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Joss Whedon: A Life in Pictures

17 June 2013

The writer/director of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Serenity and The Avengers discussed his fascinating career in his A Life in Pictures interview, conducted by Francine Stock.

Joss WhedonBAFTA/Jamie Simonds

Listen to the interview:

Download the full interview transcript (178.5 KB)

Throughout his interview, Whedon engaged the audience with his witty one-liners and thoughtful anecdotes about his career. His range of work across both film and television was strongly conveyed as he discussed the success of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) and Toy Story (1995) through to his recent cinematic interpretation of Much Ado About Nothing (2012).

Having debated the thematic elements of Buffy and Angel (1999-2004), the interview moved towards The Cabin in the Woods (2011) and Avengers Assemble (2012). Whedon’s emotive intentions in his writing remains steadfast, advocating how "the end game is getting people to feel, and if you can get them to think? Bonus".

It was clear how much his "absurd love of story-telling" motivates him. Whether writing for the big or small screen, Whedon’s passion for "build[ing] narrative structures" and always working to give his audience something unexpected permeated the interview and has warranted high expectations for his future projects, including The Avengers 2 (2015).

"The best thing a director can be is a wannabe, and I am the world’s biggest wannabe. If I could sew the costumes I would, if I could do the stunts I would".

Joss Whedon's Career in Film and Television

With an array of unforgettable characters, emotionally heartfelt and witty scripts, and more end-of-the-world apocalypses than you can shake a vampire stake at, writer and director Joss Whedon has established himself as one of the most original voices working in the film and television industries over the past 20 years.

Born in New York in 1964, Whedon comes from a family with a strong history in television writing. His Granddad John was a writer on The Donna Reed Show (1958-1966) and The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966) while his Dad Tom wrote on Benson (1979-1986) and The Golden Girls (1985-1992). After studying at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, Whedon first cut his scriptwriting teeth after moving to Los Angeles in the late 1980s, where he continued his family’s writing legacy working on Roseanne (1988-1997) and Parenthood (1990-91).

His first experience in the film industry was a difficult one. Having written the script for the feature film Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992), it was a critical and commercial disappointment. It did, however, establish Whedon as a scriptwriter to watch and introduced the character who would soon come to define his career. Whedon began working as a script doctor for a number of high profile films, including Speed (1994), Twister (1996) (both of which he was uncredited for) and Toy Story (1995), where he was one of seven writers to receive an Oscar-nomination for Original Screenplay.

Joss Whedon 2BAFTA/Jamie Simonds Joss 3BAFTA/Jamie Simonds

Whedon’s breakthrough success came on TV, where Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) found its natural home. The show set a new benchmark of what could be achieved on a fantasy series. As well as creatively audacious highpoints – such as season four’s near-dialogue free episode 'Hush’, or season six’s musical episode ‘Once More, with Feeling’ – what really stood out were the intricately drawn out lives of the characters fighting both real and figurative demons, rewarding viewers who emotionally invested in them. Whedon’s second long-running TV series Angel (1999-2004), a darker spin-off from Buffy, confirmed Whedon’s ability to create unique, multi-layered fictional worlds.

Whedon’s next show was the space-set Firefly (2002-2003). Although it was cancelled after one season, it garnered such an intense cult following that it was adapted to the big screen as Serenity (2005), becoming Whedon’s first film as director. During the writers’ strike of 2007-08, Whedon directed and co-wrote the three-part musical web series Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (2008) starring Neil Patrick-Harris as a wannabe super-villain desperate to get into the Evil League of Evil. Continuing his reputation as an extreme workaholic, Whedon created the futuristic TV series Dollhouse (2009-2010), and co-wrote the irony-laden horror film The Cabin in the Woods (2011).

Whedon’s film career went up another level when he directed Avengers Assemble (2012), a spectacular superhero film with Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and co. teaming up to save the world from mass destruction. Having shown he could create his own self-contained universes, Whedon proved himself more than adept at working within an established one. The film achieved the highest ever opening weekend at the US box office with over $200 million, and Whedon has already signed up for The Avengers 2, due in 2015.

Moving from Stan Lee to William Shakespeare, Whedon’s latest film is an adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing (2012). Demonstrating his on-going creative energy - and starring fan favourites Amy Acker (Angel) and Alexis Denisof (Angel) – the film looks set to confirm Whedon as one of the most exciting and adventurous filmmakers of his generation.