Joss Whedon spent a chunk of Tuesday morning answering questions posed by members of the social chat site Reddit.com — in a conversation that eventually grew to over 6700 comments. As part of his AMA (Ask Me Anything), topics ranged from his plan to (not) kickstart Firefly season 2; to his worst work, best jokes and progress on Doctor Horrible II (along with a spoilerish hint.) He also dispels the myth of being “the guy who kills people.”
The Q&A, reproduced below in contextual order (edited slightly for readability), includes his patented self-deprecating wit and wisdom:
Step 2: Cancel Castle. Step 3: Cancel Homeland. Step 4: Generally destroy everybody’s careers. Step 5: Avoid Step 2.
WHY DO YOU KILL EVERYONE THAT I LOVE?!
You love stupid people.
Are there any early works you are embarrassed of when you look back?
My senior thesis film was ASS. I burned the negative.
Have you ever been approached to write a Doctor Who episode? Is it something you’d be interested in doing if the opportunity presented itself?
The doctor is dope, but I’ve just spent 2 years writing other people’s characters, plus I’ve got my Firefly kickstarter adventure. (See above.)
I read online that you plan to begin shooting Dr Horrible 2 after you finish up on The Avengers. Is this true, and is there any chance you could give us an idea of what we can expect?
We’re not shooting right now, we’re still in the early stages of writing. But we hope to make a great deal of progress this summer. And you can expect the death of someone you love.
Which joke in your body of work are you most proud of?
1) So. Firefly. When will second season be here? living in denial
2) How was working with Avengers team like?
3) Why did you change Captain America costume design?
4) How hard it was to take another shoot at realistic CGI Hulk? Was he done by ILM? Weta digital?
1) See above. 2) Like herding adorable kittens. 3) It was always meant to be updated to the more comics-based look. 4) ILM did the Hulk — very difficult, VERY successful.
My questions: 1) Are you aware of “smaller browncoat communities” like r/firefly?
2) If Nathan Fillion were to actually raise the money and buy the Firefly rights as he threatened, how (ie. in what medium) would you want to continue telling the story, if you would?
3) What’s your favourite ice-cream flavour?
4) What lessons did you learn from Firefly and Serenity, besides not to ever trust FOX? I’m especially interested in what you learned about how to tell stories, how to write characters, how to write lines for actors that work as well and on as many levels as in Firefly, and especially how these lessons showed up in later work like Dr. Horrible, Dollhouse and Avengers.
5) Follow up to (2) Do you currently have any plans to continue Firefly’s story in any medium?
Too many questions! Brain leaking!
Yes, I’ll always want to tell more Firefly stories and salted caramel.
If you had continued Dollhouse, where would the story have gone?
It would have been a much slower odyssey of Echo’s self-creation and liberation, peppered with astonishing perversions.
1) What is your personal favorite work of Science Fiction? And what inspires you to continue to create?
Dune. (The book). And what inspires me is Dune (the miniseries). (Actually, I don’t think of myself as being inspired to create. I can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s like breathing.)
I’ve noticed you seem to work with a lot of the same actors and actresses in your work. Most recently with Chris Hemsworth in both the Avengers and your new film The Cabin in the Woods (also w/ Fran Kranz!)… Do you just enjoy working with these reoccuring faces or do you write parts with them in mind? Who are some of your favorites to work with? Also, it’s my birthday and would be enamored if Joss Whedon wished me a happy birthday!
Well, Happy Birthday. I don’t write for my favorite actors (I can’t create that way), but I sure don’t mind slotting them in when I need someone awesome who knows my shorthand.
…I wonder if you can share any stories you have about working with so many excellent actors/actresses (Anthony Stewart Head, Nathan Fillion, Alyson Hannigan, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Christina Hendricks, Eliza Dushku)? I can’t imagine there were many boring moments, so I know you have to have some great stories!
And for a more direct question: what is your dream project? I mean, if money and marketability weren’t an issue in any way, what would be the first movie or TV show you’d make?
I don’t allow funny stories on set. They waste time. Time that could be spent in the writer’s room, wasting time.
I have many dream projects. But all the money in the world means just one thing: spaceships. Spaceships in trouble.
I’m SO excited to see your version of Much Ado About Nothing. What made you want to tackle Shakespeare?
I wanted to drag Shakespeare from obscurity. I’ve been a fan my whole life, and it’s time other people started noticing him!
After ‘Once More, With Feeling’ and Dr. Horrible, do you have any plans (or desire) to create a full length, large scale musical at some point?
Please say yes…
Full scale musical? The biggest non-spaceship-involving dream of my life. But it’s a huge life commitment…
I was hella pissed at Comiccon during the Iron Man 2 panel when every single male cast member was asked questions, and Scarlet Johansson was only mentioned in passing “you’re hot”. Anyone with eyeballs knows she’s hot, but she worked her ass off to get that role, and she took the time out of her busy schedule and faced nerd musk to support her movie. What are your feelings on this? Have you dealt with the hypersexualization of women in Avengers?
All I can say is that Scarlett gets to do a lot more than be hot in “Avengers”. It’s definitely dispiriting to have a woman play an heroic role and then be reduced to body parts by fan commentary, but that can only change slowly. And is.
Did losing Edward Norton in any way damage your vision for the avengers?
It let me cast Mark Ruffalo, one of the best and sweetest actors I know, and, I think, THE definitive Bruce Banner. (Apologies to Mr. Bixby.)
I’m sure that killing off a character you’ve invested a lot of time in can be tough. Have you ever found that doing this to a particular character has had a profound emotional affect on you? Who was the toughest kill?
I actually find it refreshing… delightful…. vaguely arousing….
