a means of achieving a continuation of the story.64

Following Firefly was Serenity, a follow-up film taking place after the events of the final episode.65 This developed into a franchise that led to novels, comic books and other media; all centered around the show's fictional universe.6667 New Scientist magazine held a poll in 2005 to find "The World's Best Space Sci-Fi Ever", in which Firefly and Serenity took first and second place, respectively.68 Since its cancellation, the series acquired cult status.69

Serenity

In 2005, Whedon had written and directed Serenity. After Universal Pictures acquired the film and distribution rights from Fox, Whedon started writing the screenplay.70 Transforming the series into a film, he says, "...was the hardest piece of writing I've ever done. [...] It had to be self-contained and work as a movie, which meant I had to cope with problems like introducing nine main characters who'd already met!"7172 The script was based on unused story ideas for Firefly's unfilmed second season.65 On writing the dialogue, Whedon felt that part of it came from "getting to invent the language", which "once I had, reads like a kind of poetry".73 The narrative of the story centers on Captain Malcolm Reynolds—"the hero"—accompanied by River Tam acting as "the catalyst for what he does".74

Serenity was released in North America on September 30, 2005. The score was composed by David Newman, and according to Whedon was intended to "deglorify space - to feel the intimacy of being on a ship as opposed to the grandeur".75 He used two long steadicam shots for several minutes of the film's opening sequence to establish "a sense of safety in space".7677 In 2006, it won a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form.78 The elements of science fiction that Whedon wanted to convey were essentially different in kind, and held "a sort of grittiness" and "realism", which he said, together, "get the most exciting kind of film-making".79 Like Firefly, the film contained a statement on individual liberty.80 Critic Roger Ebert observed, "Like Brave New World and 1984, the movie plays like a critique of contemporary society, with the Alliance as Big Brother, enemy of discontent".81 The film received the 2005 Nebula Award for Best Script and the 2006 Prometheus Special Award.8283 It won IGN's Best Sci-Fi, Best Story and Best Trailer awards in 2005,848586 and was voted the best sci-fi movie of all time in a poll set up by SFX magazine.79 There have since been multiple rumors regarding sequel possibilities.8788

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

During the 2007–08 Writers Guild of America strike, Whedon directed, co-wrote and produced Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (2008). He funded the project himself with the investment of just over $200,000,89 and enjoyed the independence gained from it, saying there was "freedom to just let the dictates of the story say how long it’s gonna be. We didn’t have to cram everything in–there is a lot in there–but we put in the amount of story that we wanted to and let the time work around that".90 Whedon and his brother Jed composed the music, parts of which were influenced by Stephen Sondheim.91 Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog tells the story of Dr. Horrible, an aspiring supervillain, who shares a love interest in Penny with his nemesis, Captain Hammer. In 2009, Whedon won Best Directing and Best Writing for a Comedy Web Series at the Streamy Awards,92 a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form,93 and a Creative Arts Emmy Award.94

Dollhouse

In 2009, Whedon created his fourth television series Dollhouse. Whedon explored themes in the show that were initially present in an unproduced spec script of his called Afterlife.95 The series primarily follows Echo, an "Active" programmed for various purposes, on her journey towards self-awareness. Despite the low ratings in its first season, Dollhouse was renewed for a second and final season.96 The reason given by Fox's president of entertainment for its renewal was, "if we'd canceled Joss's show I'd probably have 110 million e-mails this morning from the fans".97 The show was cancelled on November 11, 2009.98 The first season had mixed reviews, with Metacritic giving it a 57/100.99 Robert Bianco of USA Today noted however that the end result was a show "that Joss Whedon's most devoted fans will debate and embrace, and a mass audience just won't get".100 The Dollhouse universe has since been expanded in comic books.101102

The Cabin in the Woods

Whedon co-wrote and produced a horror film titled The Cabin in the Woods with director Drew Goddard, which finished production in 2009.103 Whedon and Goddard both intended to make a film "that was about horror movies while being a straight-up, good fun and scary horror movie".104 The script was written in three days,105 producing a minimum of 15 pages a day.106 Whedon described it as an attempt to revitalize horror, calling it a "loving hate letter" to the genre, continuing:

On another level it's a serious critique of what we love and what we don't about horror movies. I love being scared. I love that mixture of thrill, of horror, that objectification/identification thing of wanting definitely for the people to be alright but at the same time hoping they’ll go somewhere dark and face something awful. The things that I don't like are kids acting like idiots, the devolution of the horror movie into torture porn and into a long series of sadistic comeuppances. Drew and I both felt that the pendulum had swung a little too far in that direction.107

