Although it opened back in May, Joss Whedon’s The Avengers helped us bring our year to a close with a screening at the Hollywood DGA. Also in attendance was none other than Whedon himself, who participated in a Q&A after the screening. I’m happy to report that The Avengers still holds up after the hype has died down, but what you’re really interested in is what Whedon had to say. He talked about missed opportunities for his hit TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, revealed some of the characters and footage he had to leave out of The Avengers (including a tease about another villain who we may see in a future film) and comments on his overall writing process.
The screening of The Avengers and Q&A with Whedon was hosted and moderated by Jeff Goldsmith of Backstory Magazine. You can check out the full interview by selecting The Q&A With Jeff Goldsmith on iTunes. Whedon’s quotes and comments follow below:
Writing for The Avengers:
- Upon taking on The Avengers, Marvel laid out certain requirements ahead of time: the heroic characters, Loki as the villain, the helicarrier attack and the epic battle scene at the end. His job was to get the picture from point to point along the way and “try to make it matter.”
- On making The Avengers, Whedon said, “We made the movie we set out to make,” and was genuinely and pleasantly surprised by this fact.
- The script of The Avengers took two years from draft to screen. (By comparison, he drafted The Cabin in the Woods in three days with Drew Goddard.)
- Whedon wrote a 15-page final battle arc that incorporated a prologue and five acts.
- On the topic of balancing the introduction of the heroes to new viewers with those who have seen all the previous Marvel movies, Whedon compares the effort to his experience incorporating reiteration throughout his writing for television series.
- Whedon talked about an early draft being too heavy in “dry wit,” and later realized the fact that Hawkeye’s character would need to be compromised and that Agent Coulson would have a man-crush on Captain America.
- Whedon addressed the darker moments of The Avengers, saying that Agent Coulson’s death was mandated early on by Marvel’s Kevin Feige and was encouraged by actor Clark Gregg as well. Bruce Banner’s confession of his suicide attempt was taken from a Hulk comic with artwork done by Richard Corben in which one issue had Banner committing suicide via a self-inflicted gun shot and the next issue’s splash page had the Hulk spitting the bullet out.
- On his most difficult scenes to write and direct in The Avengers, Whedon said that the big action scene was tough due to the smoke from the explosions as well as the various characters interjecting dialogue throughout the sequence. He also commented that any time all of the actors were together on screen (ie the scepter scene), it was like being a kindergarten teacher trying to keep control of his students.
- Whedon confessed that his favorite scene was the one between Loki and Natasha/Black Widow.
- Whedon’s early draft heavily featured The Avengers comicbook character, Wasp. He wrote what he called a “very Waspy” draft and began to get carried away by writing much too much about her, saying, “She’s adorable! I’m just going to write her!”
- He also fought hard for a second villain, but declined to say who that villain happened to be. Though the studio rejected this request, the villain may appear in a future film. Whedon commented that Tom Hiddleston was fantastic as Loki, but he had in mind a villain that his heroes could wail on.
- As for what was cut from The Avengers, Whedon said that Iron Man’s introductory sequence was unfortunately cut and “a ton” of Captain America was cut as well. The Cap scenes appear in the DVD/Blu-ray extras under the “Man Out of Time” heading.
Other Films in the Marvel Universe:
- Whedon comments that he has “no clue how the Tesseract got to Earth.”
- Though he didn’t talk directly about The Avengers 2, Whedon did draw a comparison between the original Star Wars film and the sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, saying:
“I still believe that even though The Empire Strikes Back is better in innumerable ways than Star Wars, Star Wars wins because you can’t end a movie with Han frozen in Carbonite. That’s not a movie, it’s an episode.”
- So hopefully we can expect The Avengers 2 to be every bit as satisfying as the first with just a little teaser for the next film in the franchise at the end.
- Whedon comments on the writing of dialogue for The Avengers, saying that writing for Tony Stark was easy once he’d heard Robert Downey Jr. talk, since they’re basically the same (OP: cackling!). He also wrote a bit of dialogue for Captain America and loved being able to do “1940s talk.”
- Apparently there was talk of developing an animated version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but Whedon and his creative team couldn’t get anyone to buy the project, citing the need for a male character as a lead (OP: ASSHATS). Whedon called the project his “Simpsons version of Buffy,” of which the writing team wrote seven scripts.
- Whedon’s first draft of Serenity was 190 pages long. He reached 160 pages on The Avengers before admitting he needed some help on the revisions.
- Whedon confesses to being a very detailed action writer when he has the time to devote to it. He repeatedly praised the storyboard artists, Brian Andrews in particular, for The Avengers who filled in the blanks for his action scenes.
- Whedon talked about his writing process, which involves a lot of time spent in restaurants because they’re free of distractions and always has his earbuds and movie soundtrack music with him.
- On the conflict between writing and directing, Whedon talked about a recent discussion with fellow writer/director James Gunn in which they each lamented the fact that becoming a director ruins the purity of the writing experience.
- Whedon also showed his contempt for movies and TV shows that don’t give the viewers a complete arc and choose to end on unsatisfying cliffhangers, citing Jumper and Lost respectively. (OP: Praying for a Damon Lindelof twitter meltdown)