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Joss Whedon: Interviews

22 January 2012 Leave a comment

Joss Whedon – INTERVIEWS

2012:

13 Jan: EW – Joss Whedon: The Avengers is seen through one superhero’s eyes 

Joss Whedon on Nerdist Making It Podcast

26 December 2011 Leave a comment

MAKING IT: JOSS WHEDON

Riki talks with writer/director/producer/composer/all-around creative force Joss Whedon (Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dr. Horrible, The Avengers) about how he got his start, his love of writing and the decisions that defined his career.

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Listen to the podcast at Nerdist

Joss Whedon Assembles The Avengers with Yahoo Movies

6 December 2011 Leave a comment

Interview: Joss Whedon Aseembles ‘The Avengers’

By Matt McDaniel | Movie Talk – Thu, Nov 17, 2011

As an unabashed fanboy of Joss Whedon’s creations on TV (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel”), film (“Serenity”) and the internet (“Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog”), I was thrilled to get to speak to him.  Considering the subject was “The Avengers,” it was truly a trip to nerd paradise.  In my full interview with Whedon, we talked about the challenges of working with an ensemble of A-list stars, how he developed the individual stories for Robert Downey Jr. and Samuel L. Jackson, and the week of filming he thought would prove he was bullet-proof (and the subsequent scenes that proved him wrong).

Matt McDaniel: You have done a lot of work with big ensembles before, but this is the first time coming into a group of pre-established characters and actors. How is that different than working with a group that you created from the ground-up?

Joss Whedon: Well, in some ways it’s the same, because if you are ever working with a group you have created from ground-up, they feel they have been created already and they exist and the actors have already researched the roles. So it has a great similarity to working on anything, like a show you run.

But the difference, obviously, is not just that they played the parts before, but they are all super famous. And so you have the question of whether or not you are going to earn their trust. Whether or not they are going to bother to give you that. But ultimately, once you establish that fairly early on, that you have a real collaboration going, it really isn’t that different.

MM: So what was that process like of earning the trust of these really well-established actors?

JW: Well, first of all, because they’ve played parts and because in some way we were creating a new vision of the part, I sat down with every one of them to talk about my ideas and their desires before I wrote the script, and that’s very useful too.

So they knew from the ground-up that they were collaborating on it. And the things that didn’t make sense to them or didn’t work to them, they were like, “Well, I don’t want to stress that part of my character. We have done that before.” All of that stuff I could honor.

And then it’s a question of making them heard, and then ultimately making them understand that there are things you are not going to budge on that are your vision. And once they know they are part of it, but you actually have a vision, and you are not just trying to tell them what they want to hear — that it’s all working towards one purpose, one story, one idea — then I feel, yeah, you are doing fine.

MM: I have heard from people who have worked with him before that Robert Downey Jr. likes to keep things sort of fresh and fast. How did your two methods of working fit into each others’?

JW: Well, we have very different methods. But working as a showrunner, working as a script doctor, working in sitcoms — a lot of my work has been coming up with stuff on the fly.  Like fixing as we go, improvising, being open to a new idea. So Robert and I would spend — we worked specifically towards both of our processes, so that we would beat out a scene so that he was very comfortable with where it was going or what was being said and very aware of where it would fit in the whole. And I would give him stuff to say, and by and large, he would say it.

But then there were always pockets where we had some wiggle room for him to play, or ask for options, and if he said, “Can we do something else here?” I could give him four or five options by the time he had his makeup on. Because that’s actually fun for me, that frantic scramble.

We would try different things. He is very collaborative. He loves notes. He loves to be guided and worked with. He is not trying to steamroller over me. He is really trying to create it side-by-side with me. So it ended up being a really healthy and delightful collaboration.

MM: Now, you said you talked to everybody sort of about their character, was there sort of an aspect or facet of Tony Stark that Robert brought up that you hadn’t considered before?

JW:I think the conversations were largely about “Where is Tony now?” Like, “Who is he now? Where is he [going] from ‘Iron Man 2‘ towards ‘Iron Man 3‘?” He is such a well-delineated character, so it was really a question of, “What do we want to stress and what do we want to say? We have said that, we have done that, so let’s not go there.”

He felt a sort of isolated man who is — even though there is an element of that, just because that’s sort of what any team movie is about. He didn’t want to be the sort of just, “I am totally wrapped up in one thing and I am not thinking about everybody else.” He didn’t want to be the tortured lonely man, which I totally get. And it was easy to make him as delightful and gregarious as he can be and still go, well, there is a piece missing and it’s the piece that makes him an Avenger.

MM:I was really impressed by Chris Evans in “Captain America” because his performance was so different than what you usually see from him. There was no snark, no sarcastic edge to him. How did you have to adapt your sort of writing style to fit that sort of straightforward character?

JW:I love a straightforward character. I am the guy who loves Cyclops on the ‘X-Men‘, because he is square. [Captain America] is a little square, and he is aware that he is a little square, and he is aware that the world is a beat ahead of him, or in his case, 70 beats. I think that’s very disarming and very charming. I relate to that guy. I also don’t know who the popular singers are right now, so he is actually really easy for me to write.

There were some lines where [Chris] would be like, “Okay, now I just sound like an idiot.” And in context, I was like, “Yeah, actually, now that it’s all laid out that is a bit much.” But he is very aware of his dignity, but at the same time understood why I wanted to find the humor in somebody who was so out of touch.

MM: You have Mark Ruffalo stepping in for the first time playing the character of Bruce Banner. So did you feel more freedom to kind of create your own take on the character?

JW: Yeah, he and I did the most character work of anyone, because we really were starting fresh, but we were starting with something that had been embodied several times.

And both of us agreed upfront that the template for who we wanted this guy to be in his life was Bill Bixby, the TV [show character] who was busy helping other people. That was more interesting to us than the Banner in the first two movies who was always fixated on curing himself. We spent a lot of time talking about what makes us Hulk out, the nature of anger, how it feels.