The Cabin in the Woods was released on April 13, 2012 to critical acclaim,108 yet performed inadequately at the box-office.109 The film was produced by MGM, but once the studio went bankrupt, the film was held back.110 It was later given an official theatrical release date, distributed by Lionsgate Films.111 The MPAA gave the film an R rating for American cinemas.112 With an estimated budget of $30 million, it was shot in Vancouver, British Columbia.113114 Part of what Whedon thought distinguished it from other horror films was that "people are not expendable. As a culture, for our own entertainment, we tend to assume that they are".115 He stated that the idea of the film started as "a logical extension of what I think about horror movies",116 and reiterated his sentiment that the introduction of torture porn into this genre was "becoming this extremely nihilistic and misogynist exercise in just trying to upset you, as opposed to trying to scare you".117

The Avengers

Whedon with the cast of The Avengers and Kevin Feige at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con International.

In July 2010, it was confirmed that Whedon would write and direct The Avengers, a live-action adaptation of the Marvel Comics superhero team of the same name.118 The film premiered on April 11, 2012.119 It was highly successful at the box-office, grossing $1 billion worldwide within 19 days of its release,120 earning the biggest opening weekend of all time, and becoming the third highest-grossing film ever at the North American box office.121 The film received considerable praise from critics, with the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reporting a 92% positive rating based on 296 reviews,122 and Metacritic giving it a 69/100 based on 43 reviews.123

Principal photography for The Avengers commenced in late April 2011.124 The filming process took place in Albuquerque, New Mexico,124 before moving to Cleveland, Ohio,125 and concluding in New York City.126 Cinematographer Seamus McGarvey said that he and Whedon "were keen on having a very visceral and naturalistic quality to the image" and "wanted this to feel immersive and did not want a 'comic book look' that might distance an audience with the engagement of the film".127 They took use of the digital camera Arri Alexa when shooting the film.127 The Canon EOS 5D Mark II and Canon EOS 7D digital SLR cameras were used to capture certain shots,128129 and high-speed photography was used on 35 mm film with the Arriflex 435.127 About the music Whedon said, "The score is very old-fashioned, which is why Silvestri was letter-perfect for this movie because he can give you the heightened emotion, the Hans Zimmer school of 'I'm just feeling a lot right now!' but he can also be extraordinarily cue and character specific, which I love".130

Whedon commented on the conversion of The Avengers from 2D to 3D, saying that "current 3D conversion technology is really amazing, and Marvel is very picky. Having a sense for things in a 3D space and filming while feeling that space was a very easy thing for me. I’m just tired of seeing just things flying toward the camera. So I had to make things look good for 3D in 2D. My eyes and senses work that way, so the conversion from 2D was no problem".131 On his initial desire to take on the film, he said, "It goes back to the very first incarnation of The Avengers, it goes to The Ultimates, it goes to everything about it. It makes no sense, it's ridiculous. [...] Ultimately these people don't belong together and the whole movie is about finding yourself from community. And finding that you not only belong together but you need each other, very much. Obviously this will be expressed through punching but it will be the heart of the film".132

Much Ado About Nothing

On October 23, 2011 Bellwether Pictures confirmed they had completed principal photography on Much Ado About Nothing, which Whedon scripted, produced, directed, edited and composed,133 based on William Shakespeare's play of the same name.134 It was filmed in black-and-white over a period of 12 days at Whedon's residence in Santa Monica, California.135136 The film had its world premiere at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival.137 It had a limited theatrical release on June 7, 2013,138139 and was expanded nationwide in the U.S. on June 21, 2013.140 Whedon's idea to adapt the play for the screen originated from having "Shakespeare readings" at his house with several of his friends, years prior.141 Despite its comedy, he discovered that there were elements in the text "of debauchery" that brought out a core darkness. While influenced by the visual nature of film he decided to permeate a motif of sexuality into the script.142