Actually, I’m, no offense, very tired of being labelled as “the guy who kills people”. Shakespeare (he’s this hot new writer) does it way more than me, and everyone’s all excited about how he, as it were, holds a mirror up to nature, while I’m like the Jason Voorhees of the writing community. Unfair.
Also, probably Buffy’s Mom.
• How would you describe the experiences working with both Robert Downey Jr. and Neil Patrick Harris? Are they as awesome and witty off-screen as they are on the big screen?
• What should we expect to see in the Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog sequel? Do you plan on bringing back the original core cast?
Robert and Neil are both even funnier off-screen than on. Funnier, in fact, than me. I hate Robert and Neil.
Yes, the original cast will be back for Dr H 2, but Penny will be… um… I don’t want to say “decomposing”…
I would love to know anything about your personal motivations for being such a strong feminist, as well as your other positions on atheism, etc. Has being vocal about these positions ever been professionally difficult for you or caused you to lose work?
Also, I dearly love the whole rise of geek/nerd-centered media we see with people like you and Felicia Day, etc, it’s so cool to feel like the geek/nerd community is producing great content outside of the mainstream media. I love the online and webseries-type projects, what do you see happening with the future of entertainment given these technologies? With all your latest big movie work, do you see yourself still being involved in these kinds of projects in the future?
I’m absolutely devoted to working outside the mainstream, or at least in smaller venues and on my own terms. (My terms : unconditional surrender. Plus back-end.)
As for my political bent, it comes from how I was raised — and my own very strong sense of being helpless and tiny and terrified (that goes away, right?). The only trouble it’s ever caused me is that once you take a stance as a person, people are always using that as a yardstick in your work, which can be kind of limiting.
Would you have brought Fred back if Angel hadn’t ended with season 5?
Any regrets as far as stories, character developments that you were unable to do with any of the Buffy/Angel characters?
Season six of Angel would have kicked all manner of ass. And Illyria would have manifested as Fred often enough to become very confused about her identity.
And now I’m sad again.
So Joss, if cavemen and astronauts got into a fight, who would win?
Do the astronauts have weapons?
What was it like working with Pixar on Toy Story?
It was so much fun. They were in this crappy, sprawling space in the middle of nowhere, and I spent most of my time with Lasster, Stanton, Doctor and the late, very great Joe Ramft, just making jokes, pitching ideas and watching them get sharpie head-aches from sketching. We all learned so much from that experience. mostly about sharpies.
You’ve been said to encourage fanfiction. How do you feel about scholarship about your work and the fact that academics tend to delve quite deeply into it, perhaps to the point of publishing interpretations you did not intend?
All worthy work is open to interpretations the author did not intend. Art isn’t your pet — it’s your kid. It grows up and talks back to you.
Any thoughts on returning to TV? Developing another show?
I miss TV. Not the hours, but the format. If I felt I could actually do the work I set out to, I’d definitely go back for a spell.
Which of your characters was your absolute favorite to write? Why?
Conversely, which of your characters was the most difficult for you to write?
Favorite characters? Jeez. Spike, Andrew, Illyria, River, Captain Hammer, Loki, the Cheese Man… hell, I love them all, or I wouldn’t write them. But I tend to the left of center.
The hardest was always Angel. How to make a decent, handsome, stalwart hero interesting — tough. Angelus, on the other hand…
Hi Joss. Do you use techniques to boost your creativity for writing? Do you for instance write better when you meditate, exercise, take alcohol etc.?
I like movie scores. They really help put me in the moment, no matter where I am. Avengers owes a lot to Rachel Portman’s Never Let Me Go and Hart’s War. Also Zimmer: the Thin Red Line, King Arthur, Black Hawk Down…
special mention: Breach, Seven Pounds, Passengers…
lifetime achievement award: Memoirs of a Geisha, by the man himself, Mr. Williams.
And I do like a reward for writing — cup of tea, glass of wine, meth-fueled crime spree… but when a story has me, I don’t need anything but a pen.
What was Shepherd Book’s back story? What was on his ident card!? I need to know
Then you need to buy the comic The Shepherd’s Tale, drawn by Chris Samnee, written by Zack Whedon from a story by me. All is revealed. And it’s lovely.
While shooting the Avengers how hard was it not to replace Captain America with Captain Hammer?
What was it like handling that many stars at once on the Avengers set?
Handling that many stars was easy, because they looked after each other. They cared about the work. They one time did what I said (well, asked). No, it really was a dream ensemble.
And Captain America IS Captain Hammer. DON’T TELL CHRIS EVANS.
My question: I know that picking between beloved shows is probably like picking the favorite among offspring, BUT…If you could pick ONE piece of work (one episode of any show you’ve done, or one movie) that would be used to represent your entire body of work – to be seen by children 100 years in the future, or to alien species who have discovered the ruins of our civilization in 100 thousand years, which would it be and why?
“Objects in Space.”
Why did Wonder Woman fall through?
They never really told me. But by the time it was looking grim, I was so burnt, and so excited about my next project, Goners, that was DEFINITELY going to happen, that I didn’t mind.
Have you ever thought about starting your own internet based “TV” station. Like where people could give you money and you make whatever you want or showcase work of others that you like, without restrictions of the networks &/or the heartbreak of cancellation.
If so, what have been the challenges to making this happen?
If not, would you please consider it now? Thank you!
I would LOVE to follow in the footsteps of Felicia Day — had in fact pitched this concept to my agent years ago. But right now i’m fielding five movies and I’m realizing that there is such a thing as over-reaching, unless you’re Felicia Day…
UPDATE UPDATE BREAKING LACK OF NEWS
Dear Friends, it’s time for me to go. Sorry about the questions I didn’t get to. But I have to make/promote all these new things so that you can enjoy them and come up with more questions. A bundle of kittens to you all, -j.