We even fought some. I mean literally we actually got some pads out and did some tussling. Just to talk about the physicality, and also the physicality of somebody who has to control this thing, and the way he moves in space and the way he relates to the people and the objects around him. It was extremely fun. What we found was that he could be very bumbling and kind of awkward, but at the same time very graceful and in this almost transcendent control of himself.

MM: Personally, I am excited for the movie just to see the character of Nick Fury come into his own, because we have just gotten these little glimpses of his function in this world. Did you want to keep that edge of mystery to him, or explore who he is underneath the patch?

JW: Well, he is not going to be talking about his childhood, and you do want to keep a certain mystery. Also — and this is something that I was very pleased that Marvel actually mandated — they were very interested in keeping him, not just in the sort of a mystery of how the organization operates, but a real moral gray area where you really have to decide, “Is Nick Fury the most manipulative guy in the world? Is he a good guy? Is he completely Machiavellian or is it a bit of both?” And that was really fun to tweak.

I felt that in the other movies, they had been cameos and he had been called upon to come in and be Sam Jackson and bluster a little bit. And I told Sam upfront that my big agenda was to see the weight on someone who is supposed to be in control of the most powerful beings on the planet. The weight on somebody who has to run the organization and the gravity of it. Not that we don’t have any fun with Nick, but he definitely — it’s, I feel like a much more textured performance and at times really moving.

MM: For you as the director, what was the more sort of intimidating tasks, these giant action scenes with 100 cars blowing up, or the sort of group scenes where you have eight major characters and they all need their own story to come through?

JW: I had one week where we shot basically the entire team arguing. I was like, “If I can get through this week, no bullet can harm me.” And that week actually was complex, but went off really, really well.

Then we got to the cars exploding, and I realized, “Well, this is actually much harder.” And what’s harder about it was that, trying to keep action from being generic — from being the same gag over and over and over — it’s extremely tough. Because we have a go-to, and it’s the cars flip over and blow up. And to take that and go, “Okay, well, how do I contextualize this? How do I make it matter, and how do I make it different, and how do I differentiate all their powers and their actions?”

I ended up spending as much time writing the stunts as I did writing the dialogue. Just trying to keep track of who everybody was, what they were capable of, and keeping it from being repetitive. So the thing that I feared was, it’s never the bullet that you see coming.

MM: I imagine the other hard part about that is balancing a god and who can create lightning, and a guy with a bow and arrow, and giving them both the action that brings out the best in them.

JW:Yeah. Well, I feel like we pulled that off. At the end of the day, the guy with the bow and arrow is a lot easier to write gags for than the god. But we created a situation where everybody can be useful, and everybody can be in jeopardy, and they really can act as a team, even though — as we have known from the first issue of ‘The Avengers’ comic — there’s no reason for these people to be on the same team.

MM: All this talk of superheroes is great, but I am also kind of curious about supervillains, specifically Dr. Horrible. Now that you are finishing “Avengers,” are we looking to get another installment of his story?

JW: We have been working on that for a while. It’s been hard, because we all have jobs, and some of them are extremely taxing. But we have had a vision of the thing for a while, we have been working on it, we have a bunch of songs and a few scenes. We need a little free time and right now that’s plenty hard to come by.

Watch the teaser trailer for “The Avengers“:

Interview with Joss Whedon from Rookie Mag

13 November 2011 Leave a comment

Yay, Geometry: An Interview With Joss Whedon

Our hero on Shakespeare, high school, and his new movie. No, his other new movie.

11/07/2011

For anyone who has the nerve to be enthusiastic about things, a species I believe is commonly called “nerd” or “geek,” Joss Whedon is like a living embodiment of that presidential slogan about hope. A person might be laughed at in high school for reciting self-motivational mantras with rocket-ship metaphors, but these are the people who have the will and creative juices to go on to make great things, great and thoughtful and awesome things like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Serenity, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, Dollhouse, the upcoming Avengers movie, and now, a semi-modernized version of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Here, Joss talks about that homemade project and things of feminist concern, helps me get over myself and my attitude problem about school, and displays the wonderful knowledge and interestingness you gain when you have the nerve to be enthusiastic about things. And so, vote for Obama in 2008! Or…what? I don’t know what I’m saying anymore. Read the interview. Bye.

TAVI: Hi.

JOSS: Hi. I’m so sorry that I’m super late.

Not a problem at all. I’ll just jump right in then.

All right, let’s do this.

So The Avengers was like this huge superhero production, and really exhausting, I would imagine. After making it you should’ve taken a vacation, but instead you made another movie. I wanna know why, and what’s wrong with you.

There is something horribly wrong with me. I admit that fully. I’m not exactly sure how it happened. I was in New York at the end of the shoot of The Avengers, in the beginning of September. It had been about seven months since I’d slept for a full night. I was so crazed, and Kai, my wife, and I were talking about the vacation we were gonna take for our 20th anniversary of bein’ sweeties. We had October free, so we were going to Venice. Then we started talking about Much Ado—neither of us can remember how it came up. And Kai was like, “You know what? Make the movie. Venice isn’t sinking that fast.” I said, “Honey, there’s no way I can adapt the script and put it together in a month.” She’s like, “Yes, you can.” So I started talking to people about it. Then I realized how much work it would be and I was like, I have gone insane. This is a terrible idea. But at that point I’d already started getting people to commit, so it was like, I gotta put my head down and do it. It’s one of the weirder decisions I’ve ever made and absolutely the best.

That’s good.

Yeah. What if it turned out the other way!

That would suck.

It was exhausting, but it was the kind of exhaustion that feeds you and makes you strong. I mean, I’m very excited about The Avengers, and I hope people will be like yay! for that film, but you know, you make a movie like that piecemeal, a tiny bit at a time, and then you assemble those pieces, and half of what’s going to be great about the movie is not even built yet, because it’s special effects. And then I get to do this other thing, where I’m shooting by necessity about eight to 10 pages a day of just…meat. All the interactions, all the dialogue, all the silly, all the fun, all the visuals—they’re all there. They’re accomplished by the end of the day. You don’t go, “Oh, excellent! We got him walking into the room. Tomorrow he’ll say a word.” It’s a completely different experience.