Whedon and his DP Jay Hunter took advantage of natural lighting in order to make it feel "very found", noting, "Our lighting package rose in the east and set in the west".143 Using mirrors, glass and windows to shoot through, he explains, "[It’s] something I’d like to do all the time, but particularly in a movie that’s all about lies, and manipulation and misunderstandings. The more you can warp the frame a little bit, the more it speaks towards what’s going on".143 The film was shot with multiple hand-held digital cameras, often with a RED Epic, and used a Lensbaby Composer with Double Glass lens on a Canon 7D to differentiate certain scenes.144 Working with the actors, Whedon determined that, although giving them notes for guidance, "...what I understand is what an actor wants to know. ‘Why am I doing this, and how should it come out?’ And ‘Will I be safe to try something strange?’ And ‘Will I be asked to do more?’ I don’t come at it from any other standpoint than that".145

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

In March 2012, Whedon stated that although television involves more compromise than film:

I think, ultimately, gun to my head, TV is the place. Being able to spend years with a character, to really develop them, to understand them, to challenge the actor, to learn from the actor, to work with a team of writers -- that experience is so fulfilling. The idea of putting something out there and letting it grow is really exciting.146

In August 2012, Whedon signed a deal to develop an upcoming Marvel TV show for ABC.147148 Titled Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., it focuses on the secret military law-enforcement agency featured throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe.149 The pilot was penned by Whedon, his brother Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen,150 directed by Whedon, and executive produced by himself, Jed Whedon, Tancharoen, Jeffrey Bell and Jeph Loeb.151 Whedon stated that the storyline of the series would be largely independent from the Avengers sequel, reiterating that it mostly revolves around the title espionage organization.152 While the show involves individuals who possess powers within the spectacle of science fiction, it would also focus on "the peripheral people ... the people on the edges of the grand adventures".153 The pilot was officially ordered to series on May 10, 2013.154 The show's storyline follows the character of Phil Coulson.155

In Your Eyes

Whedon is the writer and executive producer of the upcoming paranormal romance film In Your Eyes, the second feature film by Bellwether Pictures.156157158 It stars Zoe Kazan and Michael Stahl-David.159 It was filmed extensively in New Hampshire,160 with some footage shot in the New Mexico desert.161 The film is about two people who are intercessory linked by supernatural means, despite being strangers.162

Future projects

Avengers: Age of Ultron

On August 7, 2012, it was confirmed that Whedon would return to write and direct a sequel to The Avengers,147148163164 following a deal with Marvel Studios that will expire after three years, in June 2015.165 The film will be released on May 1, 2015.166 On the matter of approaching a sequel, Whedon reasons not to go "bigger", but "deeper". "Now you can really spend your time just digging in. And by digging in, I mean with a scalpel to cause pain".167

Whedon also served as a creative consultant on the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe leading up to Age of Ultron.168169 He rewrote some dialogue for Thor: The Dark World,170 directed the mid-credits scene of Captain America: The Winter Soldier,171 and suggested that James Gunn make Guardians of the Galaxy "weirder" after reading an early draft.172

Other work

Film

As a script doctor, Whedon worked as an uncredited writer on films like The Getaway, Speed, Waterworld, Twister, X-Men and Atlantis: The Lost Empire.173 X-Men reportedly contained only two dialogue exchanges of Whedon's contribution,174 but the final cut of Speed left in most of his dialogue.175 At the same time as script consulting, he wrote Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Alien Resurrection, and co-wrote Titan A.E. and Toy Story, the latter of which earned him a shared Academy Award nomination for Original Screenplay.176177178 Whedon has expressed strong dissatisfaction with the released versions of the films Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Titan A.E. and Alien Resurrection.173177179 He also co-wrote the song "My Lullaby" from The Lion King II: Simba's Pride.180

Television

From 1989 to 1990, Whedon worked as a writer on the sitcoms Roseanne and Parenthood.181182 He is notable for his directing work in television, which includes two 2007 episodes of The Office ("Business School" and "Branch Wars")183 as well as a 2010 episode of the musical series Glee ("Dream On"), which reunited him with his Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog star Neil Patrick Harris.184

Comic books

Serenity

Serenity: Those Left Behind was released in 2005 as a limited three-issue comic book series, and a tie-in to Serenity.185 Set between Firefly and the film, it was intended to bridge the two storylines together.185 Whedon was credited for story and Brett Matthews wrote the script.186 Illustrations were done by Will Conrad, and Laura Martin contributed coloration.187 Serenity: Better Days also spanned three issues,188 and was written by Whedon and Matthews, with art by Conrad and Adam Hughes.189 Whedon later co-wrote The Shepherd's Tale with his brother Zack.190191

