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A third-generation television writer, it came as little surprise when scripter Joss Whedon followed in his relatives' footsteps, although his astonishing success as series creator, producer, screenwriter and feature film director surely impressed even his formidable family. Receiving his start as a writer on the sitcom "Roseanne" (ABC, 1988-1997) and serving as a script doctor on several noted studio films, Whedon later created the cult hit "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (The WB, 1997-2001; UPN, 2001-03), developed from a campy horror comedy of the same name he had also written years earlier. With "Buffy," Whedon used the horror genre, combined with deft comedic touches, to explore the theme that life as an American teen could be pure hell. An instant cult favorite, it spurred Whedon on to create the "Buffy" spin-off, "Angel" (The WB, 1999-2004). While his critically acclaimed sci-fi opus "Firefly" (Syfy, 2002-03) and its feature film sequel "Serenity" (2005) were poorly promoted by the studios, Whedon had plenty of other ideas to explore. Following another TV disappointment with the short-lived sci-fi adventure "Dollhouse" (Fox, 2009-2010), Whedon returned to film with a bang as a co-writer of the...
A third-generation television writer, it came as little surprise when scripter Joss Whedon followed in his relatives' footsteps, although his astonishing success as series creator, producer, screenwriter and feature film director surely impressed even his formidable family. Receiving his start as a writer on the sitcom "Roseanne" (ABC, 1988-1997) and serving as a script doctor on several noted studio films, Whedon later created the cult hit "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (The WB, 1997-2001; UPN, 2001-03), developed from a campy horror comedy of the same name he had also written years earlier. With "Buffy," Whedon used the horror genre, combined with deft comedic touches, to explore the theme that life as an American teen could be pure hell. An instant cult favorite, it spurred Whedon on to create the "Buffy" spin-off, "Angel" (The WB, 1999-2004). While his critically acclaimed sci-fi opus "Firefly" (Syfy, 2002-03) and its feature film sequel "Serenity" (2005) were poorly promoted by the studios, Whedon had plenty of other ideas to explore. Following another TV disappointment with the short-lived sci-fi adventure "Dollhouse" (Fox, 2009-2010), Whedon returned to film with a bang as a co-writer of the mind-bending horror movie, "Cabin in the Woods" (2012) and as the writer-director of the superhero blockbuster, "The Avengers" (2012). Brilliantly combining genres like science fiction, fantasy, horror and Westerns, Whedon achieved his own level of cult status, even as he grew in stature as one of Hollywood's most innovative purveyors of popular entertainment.
Born on June 23, 1964 in New York City, Whedon was the son of Tom Whedon, an Emmy-winning television writer and producer on shows like "Benson" (ABC, 1979-1986) and "The Golden Girls" (NBC, 1985-1992), and Lee Stearns, a high school teacher and unpublished novelist. Also in his family was another television writer, his grandfather John Whedon, who wrote for "The Donna Reed Show" (ABC, 1958-1966) and "The Dick Van Dyke Show" (CBS, 1961-66). When he was nine, his parents divorced and he went to live with his dad while spending summers with his mom and stepfather on an artists' commune in upstate New York. After attending the Riverdale Country School in Riverdale, NY, Whedon went to Winchester College, a boarding school in Hampshire, England, where he first became obsessed with comic books. Upon returning to the states, he matriculated at Wesleyan University, where he majored in film and became interested in women's studies. It was at Wesleyan that he began to contemplate transforming genre movies - namely science fiction and horror - from mere entertainment into launching pads for complex sociopolitical ideas.
After graduating Wesleyan in 1987, Whedon moved to Los Angeles to launch his screenwriting career. He had a rocky start despite his father's connections, but he eventually landed a staff writing job on the hit sitcom "Rosanne" (ABC, 1988-1997) during its second season. Whedon left the show after a year and spent a season on the short-lived comedy "Parenthood" (NBC, 1990-91). Done with television for the time being, Whedon decided to take his ideas for popular feminism and put them to use in a script designed to create a female hero in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (1992). But as often happens in Hollywood, Whedon's script was taken out of his hands and turned into a campy horror comedy about a bubble-headed cheerleader (Kristy Swanson) who learns that she is actually a reincarnation of a female warrior destined to protect the world from hordes of marauding vampires. Embarrassed by the final results and stung by the film's harsh reception, Whedon rightfully feared for his career. Meanwhile, he spent the a few years working as a well-paid script doctor on several studio features, including rewrites of "Speed" (1994), "Waterworld" (1995) and "Toy Story" (1995); the latter of which earned him a share of his first Academy Award nomination.