You’ve worked with a lot of the actors in Much Ado before, and you filmed it in…I believe I read 12 days? on a shoestring budget and in a single house. Does that kind of seat-of-your-pants spirit come through in the movie at all or will it be like The Avengers: Shakespeare Edition?

[Laughs] It definitely will come through—though hopefully not so much that people go, “Wow, this looks like they shot it fast!” But yeah, it is literally homemade. ’Cause it was my house we shot it in.

Oh, wow!

Yeah. My wife designed the house. She’s an architect. That was another reason we finally decided to make the movie. I was like, I have the space, the whole movie takes place in one location. And I happen to live in it, and it happens to be beautiful. I mean, I’m in love with that house. My only regret was that we didn’t have any kind of rigs or steady cams or anything like that, so I couldn’t move from space to space as much as I wanted to. Because part of what’s beautiful about that house—and what I like about a film—is the flow.

I heard that you used to throw these, like, Shakespeare parties at your house.

They were Shakespeare readings. Shakespeare parties sounds like we all get in the big collars and quilted hose and dance to a lute. It’s just people showing up and reading. We started it years ago with some of the Buffy and Angel people—actors and writers and friends—and it turned into a huge monster of fun. Everybody just enjoyed each other enormously, learned about the text, got to pretend, got to show off a little, and got to make fools of themselves. Then it kinda died down for a while, because we had kids, and everything dies down when you have kids. But during its most fertile period, we did Much Ado with Amy and Alexis, and it became clear to me that if I was ever going to shoot a version of that play, this is my Beatrice and Benedick. They had both done an enormous amount of Shakespeare onstage, and they were the kind of people that even when they had tiny little parts, they would just blow it up, and not in a show-offy way. When they read Beatrice and Benedick, they were just delightful.

That’s kinda perfect.

It all happened very organically.

Did filming Shakespeare feel different from your normal supernatural and superhero stuff, or did any of the super-blank tactics come in handy?

The most interesting thing to me was that it’s not that different. When you do Shakespeare, you have the burden of trying to make it all make sense. ’Cause some of it just doesn’t necessarily track. But there’s a way that it does, and you sort of have to find that. So I’m like, well, what’s up with Margaret? What’s up with Borachio? And why on earth would Don Pedro say this this late in the scene when it’s already been said? And one by one you figure out these problems, and you go, well, wait a minute, there’s a lot more here than I realized. And what I figured out was that my version of Much Ado is just exactly the way I make my shows and my [superhero] team movies. Everybody gets to step up and explain why they’re there. They get to have their moment, you know, that explains why in their world, they’re the center of this universe. Everybody gets to shine. They are all heroes. Especially Hero.

We have to read a bit of Shakespeare this year, and we did Romeo and Juliet last year, and I had a bit of trouble with it. It’s hard to read and appreciate something when it’s an assignment for school. Any ideas on making it easier? Did you like Shakespeare in high school?

Oh my god yes. Literally my favorite subject. I loved what he had to say, I loved all the darkness, I loved all the strangeness. Hamlet is my favorite—that would be no surprise to anybody who’s hung out with me. But I also found sometimes that I needed someone to interpret it for me. The best thing is to see it. Because there are certain things that don’t make sense until you really understand the context. I would always read a play before I saw a film of it, and I remember reading Henry V before I saw [Kenneth] Branagh’s version, and going, OK, this doesn’t make any sense to me at all. Then I saw the movie and saw, A, where it did make sense and I had missed it; and, B, where Branagh used the fact that it didn’t make sense to create his own emotional through line. Both of those things were life lessons for me. He’s great at making clear to an audience what he’s saying and what he’s feeling, and sort of going beyond the text and saying, here’s why they’re talking about this odd thing in the middle of this very emotional scene. And there’s a good deal of that in my Much Ado. A good deal of finding not just the point of the scene but the life beyond it.

I guess part of it is ’cause the plays are written to be performed. I think my favorite thing about what I have read of Shakespeare is how theatrical it is. Especially A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

He’s playing to an audience, he’s not playing to a reader.

Your Much Ado is a modernized version, right?

It’s modernized in the sense that it takes place today, or in a sort of nethertime. I mean, there are definitely iPhones about, everybody’s dressed rather elegantly, a lot of suits. This was a purely artistic consideration and had nothing to do with the fact that we had no budget and it was BYO costumes [laughs]. But we decided Leonato is clearly like a politician, and he lives the life of an extremely rich politician. One of the things we added is that he has what I refer to as a court photographer, who’s always just there, taking pictures, because everything in the play is a big event, and very important people are always having their pictures taken during big events. But also, the way she’s looking at everyone, and the way we’re looking at everyone—which is very often through glass or in a reflection or distorted—and the way they’re all looking at each other and not really seeing each other is very much kind of the point of the thing. Also, they’re all super drunk, not gonna lie. We sort of referred to it as the Kennedy compound. They’re very privileged, and they party very hard. They’re not responsible people. And everything they do in the play is evil, irresponsible, or just plain ridiculous. So it kind of makes sense that they’re all a little bit in their cups.

Is there anything in it that you think would appeal especially to A Teenage Girl?

It is the first romantic comedy, in the modern sense. Two people who can’t stand each other who are perfect for each other. All the greats—His Girl Friday, The Cutting Edge—all the great romantic comedies have built off of that premise to some extent. There’s a lot of humor. There’s a lot of romance.

I think Beatrice is one of the great female characters that Shakespeare ever wrote. She is extraordinarily witty. And generally speaking, Benedick—he may get the last word in the play, but not generally around her.

There is also an element where everybody behaves like a bunch of teenagers. Status is everything, and everyone’s always forming little cliques and either turning against or trying to help other people, and gossip nearly destroys Hero and tears everything apart. It is a very fraught little world that would be recognizable to anyone who’s ever been in a school.

What I’m saying is, the villain in Much Ado is gossip.