The cover art for Fray #1, published in June 2001.
Buffyverse

Whedon, a lifelong comic book fan, is the author of the Dark Horse Comics miniseries Fray, which takes place in the far future of the Buffyverse.185 Whedon returned to the world of Fray during the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight story arc "Time of Your Life".192

Like many Buffy the Vampire Slayer writers, he contributed to the show's comic book continuation, writing three stories in the anthology Tales of the Slayers (including the one featuring Melaka Fray from Fray),193 as well as the main storyline of the five-issue miniseries Tales of the Vampires.194 Whedon and the other former writers released a new ongoing series, taking place after the series finale "Chosen", which he officially recognizes as the canonical eighth season.195 The first issue was released on March 14, 2007 by Dark Horse Comics.196 Arcs and issues of season eight written by Whedon include "The Long Way Home", "The Chain",197 "Anywhere but Here",198 "A Beautiful Sunset",199 "Time of Your Life", "Turbulence" and "Last Gleaming".200201202

Following Buffy the Vampire Slayer's successful eighth season, IDW Publishing approached Whedon about similarly producing a canonical sixth season for Angel.203204 Angel: After the Fall released 17 issues as of February 11, 2009.205 The title of the series then changed to Angel: Aftermath.206 Although Whedon lacked the time to write its continuing series, he served as executive producer with Brian Lynch.207

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Nine was published from August 2011 to September 2013.208209 Whedon wrote "Freefall, Part I–II" (with Andrew Chambliss).210

Marvel / DC

Whedon wrote Marvel Comics' popular comic book line Astonishing X-Men,211212 but finished his 24 issue run in 2008 and then handed over the writing reigns to Warren Ellis.213 The title, recreated specifically for Whedon, has been one of Marvel's best-selling comics and was nominated for several Eisner Awards including Best Serialized Story, Best Continuing Series, Best New Series and Best Writer, winning the Best Continuing Series award in 2006.214215 One storyline from this comic, the notion of a cure for mutation being found, was also an element in the third X-Men film, X-Men: The Last Stand.216217 Whedon introduced several new characters into the Marvel Universe such as the villainous Ord,218 X-Men Ruth "Blindfold" Aldine and Hisako "Armor" Ichiki,219220 Runaway Klara Prast, and Special Agent Abigail Brand,221222 along with S.W.O.R.D., the organization she commands.223 In February 2009, Astonishing X-Men #6, which depicted the return of Colossus to the title, and concluded Whedon's first story arc on that title, was named by Marvel Comics readers the #65 in Marvel's Top 70 Comics of all time.224 He wrote short pieces for Marvel's Stan Lee Meets Spider-Man and Giant-Size X-Men #3,225226 and he was the subject of an issue of Marvel Spotlight (alongside artist Michael Lark).227 He also contributed as part of a panel of writers to Marvel Comics' Civil War crossover event, lending advice in how to tell the story and how to end it.228

Whedon is the second writer of the critically acclaimed and fan-favorite Marvel comic Runaways, taking over after series creator Brian K. Vaughan completed his run.229 He had been a fan of the series for some time, and had a letter published in the first volume, which was included in the Volume 1 hardcover edition.230

Whedon's other comic-related work includes writing the introduction to Identity Crisis trade paperback and a contribution to the "jam issue" Superman/Batman #26 (to date his only published work for DC Comics).231232

Online media

Whedon with Jason Segel and Neil Patrick Harris in September 2011

The R. Tam sessions, starring himself and Summer Glau, served as a form of viral marketing for 2005's Serenity.233 Whedon, in collaboration with Fábio Moon, then created the free webcomic titled Sugarshock!, as part of the revival of Dark Horse Presents, which was launched on Myspace.234 With the script of Jim Krueger and art by Will Conrad, Whedon executive produced another free comic book on the Internet, Serenity: The Other Half.235

Whedon appeared in all three episodes of Husbands season two as Wes,236 and said that it was his "biggest acting role yet".237238239 He also appeared in the Cracked.com video called "Potty Training a 25-Year-Old", as a bathroom coach,240 and played the character Gerald in the first episode of Written by a Kid.241242

