Behind Every Great Slayer There's An Even Greater Storyteller
This article was obtained from OnSat, July 14th, 1997.
By Linda Yovanovich
Thanks to Lawless for providing this article.

      He's rather unassuming when he walks into a room. Not very tall; neither skinny nor fat. A man who looks more like a 20-something slacker in jeans, sneakers, and tousled hair, than a 32-year-old Academy Award-nominated entertainment powerhouse. Responsible for the rapid fire one-liners that shot out of Sandra Bullock's mouth during "Speed," and making Tom Hanks' animated alter-ego Woody less rigid in "Toy Story," Joss Whedon will soon be hoping for ascension into blockbuster heaven with "Alien: Resurrection," the fourth "Alien" film due in theaters in November.

      Whedon has earned himself quite a weighty name and hefty paycheck for his work goosing some would-be lame duck scripts. For Whedon, though, it's been an unfulfilling stint because of the lack of creative control on some of the projects. In an article from *Entertainment Weekly* (April 25, 1997) he remarked that he was "the world's highest paid stenographer" for his largely ignored work on Kevin Costner's "Waterworld." (Though he did get seven weeks in Hawaii for it.)

      But it was in part this frustration that lead him to take on, to the absolute horror of his agent, the responsibility of recreating his film "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" for the WB. Given the creative control he had longed for with his previous projects, including the film version of "Buffy," he was finally able to take on the project and do it his way. ("Buffy The Vampire Slayer" airs Mondays at 9:00 p.m. (ET) on WB.)

      In comparing his work writing for television and film he said, "It's tough, but right now I'd have to say that writing for TV is a hundred times better, because you get the stuff made and you get it made your way. But that's because I'm running the show. If I were directing a movie, I'd probably be very happy writing that." He continued, saying, "I don't really differentiate; the job is probably very much the same. The parameters are different. The budgets are *slightly* different. But," he added, "to me I'm making an independent movie every week. That's how I really feel about it. So for me it's very gratifying. It's like writing more movies."

The Show

      But "Buffy"? Back in January, when "Buffy" was first introduced in its small-screen incarnation to the Television Critics Association you could hear a collective groan of skepticism in the audience before the promos of the show. "A lot of people did [feel skeptical], and I knew they would, but I figured I could make this thing pretty well, and people would respond to it," Whedon said.

      And, somewhat surprisingly, audiences have been responding. The show, only vaguely reminiscent of the film version, is much darker and less campy than the film, which Whedon said was his initial intention when he wrote the script for the big screen. "That's the way I always wanted to take it. And it was the director (Fran Kuzui) who was more interested in doing straight comedy. So when they said, 'do you want to do the show?' I went a little more towards the horror because that's more my bent."

      As a result, he has created a sensation for the fledgling network. An oxymoronic horror/action/comedy/drama, no one really knows how to accurately categorize "Buffy," which may have been intentional on Whedon's part, who said he wanted the show to "embrace everything."

      Trading in the feature film's schlock for the for the current trend of supernatural shock, Whedon has created a world of fantasy and reality which blends a suspension of disbelief with a sense of empathy for anyone who has endured the awkward outcast stage so epitomized by high school. A theme not lost on Whedon who went on to expand the experience into fodder for a career. "[High school as hell] was always the basis of the show," Whedon says. "The movie was more about creating a character, but when they said, "Do you want to turn it into a show?" the character was not enough alone to sustain it. But you know when I thought of the idea of the horror movies as a metaphor for high school, [I said] okay this is something that will work week to week. And be very near to my heart," he said with mock sentimentality.

      Oddly, the supposed outcast, Buffy Summers, is probably the hippest chick, slayer or otherwise, to walk the hallowed halls of Sunnyvale High. Dressed in ultra chic garb and sporting a no-nonsense attitude, star Sarah Michelle Gellar exudes a tough sensibility with tongue-in-cheek coolness and the teenaged slayer. The often reluctant hero of the show, Buffy knows her purpose and does it with such nonchalance that you wonder if battling acne is actually a greater challenge than battling the undead.

      There are still a fair share of high school cliches, but they are in far shorter supply than the film and are that much more palpable when balanced with the genuine suspense that the film lacked.

      Whedon always had confidence in "Buffy" even though he said the show's success still has a way to go. He added that he always felt the show would do just fine and stood behind it all the way. "I love [the show] so much. But I'm sort of biased," he admitted. "Apart from getting revenge on everyone I went to high school with, the goal was just to tell stories, which is all I ever wanted to do. Telling a story is my whole goal. It's like my mission."

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