Can we talk about the feminist problem of this play—the fact that the plot revolves around whether Hero is a virgin and therefore worthy of the love of her father and her fiancé? Doesn’t her father say he wants to kill her when he thinks she’s had sex?

Yeah. But everything in the play is taken to a modern interpretation [in the movie] in the sense that, yes, they’re talking about whether or not she’s “a maid,” or a virgin. But what [her fiancé] Claudio’s dealing with is the idea that she’s into somebody else and that she’s made a fool of him. What [her father] Leonato’s dealing with is being publicly shamed. And that the closest person to him in his life, his daughter, has been lying to him. It was very much about playing the emotionality of two men who feel like they’ve been made fools of. It’s not about the hymen so much as it is about, uh…the human. The human, not the hymen! That’s my motto.

You know, you’re not gonna get around certain anachronistic and outdated concepts, but the emotionality about it isn’t outdated at all. Clark [Gregg, who plays Leonato] and I spent a lot of time talking about, well, how do you come back from telling your daughter she should die?

Does he tell her she should die in the movie?

It’s in the script: “Do not live, Hero, do not ope thine eyes.” But in that same scene, I have him embracing her fiercely, because he’s just so torn. He can’t figure out what to do. What he does is I think reprehensible, and so do we all, but we worked hard to understand that in his position what had just happened was socially completely devastating, and that’s what his whole life was based on. And that emotionally he felt completely betrayed. But by that same token, before that scene is done, he’s holding on to her, saying, if they’ve done something to her, I’ll kill them. We played it in such a way that he lost his temper completely, but then at the same time couldn’t not hold her.

Then there’s another problem, which is why would Hero take Claudio back after he’s been such a dick to her?

Getting her to forgive him was important, and part of that had to do with, when she finally says to him, “And surely as I live, I am a maid,” she doesn’t say it like, “It’s OK, I’m a virgin”; she says it like, “You were fucking wrong.” She’s fierce. A lot of lines that are often played laid-back and passive are her getting in his face. “Why would you think that about me? How could you do that?” She is a little tougher. And I also added a bit: in the funeral scene, where Claudio’s going down to the tomb to mourn for her and he’s all distraught, she’s actually watching. It’s a lovely image. And you can see her feel like, well, I’m still kinda pissed, but he clearly means it.

There’s been a teenage girl, or a little older, in almost everything you’ve done, and I wanna know what that fascination is about. Are you making up for the fact that you went to an all-boys school?

[Laughs] I think that obsession existed long before I went to an all-boys school. You don’t really grown obsessions late in life. I think they’re formed early.

I have never really known why I need to write about really strong adolescent girls. I do know that I have issues about helplessness, and that seeing [girls] portrayed as helpless, for all the years of my youth, got very old. I am much more interested in some of the older comedies, particularly the black-and-white comedies of the ’30s, when most of the movie stars were female and they actually had things to do and a lot to say before they were sort of sidelined in the mainstream, in movies. And I was raised by a super strong, very interesting woman. And I was also very tiny and helpless. Those are the things that I know about. But I still don’t know why my avatar’s a girl. But she always has been, and I’ve just given myself up to it.

What were you like as a teenager, other than helpless?

Um, I was annoying. But I was funny. As much as I annoyed almost everyone, I could make them laugh. I was a terrible procrastinator and, unless it was English class, kind of a terrible student, and I just…I hate that every day of my life. I regret that.

Really?

Yeah. Every day.

You should talk about that more, ’cause I’m in a really awful “I don’t care about school” phase and I need to get out of that.

I don’t think I ever had an “I don’t care” phase, because I went to schools—particularly Winchester—that were so good that you really got engaged in the process of learning. I just had a mental block against doing work, even if it was work that I loved, and that makes me sad. It plagues me. Like my girl avatar, it’s something I never really understood. Why would I sabotage myself? Because ultimately, I find, the class is gonna be as good as you decide it’s gonna be. You may have a terrible teacher. You may have a great teacher. But ultimately there is no such thing as a boring subject. It’s just a question of whether you’re going to decide to engage with it.

Math, I was good at, but I never really engaged. Literature was always the thing that had my heart. And I loved history, but I still could be lazy. I took a lot of languages—I can speak none of them now. I just really never got off my duff unless it was creating something. I always wanted to cut right to the part where you’re making something. I didn’t actually want to learn how. Which doesn’t work, by the way.

I didn’t really start writing till after college, didn’t realize I was a writer till after college. But once I started, I worked as hard as I could. All the time. I didn’t actually study writing, but I lived with a lot of it, and grew up with a lot of really good writers. Like with everything else, if I don’t lay the groundwork, if I don’t do the stuff that seems like it’s not that rewarding, I don’t get the reward later on. I feel that all the time. Not to sound like the biggest old fogey in the world, but it’s true.

So why do you think school doesn’t matter?

Like I know why it matters and everything. The thing is, I feel like you have this point of view when you’re a teenager that’s unique, the same way that I’ll never see things the same way I did when I was little again, where everything is all new. And I’m always itching to take advantage of that in ways I don’t think the schooling system encourages you to do. So I’m always writing or drawing or something…I don’t know. I think it’s also because I’ve always been a perfectionist and now I’m burned out from that as far as schoolwork goes. I think I was kept under the illusion that grades in middle school were really important, which they’re not, and now I’m all worn out.

You used up all your best, and now high school is gonna be a disaster. I do sometimes feel that school is a little counter-intuitively designed. I don’t think it necessarily takes the adolescent mindset or heartset into account enough. There is a need for exploration and change, and there are so many questions and there are so many priorities shifting and there’s so much shit going down, and our design for schools is pretty much “sit them down and give them facts.” I do think there are better ways to engage people in not just the accumulation of knowledge, but, you know, the desire, the habit of pursuing knowledge.

You said that you didn’t really realize that you were a writer after college. What happened for you to realize that?