Unrealized projects

Whedon had a number of planned projects that became stuck in development or terminally stalled. Among these, a Buffy animated series, a set of television movies for The WB based on Angel and Buffy characters, and Ripper, a proposed BBC pilot about Rupert Giles. Ripper was announced to be in development at the 2007 San Diego Comic-Con. The development process was set to begin in 2008, and Ripper to be aired that summer, yet the pilot did not materialize due to copyright issues.243 Early in his career, Whedon sold two spec scripts that weren't produced; Suspension and Afterlife. He sold Suspension for $750,000, with an additional $250,000 if production had commenced.244 It was described as "Die Hard on a bridge". A year later in 1994, he sold Afterlife for $1.5 million, with an additional $500,000 if production had commenced. In 2000, Andy Tennant was in talks to direct and rewrite.245 In Afterlife there were precursors to many of the themes Whedon would later explore in Dollhouse. The script was about Daniel Hoffstetter, a government scientist, who awakes after dying to discover his mind has been imprinted on a mind-wiped body.246

Goners was announced in 2005. According to Variety magazine, it was a fantasy thriller under development by Universal Studios, and was to be produced by Mary Parent and Scott Stuber.247 When asked about the film itself during an interview, Whedon said, "It is a fantasy thriller, it is pretty dark and it's all me. So people will pretty much know what that means if they look at my body of work. But it's a new universe set in the present day with a new concept for me and a new bunch of characters. It’s been a long time since I got to do that, so that’s really fun".248 From a 2006 interview with Fanboy Radio:

I've been seeing a lot of horror movies that are torture-porn, where kids we don't care about are mutilated for hours, and I just cannot abide them... it's an antidote to that very kind of film, the horror movie with the expendable human beings in it. Because I don't believe any human beings are.249

Whedon had been hired to write and direct a Warner Bros. adaptation of Wonder Woman. However, in February 2007, Whedon announced that he would no longer be involved with the project. "We just saw different movies, and at the price range this kind of movie hangs in, that's never gonna work. Non-sympatico. It happens all the time".250 In late 2009, Whedon made a bid of $10,000 for control of future Terminator material.251

Style, themes and influences

Whedon spoke about his approach to screenwriting.

Structure is the hardest part of storytelling. With The Avengers, the structure nearly killed me. It was very difficult to make it flow and cohere in terms of all the changing perspectives and characters, all these movie stars, all these beats to hit. It’s a ridiculously complex puzzle. But once you’ve got the puzzle, and you’re just filling in the voices and coming up with the moments, that’s what’s fun.252

He also spoke about his penchant to kill off characters.

The percentage of people who die... is a lot. I think it's pretty near everybody. The percentage of people that I kill - not so many. I think the reason that my rep is so nasty is that I tend to do it... unexpectedly, or to someone people are recently invested in, and that is a real mission statement for me, because; death doesn't leave a card. Death doesn't take Hitler. It doesn't work according to story plans. And when a death feels like a loss, gives you grief... then you have told a story that involves death.253

Whedon prefers to incorporate as many practical effects as possible when using computer-generated imagery.

I don't think it looks good if it doesn't look real. That veracity is the most important thing. You want to feel like this is definitely happening. I am very strict about letting people feel the space that something's happening in, and the environment has got to be a key part of it. Generally you just try to mix just as much practical with CGI as possible, so people really don't know where one begins and the other ends.254

Whedon has kept ambivalent on whether to shoot on film or digital video, saying that he has "no allegiance to film as film. If the story is in front of me, I’m fine".255

Many of Whedon's altered phrases, and heavily popularized words have entered a common usage called "Slayer Slang", which PBS included an entire section of in their article series Do You Speak American?.256 In an issue of Buffy Season Eight, where Buffy travels to the future, Whedon writes Buffy's reaction to the future dialect of Manhattan; this allows Whedon to comment on the series' distinctive style of dialogue. "Buffy blames herself for what's happened to the English language, and there's a lot of hubris in that joke. I like to think that adding Y's to words that don't usually have Y's is going to destroy the whole fabric of our society".257

In terms of characters, Whedon's works usually revolve around an ensemble of protagonists,258259 primarily focused on a loner hero who ends up working with others to accomplish a goal.260 He says of the recurring aspects of community, "Everything I write tends to turn into a superhero team, even if I didn't mean for it to. I always start off wanting to be solitary, because a) it's simpler, and b) that isolation is something that I relate to as a storyteller. And then no matter what, I always end up with a team".261 Examining a typical motif, he explained, "I tend to write about people who are helpless or out of control who then regain or retake control".262

