Fans of Joss Whedon knew his skill and talent long before The Avengers made the larger mainstream audience aware of it. Now Marvel has not only signed him on to write and direct The Avengers 2 – they appointed him to act as creator/executive producer of a new S.H.I.E.L.D TV series and oversee their films for the next three years.
Now that the storm has died down and the real work is to get underway, Whedon has an opportunity to look back on the long road of studio interference and doubt that led him to this point. Unsurprisingly, he felt more than a little affinity with a certain rage-fueled green monster he was given the chance to direct.
It’s only going to get harder to think back to a time when Joss Whedon was viewed as an unproven quantity, rather than a bankable storyteller and director. Yet those who followed the controversy and fan outcry surrounding Firefly, Dollhouse and the later seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer know just how hard Whedon and his crew had to fight to keep their shows under their control – failing more often than they succeeded.
But all these years later, when the mention of Firefly‘s fans is enough to bring creator and cast to tears, everything has changed. With the freedom to ‘dig even deeper’ with Avengers 2 and create his most heavily-funded and marketed TV show ever (accompanied by his faithful writing and producing partners), the only question is: does it feel like it was worth it?
Upon naming Whedon one of their ‘Entertainers of the Year,’ EW asked him directly how the fan reaction and ensuing contracts and freedom feel. While the weight has been lifted, the director knows that now is the time when he risks going astray:
“I’ve had a wonderful career, and I’m grateful for it. But like every writer in Hollywood, there have been many times where I’ve said, ‘I swear to God, if you just let me do this the way I’m thinking of doing it, it’ll work out!’ and I’ve been thwarted.
“Once you get to this place where people will listen to you, give you the benefit of the doubt, and will get out of your way, all of the stuff you’ve learned to live with and tamped down, you don’t need to live with it anymore..and so the basement door opens … and you go down into there … and read from the diary that raises the dead (laughs). It’s a weird little counter-intuitive thing.”
All joking aside, it is a good sign for everyone involved that the sudden success and vindication isn’t going to Whedon’s head. Especially since it was his reluctance over signing on to The Avengers 2 that helped convince him that the story he had in mind is one that needs to be told. But surely, there has to be some sense of excitement or liberation now that he’s proven every naysayer wrong:
“For the most part, I’m psyched. But you have to be careful that self-righteous umbrage doesn’t determine how you act around people, or how you behave artistically…You don’t want to be the guy who’s like: ‘OF COURSE I’M RIGHT! I’VE ALWAYS BEEN RIGHT ALL ALONG!” And then suddenly, you’re making your worst stuff, because you’ve lost that checks-and-balances thing you need to manage yourself.”
In case anyone thinks that the endless struggles for creative control (and having established actors read his script word-for-word) didn’t test Whedon’s patience, he’s the first to admit that he’s not always in the mood to smile. As a political activist and ardent supporter of women’s rights, having the opportunity to write for a massive green monster who embodies anger was a surprising bonus. That kinship didn’t just let Whedon put a bit of himself into the film, but provided Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) with his signature line:
“What was most astonishing to me about making that movie was how personal it was…I literally had the I’m-always-angry revelation during production. I had this certain amount of back-burner simmer of rage that I was completely aware of, but apparently I wrote it for Bruce Banner, going (to myself): ‘I think this is what a guy like this might go through!’ Interesting! What guy, Joss? ‘I don’t know! Some guy. I can’t think of anyone in particular, or why this is coming to me…’ Really, Joss? Really?”
Hopefully the days of bottled-up anger are long gone, now that Whedon has more than a few outlets to let millions of viewers see things his way. The Avengers 2, S.H.I.E.L.D., and the rest of Marvel’s Phase Two (to some extent) will keep the writer/director busy for the next three years. Beyond that: who knows?
The Avengers is now available on 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, and DVD.
Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce.
Source: Entertainment Weekly