A desperate need for funds. I was planning to go to northern California and make movies and I didn’t have any money at all, and I knew you could make money by writing a TV script—that’s how my father had made his living for many years, and I thought, well, TV is a lesser art form, but I’ll just try my hand at a script and maybe I can make enough money to get started. And the moment I started writing my first spec script, a script just to show people I could write or find out if I can, I fell madly in love with writing. And later on I fell madly in love with TV and realized, oh, most of the best writing isn’t in movies. It’s in this other place.

Were there any shows that made that clear to you?

Hill Street Blues was enormously influential for me. I’d never seen anybody quite do that.

Can you explain what that is a bit?

Hill Street Blues was a cop drama from the early ’80s, and its tonal shifts were startling and deliberate and unlike anything I’d seen on TV. Every week, every scene, the ground would just shift under your feet. You really didn’t know what kind of show you were gonna see. It was gonna be dramatic and people would cry and blah blah blah, but you also never knew when they were gonna suddenly drop something very funny or very tough or very unexpected. And that’s the only kind of TV I like to make. You go in not knowing, and most TV is about knowing. Mostly people [watching TV] are like, “Can I order potatoes again? Thank you for the potatoes. See you next week.” A lot of my favorite shows are potato shows. With Roseanne, for instance, you know what you’re in for. And Columbo. But I just like to change it up.

I feel like I skipped over the high school stuff out of cowardice but it’s weird to talk about because I’m, like, in a rut.

I’ve been in a rut. I was in a rut for several years. Ruts are easy to come by when you’re a teenager. The ground is pitted with them. I also know that even though I couldn’t articulate it, I was pretty much in control of my world in a sense that…you know, early on, I don’t know, maybe 14, I realized that every year I go to school and in September I’d be like “Yeah! Let’s do this! I’m very excited!” and by mid-October I’d be behind in everything. And I kind of trained myself—I gave myself this little mantra: I was like, you know, “I’m gonna be fierce this year.” I can’t remember the whole mantra, but it had to do with me being a rocket ship. And it worked. I was like, no, I’m fierce homework guy, engaged guy, doing my work, I’m a rocket ship, I’m not gonna let up. And I was working great, and then I told somebody about my rocket ship mantra, and they laughed at it. And I just stopped.

Did you ever fall into a Lindsay Weir thing where you’re less into the idea of being a rocket ship and more into the idea of being a lazy person or somebody who doesn’t care?

[Laughs] That’s a good metaphor for me, a lazy person…

No! I was talking about, OK, about myself, because suddenly the idea of being someone who is not engaged becomes appealing somehow. Even though I know that I actually do like math and that I am a huge nerd, that idea at some point this month became appealing to me.

You know, there’s two versions of that. One’s “I don’t want to do anything that I don’t want to do.” Then there’s also “I wish to be this person. This person who is not engaged.” Which I think are two different things.

For me it was never me-against-the-school kind of stuff, because I was raised by teachers and my mom taught at my school that I went to for 10 years, so I always sort of had their perspective in mind, and had respect for what they were trying to do, and I had some of the best teachers you could have. So it wasn’t that, but there was desire to be disengaged, or at least to appear disengaged, a desire to be…dare I say bold? Which I really never even got close to. Super did not accomplish bold. It’s not like I was gonna go hang out in the alley and smoke cigarettes with the “bad” kids. It’s just that thing where you want things to feel easy, like they seem easy to you, like you’re just sort of coasting.

Sometimes you need to get away from ordinary expectations, but at the same time it’s very easy to be a lazy person and go, “I’m getting away from ordinary expectations by not doing my homework.” And with the way some classes are run, all of a sudden you find that, yes, you’ve just become a lazy person. You actually haven’t done anything awesome or disengaged or cool, you’ve just forgotten to do your homework. Again.

Well. I’m going to take that and do something inspiring with it. Can we know anything about what Wonder Woman was like in the script you wrote?

She was a little bit like Angelina Jolie [laughs]. She sort of traveled the world. She was very powerful and very naïve about people, and the fact that she was a goddess was how I eventually found my in to her humanity and vulnerability, because she would look at us and the way we kill each other and the way we let people starve and the way the world is run and she’d just be like, None of this makes sense to me. I can’t cope with it, I can’t understand, people are insane. And ultimately her romance with Steve was about him getting her to see what it’s like not to be a goddess, what it’s like when you are weak, when you do have all these forces controlling you and there’s nothing you can do about it. That was the sort of central concept of the thing. Him teaching her humanity and her saying, OK, great, but we can still do better.

Why do you think the “humanity and the world being awful” theme is something that you visit a lot? Like in Dr. Horrible

Well, I think the world is largely awful, and getting worse, and eventually the human race will die out. And it’ll be our own fault.

That’s gonna be my rocket-ship mantra.

[Laughs] “It’s all futile and soon the human race will die out. And now, geometry! This isosceles triangle will save us all!” No, I can be very pessimistic on a broad scale. On a smaller scale, I love people and I’m interested in them. There are certain human truths, like death, that nobody gets to escape, and pain, which everybody not only feels but needs. You have to go through it. So for everybody, at some point—very often for teenagers—the world is a terrible place. The world is a giant, awful black hole of evil conspiracy. Sometimes that’s because you have perspective on what the world’s really like, and sometimes it’s because you’ve completely lost perspective and you’re having a terrible day. But no matter what, everybody shares that feeling, and life is kind of about your ways around that, your ways around certain truths. Some people combat it with faith, some people combat it with work. For me, if I’m not writing or creating something, I get very antsy. That’s my little defense against darkness. Also, my kids.

If being creative is part of your work and not doing that work makes you antsy, but it can also be so exhausting, how do you make all of that work?

Well, you do have to shut down every now and then. That was hard for me for a long time. My wife kind of helped me by demanding that I do so. That worked out. And then I had kids, and everything changed. I learned to be present. I learned to stop and just do what I’m doing for a little while. And then I’m recharged and it all helps. I started doing yoga, too. There, I said it. Yes, I live in L.A. Clearly I live in L.A. Now excuse me while I have my protein shake and my chardonnay. Mixed together. No, that was a horrible idea.