Thematically, Whedon's films and TV series feature several allusions to components like contemporary philosophy; existentialism, anti-authoritarianism, power, powerlessness, betrayal, revenge, deception, sexuality, sacrifice, misogyny, and feminism.262263 Whedon gives his mother credit for inspiring the elements of feminism in his work. When asked how he could write so well for women, he answered "If you met my mom, you wouldn't ask".264 The character Kitty Pryde from the X-Men comics was an early model for Whedon's strong teenage girl characters, "If there's a bigger influence on Buffy than Kitty, I don't know what it was. She was an adolescent girl finding out she has great power and dealing with it".265 Kitty Pryde later played a central role in Whedon's run on Astonishing X-Men.266 In response to asking himself why he writes such strong women characters, he famously replied, "Because you're still asking me that question".267

Whedon has been described as "the gravitational center of the Whedonverse, a galaxy that spins recurring actors and themes through an orbital system of TV shows, films and comic books that all share similar traits: a unique brand of witty dialogue, relatable characters and fantasy/sci-fi mythology".268269

Whedon's influences include Ray Bradbury,270 James Cameron,271 Rod Serling,272 William Shakespeare,273 Stephen Sondheim274 and Steven Spielberg.275

Personal life

Whedon is married to Kai Cole, producer and co-founder of Bellwether Pictures.276 They have two children and live in Los Angeles.277 On the topic of marijuana, he has said, "I think weed’s a fine thing, for the enjoyment of and, occasionally, for thinking about movies. I don’t use it socially because it does not improve my socializing. [...] But every now and then it takes you to a different place".278 When asked about his five favorite films, Whedon listed The Matrix (1999), Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), Magnolia (1999) and The Court Jester (1956).279

Religious and philosophical views

Whedon has identified himself as an atheist, absurdist and humanist.280281282 When interviewed by The A.V. Club, Whedon answered the question "Is there a God?" with one word: "No". The interviewer followed up with: "That's it, end of story, no?" Whedon answered: "Absolutely not. That's a very important and necessary thing to learn".283284 Talking about the exploration of religion and morality through his own work, he stated:

The meaning of life and the meaning of what we do with our lives is something that's extremely important to me. [...] One of the few times that I really got to sort of say exactly what I think about the world was in the second season of Angel. [...] Angel said, you know, 'Well then, this is my statement. Nothing [we do] matters, so the only thing that matters is what we do'.281

In April 2009, the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard University presented Whedon with the 2009 Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism.285

Whedon has spoken about existentialism, explaining in detail how it, and more specifically Jean-Paul Sartre's Nausea, was used as a basis for the Firefly episode "Objects in Space".286 He called it "the most important book" he ever read,287 and said it was handed to him right after he saw Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind, whose impact, he recalls, had made him an existentialist.288

Political views

In July 2012, at the San Diego Comic-Con International, in response to one woman who noted the anti-corporate themes in many of his movies, and asked him to give his economic philosophy in 30 seconds or less, Whedon spoke out against both the socialism he was brought up listening to and capitalism as well, stating that "ultimately all these systems don't work". He went on to say that America is "turning into Tsarist Russia".289290

Endorsing Barack Obama in the 2012 United States presidential election,291 Whedon satirically equated Mitt Romney's future as president with a zombie apocalypse, "Romney is ready to make the deep rollbacks in health care, education, social services and reproductive rights that will guarantee poverty, unemployment, overpopulation, disease, rioting—all crucial elements in creating a nightmare zombie wasteland."292293294

