Watch the interview and number the topics below in the order they are mentioned. The activity is suitable for Advanced students.
Admiration for a writer
Funny location to shoot a film
The love of culture for superheroes
Joss Whedon is a writer, director, musician, producer and figure of almost cult-like admiration. He’s probably best known for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Avengers movie, and he’s got a new project which is a natural outgrowth of those, Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing. Mr Whedon is here with us today, welcome!
Thanks for having me.
You’re known actually as a writer. Why take on Shakespeare where you don’t actually have the control of the material?
Well, I don’t know many writers who don’t revere his works. I grew up listening to them, reading them, seeing them and you…, you know, it’s been a passion of mine for a long time. My friends go over at the house to read the plays, and, you know, it’s exciting to be able to have my time, my turn at interpreting his work.
As I recall, you shot this in your own home like only contractually on the break you were contractually obliged to have after shooting the event.
Actually, I’ve shot it in my own home on the break that I fought to the nail to get from the Avengers, which was officially one week. All I needed to do was get back to the roots of creativity and reconnect with the central passion of what’s first attracted us to this business.
You’re kind of known for you strong female characters, but there’s news of creating tension there because often the females in your creations, they meet a really ugly end. Is there a disconnect there?
When you’re known for creating strong female characters, people like to put that in a box and say, what’s what you’re gonna do. What I like to do is create human characters. I’ve killed off characters male and female , will-nilly I have a good reputation for it, one that I’m kind of quite tired of to be truthful. But the fact of the matter is that if you’re not putting people through the paces, if I’m not giving them real pain and real loss and real hardship and sometimes real tragedy, then I’m not a story teller.
You are the son of a TV writer and, I think, the grandson of a TV writer. So were family get-togethers, were they like, okay I’m not sure you quite found the comic sweet spot yet for that, Joe. I mean, was there a lot of this discussion of the latter?
No, you know, it really wasn’t. What it really was, was my dad and his comedy writer friends all milling about to all hours, just being incredibly funny, and me just hanging out with them waiting for the day that, you know, I would make them laugh. And, you know, every time you did, you scored a little hit, you just, Yeah! That’s right! I’m in the drive.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer was kind of seminal in that it was kind of big before vampires were big, and it was kind of big before we had such strong female action heroes. Do you think it fell into that or were you sensing it in the side cast.
I had a need to see a girl fight monsters and not die. I had a need to see somebody’s high school journey written large. Vampires are a wonderful metaphor because the other, you know, the sort of monstrous isolated creature but that we all can relate to especially when we’re in high school, but they happen to be the most beautiful, sexy, perfect, usually sort of vaguely wealthy and well-dressed virgin. It’s not, you were not up there with the hunchbacks ringing the bells, you know, we’re not in…
Exactly, Phantom of the Opera. It’s like, no, vampires are, you know, a Frank Langella.
That’s who does it for you, Frank Langella.
I’m sorry, honestly. Frank Langella’s Dracula is still the hottest vampire on record.
Why has the culture, do you think, become interested in superheroes for so long? It seems like it hasn’t gone away even though it used to be considered kind of a small boy thing.
Well, those small boys grew up and, you know, and they had other small boys that they showed their comics to and all of them buy things or are running studios or are filmmakers. You know, for a long time, people sort of poked at the edges of comic books but they either didn’t have the money, they didn’t have the technology or they didn’t have the understanding of what it was they were trying to adapt. I think that really changed with Sam Raimi’s Spiderman, which was the first movie that absolutely got the essence of the book and turned it into a film.
Will it like other things reach its end? Are we close to that?
It felt to me when I saw the Dark Knight that, you know, it was like sort of we got past it, you know, it’s sort of like, okay, we understand the superhero movies, now I’m going to make Godfather with superheroes and, and sort of the post-superhero era and I was like, whoa, wait a minute, I still wanna see the hero part, you know, I feel like the great superhero movies are yet to be made and so it’s not deconstructing completely just yet.
When I asked our readers to, you know, what they would ask, one of the interesting things that kept coming up is your atheism and I wonder if the fact that you do not believe in the supernatural makes you more able to imagine these universes because you’re working with a blank canvass.
Since I don’t have a fantastical belief in my life, it is nice to create a world where there could be one. So I think it helps fuel my level of science fiction fantasy, but I wouldn’t say that it makes me particularly qualified to do it.
I have questions from readers. Wilson Vega asks, in retrospect is Fox cancelling Firefly the best thing that ever happened to your career?
No. It’s a terrible thing. It hurts like a wound every single day.
But it did free you up to do other things?
No, no, no. Boo.
Boo. Okay. So you’ve done Shakespeare, you’ve done horror, you’ve done superheroes, is there a genre that you, are you dying to do a rom-com and I know some of the work crosses over but…
Yeah, I mean, you know, I just did a rom-com and I did in fact the rom-com but…
Do you consider the rom-com more than the Taming of the Shrew?
I do. I think that it’s much more, I think Much Ado is really the, you know, the granddaddy of all modern romantic comedy. You know, I would love to do a straight up period drama, you know, some empire dresses and, you know, some swords and manners and stuff like that.
Probably British. Probably mainly British.
On that note, Mr Whedon, thanks very much.
A failure - 8
Admiration for a writer - 1
Atheism - 7
Funny location to shoot a film - 2
Ground-breaking work - 5
My characters - 3
My family - 4
Romantic comedies - 9
The love of culture for superheroes - 6