It sounds awful. Even though I’ve never had chardonnay.

No, no, no. Stay in school, kids! Geometry!

Have you ever been disappointed by anything you’ve made?

I’ve been disappointed by things other people have made of mine—the Buffy movie, Alien: Resurrection, stuff like that. I’ve been disappointed when I didn’t feel like I brought everything to the table that I could. Either because of exhaustion, or I just missed something. There’s at least one phrase I wrote that I’m like, “That is not what I’m trying to say!” and I never fixed it. It was between Willow and Tara, and it still bugs me.

Really?

Yeah. At the end of the [Buffy] episode “Family,” Tara says, basically, you always see the good in me, and when I feel bad, you make me feel better—how do you do that? And that’s not what I was trying to say. I was trying to say that you take the worst thing about me, and you make it seem like the best thing. That’s something that I got from my wife, because she does that for me all the time. She’ll take something that I’ve always sort of felt awkward about and be like, no, that makes you awesome, doofus. Ohh. How’d you do that? How’d you turn that around? I failed there. I failed. I failed America. And its territories.

You subscribed to Sassy, right?

I did, I had a subscription.

And it was for girls but you really liked it.

Yeah, I did. I liked the way they talked to girls. They talked about things like feminism, body issues, community, and diversity, but in context with teenage girls’ actual life and language—not with an agenda of either dictating their politics or getting them to buy more makeup. Other people weren’t doing that. I liked what they had to say, and I liked the bands. Definitely some people say, “It is odd that you should have had a subscription to Sassy.” But I don’t think it needs to be explained. I get complaints about Buffy that, you know, “There’s no strong men! Male character!” I’ll be interested to hear what people say about Much Ado on those terms, because men are very often supremely doltish in this movie, but even Beatrice herself is made a bit of a fool. I’ll be interested to hear some people say, “Oh my god this text is so misogynist,” and some people will say “No, it’s a great feminist text,” and some people will say, “No, it’s just a funny play!”

Is it any of those things to you? Just a funny play, or misogynist, or feminist…

I think it’s often chauvinist, often feminist, often funny. It’s human; it’s Shakespeare, you know? He has a very keen eye for who we are and he’s a little bit merciless with it. That’s where he gets his humor as well as his darkness. I think that’s kind of what makes it art—you can’t just be a political statement one way or the other. It’s gotta breathe beyond those boundaries.

OK, I think we’re about done. Is there anything you’d like to say to the TEENAGE GIRLS OF THE INTERNET?

Um, go geometry. Yay geometry. I feel like I gave it a bad rap earlier. Um…if there’s something I have to say, it’ll show up in something I create. I talk better through other people.

Well then I guess we’ll have to keep an eye out for what you say through Much Ado About Nothing, in theaters blah blah blah!*

[Laughs] Wow! That was segue-tastic. You just wrapped that whole thing up.

Thank you. And thank you very much.

Thank you! Nice to talk to you.

Nice to talk to you too.

* Much Ado About Nothing is, even as you read this, being edited, and will be finished sometime in the spring.

Original Interviw at Rookie Mag

 

In Your Eyes – The Next Joss Whedon Movie

12 November 2011 Leave a comment

Joss Whedon’s new production company Bellwether Pictures have announced their second feature film, In Your Eyes. Joss Whedon has written the script for he “supernatural romance”. In a statement Joss said:

“When I wrote In Your Eyes, I didn’t have the wherewithal (or the moxie) to make it without an established production house,” Whedon wrote in a statement. “I believe, as I did then, that it’s a pretty timeless romance, and now, with the creation of Bellwether Pictures (and Brin Hill’s elegant, passionate take on the piece), I have the opportunity to prove it. (I also have a 37% increase in moxie.) I love this team and I can’t wait to see them bring In Your Eyes to life.”

In your eyes is a “metaphysical love story about two seemingly polar opposites who are deeply connected in ways neither could have imagined”.

Source: Deadline

Joss Whedon Talks Much Ado About Nothing with EW

31 October 2011 Leave a comment

Joss Whedon on his secret film of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’: ‘This is the best vacation I’ve ever taken — EXCLUSIVE

by Adam B. Vary

After wrapping production on Marvel Studios’ gargantuan summer tent-pole The Avengers, writer-director Joss Whedon was supposed to go on a monthlong vacation with his wife, Kai Cole. Instead, Whedon tells EW exclusively that his wife suggested he finally make the feature film version of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing he’d been ruminating over for years.

And so he did — adapting the script, casting the film with Whedonverse alums like Nathan Fillion, Amy Acker (Angel), Alexis Denisof (BuffyAngel), and Sean Maher (Firefly), and shooting the self-funded, black-and-white indie in secret over 12 days at his Santa Monica, Calif., home. (Production wrapped on Sunday, and Whedon says it will be ready for spring 2012 film festivals.) How did Whedon pull all this off? What was it about this particular Shakespeare comedy that drew him in? And what did stars Sean Maher — who plays the fiendish villain Don John — and Amy Acker — who co-stars with Denisof as the sarcastic, talky couple at the center of the play — make of all of this ado about Much Ado? Check out EW’s exclusive Q&As with Whedon, Maher, and Acker below, as well as exclusive shots of Maher, Denisof and Acker from the film:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This announcement took people by surprise to say the least. How did this all come together?
JOSS WHEDON: Well, it’s not a bit secret that I’ve done these [Shakespeare] readings before, and I always had a vague notion of shooting Much Ado. But I didn’t really have a take on it. And then, for some reason, I kinda sorta did. As we were finishing The Avengers in New York, my wife and I were planning our vacation for our 20th anniversary. And she said, “Let’s not take the vacation. Make a movie instead.” I was like, “I’m not even sure if I can adapt the script, cast the movie, and prep it in a month.” And she was like, “Well, that’s your vacation time, so you do it.” And so I did.