Television credits

Series Episode number Title Credit Original air date
Buffy the Vampire Slayer 1.01 "Welcome to the Hellmouth" Writer March 10, 1997
1.02 "The Harvest" Writer March 10, 1997
1.10 "Nightmares" Story (teleplay by David Greenwalt) May 12, 1997
1.11 "Out of Mind, Out of Sight" Story (teleplay by Ashley Gable and Thomas A. Swyden) May 19, 1997
1.12 "Prophecy Girl" Writer/director June 2, 1997
2.01 "When She Was Bad" Writer/director September 15, 1997
2.03 "School Hard" Story (with David Greenwalt, teleplay by David Greenwalt) September 29, 1997
2.07 "Lie to Me" Writer/director November 3, 1997
2.11 "Ted" Co-writer (with David Greenwalt) December 8, 1997
2.14 "Innocence" Writer/director January 20, 1998
2.21 "Becoming (Part 1)" Writer/director May 12, 1998
2.22 "Becoming (Part 2)" Writer/director May 19, 1998
3.01 "Anne" Writer/director September 29, 1998
3.10 "Amends" Writer/director December 15, 1998
3.16 "Doppelgangland" Writer/director February 23, 1999
3.21 "Graduation Day (Part 1)" Writer/director May 18, 1999
3.22 "Graduation Day (Part 2)" Writer/director July 13, 1999
4.01 "The Freshman" Writer/director October 5, 1999
4.10 "Hush" Writer/director December 14, 1999
4.16 "Who Are You" Writer/director February 29, 2000
4.22 "Restless" Writer/director May 23, 2000
5.06 "Family" Writer/director November 7, 2000
5.16 "The Body" Writer/director February 27, 2001
5.22 "The Gift" Writer/director May 22, 2001
6.07 "Once More, with Feeling" Writer/director/composer/lyricist November 6, 2001
7.01 "Lessons" Writer September 24, 2002
7.07 "Conversations with Dead People" Co-writer, uncredited (with Jane Espenson and Drew Goddard; Marti Noxon, uncredited) November 12, 2002
7.22 "Chosen" Writer/director May 20, 2003
Angel 1.01 "City Of" Co-writer (with David Greenwalt)/director October 5, 1999
1.04 "I Fall to Pieces" Story (with David Greenwalt, teleplay by David Greenwalt) October 26, 1999
1.19 "Sanctuary" Co-writer (with Tim Minear) May 2, 2000
2.01 "Judgment" Story (with David Greenwalt, teleplay by David Greenwalt) September 26, 2000
2.04 "Untouched" Director October 17, 2000
2.13 "Happy Anniversary" Story (with David Greenwalt, teleplay by David Greenwalt) February 6, 2001
3.13 "Waiting in the Wings" Writer/director February 4, 2002
4.06 "Spin the Bottle" Writer/director November 10, 2002
5.01 "Conviction" Writer/director October 1, 2003
5.14 "Smile Time" Story (with Ben Edlund, teleplay by Ben Edlund) February 18, 2004
5.15 "A Hole in the World" Writer/director February 25, 2004
5.22 "Not Fade Away" Co-writer (with Jeffrey Bell) May 19, 2004
Firefly 1.01 "Serenity" Writer/director December 20, 2002
1.02 "The Train Job" Co-writer (with Tim Minear)/director September 20, 2002
1.06 "Our Mrs. Reynolds" Writer October 4, 2002
1.12 "The Message" Co-writer (with Tim Minear) July 15, 2003
1.14 "Objects in Space" Writer/director December 13, 2002
Dollhouse 1.00 "Echo" Writer/director N/A
1.01 "Ghost" Writer/director February 13, 2009
1.06 "Man on the Street" Writer March 20, 2009
1.13 "Epitaph One" Story (teleplay by Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen) N/A
2.01 "Vows" Writer/director September 25, 2009
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 1.01 "Pilot" Co-writer (with Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen)/director September 24, 2013

Frequent casting

Whedon often hires the same actors for his projects.268269

Actor Buffy the Vampire Slayer
(1997–2003)
Angel
(1999–2004)
Firefly
(2002)
Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog
(2008)
Dollhouse
(2009–2010)
The Avengers
(2012)
The Cabin in the Woods
(2012)
Much Ado About Nothing
(2012)
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
(2013-)
Amy Acker YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY
Felicia Day YesY YesY YesY
Alexis Denisof YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY
Nathan Fillion YesY YesY YesY YesY
Summer Glau YesY YesY YesY
Carlos Jacott YesY YesY YesY
Ashley Johnson YesY YesY YesY
Fran Kranz YesY YesY YesY
Tom Lenk YesY YesY YesY YesY
Damion Poitier YesY YesY YesY
Andy Umberger YesY YesY YesY
Jonathan M. Woodward YesY YesY YesY

Note: Due to the frequency Whedon casts the same actors in various projects, the above list only includes those that have played three or more different roles in a Whedon production (actors that have only played the same role in multiple Whedon productions are not included).