Following an alleged stint as an uncredited writer on the derided blockbuster "Twister" (1996), Whedon was fortunate enough to be allowed to resurrect "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (The WB, 1997-2003), for the small screen. But this time, Whedon maintained artistic control as the showrunner and executive producer, which gave him the opportunity to return to the original idea of female empowerment, while further developing Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) into a savvier, though emotionally troubled, high school and eventual college student. Over the next several years, Whedon continued to write episodes of "Buffy," which became increasingly intriguing and complex. Under Whedon's guidance, the series avoided suffering a predictable burnout and continued to adapt as a riveting drama. Highlights from the show included "Hush," an episode where the characters were entirely mute, which earned an Emmy Award nomination for outstanding writing. Despite being snubbed by most awards, "Buffy" remained one of the most popular and critically acclaimed shows on television, while becoming a cult classic among the Gen-X crowd. When contract renegotiations with the WB turned unexpectedly sour in 2001, the series was quickly snapped up by UPN for its final two seasons.
Despite the demands of the "Buffy" series, Whedon found time to pen the script for the unfortunate "Alien Resurrection" (1997), which teamed a cloned Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) with an android (Winona Ryder) to do battle against the space creatures. Meanwhile, he formed his own company, Mutant Enemy, Inc., which started producing episodes of "Buffy" in 1997. Two years later, Whedon created the "Buffy" spin-off, "Angel" (The WB, 1999-2004), which featured Buffy's immortal vampire lover (David Boreanaz), a centuries-old bloodsucker cursed with a conscience who saves souls in Los Angeles to atone for his past sins. "Angel" proved to be equally as complex and appreciated as its predecessor. While continuing to take an active role in both writing and directing episodes of "Buffy" and "Angel," Whedon served as co-writer on the animated misfire "Atlantis: The Lost Empire" (2001) and developed another science fiction show for television, "Firefly" (Sci Fi Channel, 2002), which was set 500 years in the future and revolved around the hard-luck crew of the spaceship Serenity. A critical success that owed more inspiration to classic Westerns than to the usual "Star Wars" or "Star Trek" style fare, "Firefly" drew a rabid cult audience. But after being mishandled by 20th Century Fox, the fans were unable to keep the show on the air beyond a handful of episodes.
However, like Whedon's "Buffy" franchise before it, his creation made a phoenix-like rise from the ashes when DVD sales and Sci Fi Network reruns grew the fan base, leading Universal Pictures to okay a feature film continuation, "Serenity" (2005), written and directed by Whedon. Despite the built-in audience, "Serenity" struggled to perform at the box office. Returning to the comic book days of his youth, Whedon penned two year-long arcs on Marvel Comics' hugely popular X-Men characters, creating the new title Astonishing X-Men with artist John Cassaday. The gig positioned him well for his first post-"Serenity" writing and directing assignment, tackling a big budget feature film adaptation of the classic comic book heroine "Wonder Woman" for producer Joel Silver.
While that project long remained in development, Whedon performed an uncredited rewrite on the successful comic book adaptation of "Iron Man" (2008). Returning to television, Whedon launched another complex series, "Dollhouse" (Fox, 2009-2010), a sci-fi thriller about an mysterious agent (Eliza Dushku) in a shadowy organization whose memory can be wiped clean and refitted with a new one to perform various assignments, including committing crimes and fulfilling fantasies. But when she starts to become self aware, the agent begins to question her purpose, while a determined federal agent (Tahmoh Penikett) tries to uncover the secret organization. Unlike Whedon's previous television efforts, however, "Dollhouse" struggled to find an audience, with even the most ardent of his fans lacking enthusiasm. The show was already on the cancellation chopping block immediately following its pilot episode, though it did manage to hang around for its initial seven-episode order.
Failing to find its intended audience, "Dollhouse" closed its doors for good after an anemic second season. Despite the disappointment, the always multitasking Whedon moved forward with a dizzying array of diverse projects. Along with the likes of filmmaker Morgan Spurlock and comic industry legend Stan Lee, Whedon co-produced the documentary "Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope" (2012), a loving examination of the annual San Diego pop-culture Mecca. Long delayed, due to the financial collapse of MGM studios, "The Cabin in the Woods" (2012), a head-spinning reinvention of the horror genre co-written by Whedon and director Drew Goddard at last arrived in theaters. Starring up-and-coming heartthrob Chris Hemsworth, it premiered just weeks before Whedon's second effort as a feature film director, the superhero blockbuster "The Avengers" (2012). Working with a massive budget and under equally high expectations, Whedon oversaw the assemblage of a team of heroes that included Thor (Hemsworth), Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).
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CAST: (feature film)
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About his experience working on "Roseanne": "It was baptism by radioactive waste. [Roseanne] was like two people. One was perfectly intelligent and good to be around. One was very cranky. You never knew which would show up." --Joss Whedon to Entertainment WeeklY, April 25, 1997.
"It turns out that being a screenwriter in Hollywood is not all that it's cracked up to be. People blow their noses on you. I can feel the difference. When I go on the set of 'Alien [Resurrection]', people are very nice, but I'm standing in the corner watching them be very nice. When I'm making this show, I'm telling these stories. I've never had that feeling before. Not only am I telling them, I'm telling one every eight days. I've been putting other things off, because this is the most unbelievable amount of work I ever believed existed." --Whedon quoted in Cinefantastique, May 1997.
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