So how did you get the ability to bend time and space to your will to be able to pull this off? It’s not like you don’t have a bunch of other things going on.
[Chuckles] You know, I am busy. But you know, if you want something done, ask the busy man; nobody else has time. There is an element of “I have a serious problem” — that’s one thing. And then there’s an element of this is the best vacation I’ve ever taken. I mean, yes, it was super hard, it was a ton of work, and there were moments where I went, “What’s wrong with me? What am I thinking about? I need to rest!” But I’ve never been so well rested and so well fed as I have on this movie. You know, you make the time, because no one’s going to make it for you. There’s never going to be a good time to do it. You make the time and you make it work if you really, really want it. And I really did.

You shot this at your home, I understand?
Yes. One of the advantages of Much Ado is it all takes place on Leonato’s estate. It’s all one location. I don’t have an estate. I have a nice house.

Like Dr. Horrible, did you bankroll this yourself?
I did. My wife and I started a micro studio, Bellwether Pictures, in order to do things like this, creator-controlled small fare.

What is it about Shakespeare that you love so much, especially this play? My understanding is one of the strange things about Much Ado is it’s one of his few plays that’s predominantly in prose, and not poetry.
I didn’t even notice that until Alexis pointed it out. But that actually proved useful for is. It wasn’t why I chose it, but I do think it’s one of the reasons why I love it. It’s very modern. The language, the jokes, and the attitudes translate really, really easily. [The actors] do say the words as they’re written [in the play], but they connect to a modern audience in a way that portions of the other comedies don’t necessarily.

Was this one of the plays you’d done readings of at your home?
Yeah, we’d done a reading of it starring Amy and Alexis years ago, and that’s when I knew that if I could ever do it, I would do it with them.

You said earlier that you hadn’t had a take on it until you were in the middle of shooting Avengers. What is your take on this? What did you end up wanting to do with this film?
I had trouble at first, because it had the words “About Nothing” in the title. So I was like, “I don’t have anything to say about nothing.” But really when I started pouring over it, I got a very strong sense of how a little bit dark and twisted it is. The movie’s in black-and-white partially because it’s kind of a noir comedy. I realized that everybody in it behaves like such a dolt — an articulate dolt, but a dolt. I fixated on this notion that our ideas of romantic love are created for us by the society around us, and then escape from that is grown-up love, is marriage, is mature love, to escape the ideals of love that we’re supposed to follow. So that clicked for me when I realized, oh, I get why it matters everybody goes through the weird machinations we go through.

Have there been any nibbles of interest in distribution today?
I haven’t heard anything yet. I’ve just been enjoying the Internet response. We’re feeling our way on this one, just like Dr. Horrible. I do mean it to be in theaters. But we haven’t gotten any real plan except [going to] film festivals because it sounded like it would be festive.

Finally, how did you keep this a secret? A lot of your cast are Twitter addicts, especially Nathan, and you’re not Mr. Low Profile right now.
Well, I asked the cast specifically and everybody involved not to say anything until we wrapped. And, you know, it all happened very, very fast. That’s how you know. When it’s something that fast, you actually have a shot. When something’s rolling around for three years, it’s harder. This film was a month from inception to production, and then 12 days to shoot. Even Nathan did not tweet for that long.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How’d you guys keep this film a secret?
SEAN MAHER: I think everyone was on board, just waiting for him to give us the go, so we could talk about it. After your article came out [about me coming out of the closet], I was doing tons of press, so I had asked him specifically if I could talk about the movie, and he said, Not yet. I would never in a million years betray his trust like that, and I think that everybody felt the same. It was such a magical experience because everybody that was there just wanted to be there, you know, with every part of their soul and heart. It was really a wonderful experience, and I don’t think anybody would have leaked it anywhere.

It’s totally fun that you guys keep this stuff secret.
Nathan and I hadn’t seen each other in forever, so we’re taking pictures left and right on our phones. And Tom Lenk and I haven’t worked together in awhile either. Last time I was at Joss’ house, [Buffy scribe] Jane Espenson had taken a Golden Girls episode and made it The Golden Boys. Tom did that, and I came and did that for Jane. That was the last time I was at Joss’ house, so Tom and I and Nathan and I are all taking our pictures on our phones. Joss was like, “Don’t you dare tweet that! Not yet!”

Tell me, how did this come together? How did Joss pitch this to you? How did he convince you to do it?
I was in Chicago at the time. It was like 2 or 2:30 in the morning, and I was arriving back to my hotel from work. I had an email from Joss, telling me that he was putting together a cast for Much Ado About Nothing, and he wanted me to come play Don John. He said, “I need a sexy villain, what sayeth you?” I initially was terrified because I’ve never done Shakespeare, and Shakespeare with Joss — I always want to do right by him because I love him so much. So I told him, I’m absolutely on board, let me just make sure I can clear the dates. I spoke to my manager, he called Playboy Club. Ironically, we got some time off from Playboy Club, and the day I started rehearsal on Much Ado About Nothing, the show got canceled. It was a little bittersweet, but look, anything that Joss would ask me to come do, I’m pretty confident I would do. It was a no-brainer on my part. It still was scary for me. It was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done, but yet, it didn’t feel like work.

What about it was so challenging?
That it was Shakespeare! Shakespeare, to do it right, is not easy at all. I think in this instance, because we were shooting it in such a short period of time, we all had to come to work completely prepared, know all of our words, know the ins and outs of the play. There wasn’t a lot of time for multiple takes. There wasn’t a lot of time for many set-ups, in terms of camera angles. He was sort of getting in there and filming a live performance, which was exhilarating and scary at the same time. I mean, it was incredibly challenging, yet it didn’t feel like work, as well.

Well, and you were with the Whedon alums — what a great group to work with, right?
Some of them I hadn’t met at all. And obviously, others I was overjoyed to be able to spend some time with again, like Amy Acker and Nathan — our lives get so busy that we hardly get to see each other. It’s just such a gift to get to come together and work on something we love for him. Then, of course, there’s the handful of actors I knew had worked with Joss, but I had never worked with before.