Filmography

Film
Year Title Credited as Notes
Writer Director Producer Executive producer
1992 Buffy the Vampire Slayer Yes        
1994 The Getaway       Co-writer (uncredited)
1994 Speed   Co-writer (uncredited)
1995 Waterworld   Co-writer (uncredited)
1995 Toy Story Yes   Co-writer
1997 Alien Resurrection Yes  
2000 Titan A.E. Yes   Co-writer
2000 X-Men   Treatment (uncredited)
2001 Atlantis: The Lost Empire Yes   Treatment
2005 Serenity Yes Yes  
2011 Thor   Directed the post-credits scene (uncredited)
2011 Captain America: The First Avenger   Co-writer (uncredited)
2012 The Cabin in the Woods Yes Yes   Co-writer
2012 The Avengers Yes Yes   Co-wrote the story with Zak Penn
2012 Much Ado About Nothing Yes Yes Yes   Composed the score, co-edited
2013 Thor: The Dark World   Co-writer (uncredited)
2014 In Your Eyes Yes   Yes
2014 Captain America: The Winter Soldier   Directed the post-credits scene (uncredited)
2015 Avengers: Age of Ultron Yes Yes     Filming
Television
Year Title Credited as Notes
Writer Director Producer Executive producer
1989–1990 Roseanne Yes     Writer, story editor
1990 Parenthood Yes Yes
1997–2003 Buffy the Vampire Slayer Yes Yes   Yes Creator
1999–2004 Angel Yes Yes   Yes Co-creator
2002 Firefly Yes Yes   Yes Creator
2004 Buffy the Animated Series Yes   Yes Co-creator (unaired)
2007 The Office Yes   Episodes directed:
"Business School"
"Branch Wars"
2009–2010 Dollhouse Yes Yes   Yes Creator
2010 Glee Yes   Episode directed: "Dream On"
2013–present Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Yes Yes   Yes Co-creator
Online media
Year Title Credited as Notes
Writer Director Producer Executive producer
2005 R. Tam sessions Yes Yes Yes   Cameo appearance
2008 Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog Yes Yes Yes Yes Co-creator, music, lyrics

Accolades

List of awards and nominations
Year Award Category Title of work Result
1995 Academy Awards Best Original Screenplay Toy Story Nominated
1996 Saturn Awards Best Writing Toy Story Nominated
2000 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode: "Hush" Nominated
2009 Daytime Emmy Awards Writing For A Special Class Special Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog Won
2013 Saturn Awards Best Writing The Cabin in the Woods (shared with Drew Goddard) Nominated
2013 Saturn Awards Best Director295 The Avengers Won
2013 Empire Awards Best Director296 The Avengers Nominated

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Further reading

  • The A.V. Club interview (First) (2001-09-05) (part 1, part 2)
  • The A.V. Club interview (Second) (2007-11-08) (parts 1–3)
  • Comeford, AmiJo and Burnett, Tamy (editors) (2010) The Literary Angel: Essays on influences and traditions reflected in the Joss Whedon series McFarland, Jefferson, North Carolina, ISBN 978-0-7864-4661-2
  • Davidson, Joy and Wilson, Leah (editors) (2007) The psychology of Joss Whedon : an unauthorized exploration of Buffy, Angel, and Firefly BenBella Books, Dallas, Texas, ISBN 1-933771-25-9
  • Espenson, Jane and Wilson, Leah (editors) (2010) Inside Joss' Dollhouse: completely unauthorized, from Alpha to Rossum Smart Pop, Dallas, Texas, ISBN
  • Havens, Candace (2003) Joss Whedon: The genius behind Buffy BenBella Books, Dallas, Texas, ISBN 1-932100-00-8
  • Koontz, K. Dale (2008) Faith and choice in the works of Joss Whedon McFarland, Jefferson, North Carolina, ISBN 978-0-7864-3476-3
  • Leonard, Kendra Preston (editor) (2010) Buffy, Ballads, and Bad Guys Who Sing: Music in the Worlds of Joss Whedon Scarecrow Press, Lanham, Maryland, ISBN 978-0-8108-6945-5
  • Waggoner, Erin B. (editor) (2010) Sexual Rhetoric in the Works of Joss Whedon: New essays McFarland, Jefferson, North Carolina, ISBN 978-0-7864-4750-3

External links

Preceded by
none
Astonishing X-Men writer
2004–
Succeeded by
Warren Ellis
Preceded by
None
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight writer
2007
Succeeded by
Brian K. Vaughan
Preceded by
Brian K. Vaughan
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight writer
2007–2008
Succeeded by
Drew Goddard
Preceded by
Jane Espenson
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight writer
2008–
Succeeded by
Brad Meltzer
Preceded by
Brian K. Vaughan
Runaways writer
2007–2008
Succeeded by
Terry Moore







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