Is playing a villain a new thing for you?
Completely new. And I said that to Joss! Last night, we were wrapping up my last scene. I was just having so much fun playing this role. He’s just deliciously mean, trying to thwart his brother’s happiness and foil the wedding in the play. We had finished a take, and I walked off and I was sort of sitting there smirking with Joss, and he’s like, “You’re such a dick.” It’s so much fun to be a dick because I’ve never been a dick! He’s like, “Are you kidding me? You do dick well.” I was like, “No, it’s the first time.” He’s smart, he’s not just mean. He’s setting up all of these misunderstandings and planting all of these seeds of deception, and he’s just so mischievous, but in such a calculated, intelligent way. That was really, really fun to play.

How is this updated? What’s the vibe like of the movie?
It does feel contemporary. The direction we were getting from Joss was to make it was real, especially with the language, not to be big and Shakespearian, but to bring it in and be intimate and bring it as close to a realistic way of speaking as we could. And Joss’ house is just magnificent. Not ostentatious by any means, but just a maze of halls and so many different bedrooms and this pool that overlooks the Santa Monica mountains. It’s gorgeous, just the most perfect setting. Everybody who was there, so desperately wanted to be there and you felt that. It really felt like we were doing something great. So I’m excited.

Interview by Tanner Stransky

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Joss told me he had done a reading of the play with you and Alexis. Do you remember when that was?
AMY ACKER: I feel like it was maybe three years ago? Somewhere around that time.

And he’s been doing these for a while?
Yeah, since even before I met him. When I came on to Angel, which was a long time ago, he had already been doing them for awhile. For several years we would do, like, them every month, and then we’ll go three years and not do one. Then he would bring everybody back and kind of get on a roll with it again. There’s usually a group of people whose always there, and then he picks up new people each time.

When did you get the call that he’d be doing Much Ado About Nothing as a film?
I think it was about three weeks before we started. Maybe two-and-a-half. I know when Clark Gregg decided that he was going to do it, there had been some other people who were maybe going to play that part, and then they had conflicts that came up, so he kind of came in and saved the day at the end. He was like, “Well I only had four days to learn all of the lines,” and I was like, “Yeah, we all found out last week, so don’t feel too bad.” [Laughs]

Do you know who was going to be playing Leonato before Clark?
Anthony Head.

What went through your head when you got the call. That was the end of September?
Yeah, right towards the end of September. I mean, first of all I was like, “Sure, that sounds awesome!” Alexis and I met with Joss maybe one or two times right after we decided that we were doing it, and then we rehearsed kind of the week before. But when we showed up the first day, I was like, “Oh, this is a real movie!” We didn’t quite know what it was going to be, and seeing all of the trucks and the lights and everything, everyone was kind of like, “Oh, we really are doing a movie!”

How did Joss explain keeping this a secret?
Well, he basically just said, “We’re not going to tell anyone until we finish.” Luckily since everyone was scrambling to learn their lines and figure out what the heck they were doing, no one really had time. I think it was mostly making sure Nathan didn’t tweet about it. That’s how all news in the world seems to spread. [Laughs]

What were those 12 days like? Anything really stick out?
Oh geez, the whole thing was really awesome. I mean, it was all my favorite people, so we were all just hanging out in their amazing house, and we just kind of had to keep reminding ourselves that, “Oh wait, we’re actually working!” It just kind of felt like a big 12-day party.

What was the look of the film? How did it all look?
The costume designer went shopping in all of our closets, and she just sort of chose. We are all wearing our own clothes, and then she kind of added little pieces here and there.

Did you conclude filming yesterday? The website is already up…
Yeah. I think they had [the site] ready on Saturday, when we were shooting. From what it looks like, I wasn’t actually filming at the end of the day yesterday, so I wasn’t there, but it seems like they must have posted it the second they wrapped the film.

Why do you think Joss did this film, and did it so quickly?
I thought it was just because he was super cool. I think his wife and him were going to Italy for a vacation, and then she was kind of like, “Why don’t you just shoot that movie you’ve been wanting to do instead?” So, that’s sort of why it happened now. She’s kind of just really amazing. She built the house that it shot in. You know, she just kind of makes stuff happen. If Kai says something, then she like, actually does it every time.

Wait, Kai designed the house?
Yeah, she’s an architect. She built it and designed it and decorated it and everything. Pretty much you could just film the house without all of us talking in it, and it would be a really great movie.

What kind of style?
I’m not sure if it’s from France or Italy, but everything is old and warm and it’s just the most welcoming place ever.

(Shaunna Murphy contributed to this report)

Follow Adam on Twitter @adambvary

Original Interview at Entertainment Weekly

Joss Whedon Plots His Return to the Web with EW

28 October 2011 Leave a comment

Joss Whedon Plots is Return to the Web

The “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Dr. Horrible’s Sing A-Long Blog” creator develops an end-of-the-world project.

By | Sep 23, 2011
First came Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, Joss Whedon‘s musical miniseries that added a dose of rocket fuel to the already soaring world of online filmmaking. Now the Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator is planning to hit the Web again — just as soon as he’s finished his writing and directing duties on The Avengers. ”I really want to make something tiny. You know, get back on the Internet,” Whedon says. ”Just something really home-baked.” He’s been developing an end-of-the-world project called Wastelanders with novelist and comics scribe Warren Ellis, which was postponed by The Avengers. When he does return to it, Whedon promises Wastelanders will be far different from the comedic tragedy of Dr. Horrible. ”I’ll say this about it…there ain’t no singing,” he says, laughing. ”It’s a dark piece, and I’m just like, ‘Gosh, well, if I’m going to finance this and put it together, it’s kind of dangerous.’ It’s not going to have a soundtrack album, it’s not going to have all these revenue streams. It’s going to be something that I put out there because I feel like I have to, and I don’t have to rely on anybody else to let me.” But as a TV creator and tentpole director, why bother with Internet shorts? ”Right now, it’s the punk rock of filmmaking,” Whedon says. ”And I want to be a part of that.”
Original Interview at Entertainment Weekly
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