Friday, June 13, 2008

More Jeanine on Joss (by Suzie)


         Please indulge me as I post my last tidbits from film scholar Jeanine Basinger’s speech on Joss Whedon. (See the post below for the first part.)
         Foreshadowing his later TV shows, Whedon put vampires in his first film at Wesleyan and later did two Westerns. The man who would write “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” wrote this about the female protagonist in “The Birds”: “She has to give up her superficial life with its controls and just fight.”
         Joss studied all the classics. Later, when he was famous, Basinger arranged lunch with Joan Leslie. “He has a crush on her. He is practically ecstatic, jumping up and down. Joan Leslie! Joan Leslie!”
         “Joss had very eclectic taste” as a student, Basinger said. For example, he later wrote her that he liked the values of “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.” He liked Brian De Palma, but not “Masterpiece Theater” type movies, such as those made by Merchant-Ivory. “He didn’t like pretention … or anything cruel to teenagers. He’d fight to the death over those films.” She said later: “He gets really mad when he sees a movie that’s really stupid. He cares. … He takes it as a sacred responsibility to be a good storyteller.”
          Early on, she talked to someone about hiring Whedon and then warned him, “Joss, he’s going to kill you if you do anything wrong.” That night, Whedon dreamed she was chasing him with a knife. “This was my proudest moment as a teacher,” Basinger said, with the wry humor that colored her speech.
          In 1989, she got a letter from him in an envelope with a “Roseanne” logo. He had begun writing for that TV show. He described himself as a “television whore,” an “emotionally unstable” hermit whose hair was turning blond.
          “I’m making my way,” he concluded.
         Thirteen years ago, on June 24, Basinger attended his wedding to “a real warrior woman,” Kai Cole. Basinger danced with him. “We are fabulous and brilliant and should be on Broadway.”
          Although the “Buffy” movie greatly disappointed him, Basinger recognized his voice in lines such as: The Californian basketball coach tells his team, “Remember, you are a person. You are entitled to the ball.”
           Whedon called before the “Buffy” television series aired, saying, “It is my inevitable DNA that I’ll be doing a television series.” (He’s a third-generation TV writer.)
           “He was so excited.” He told Basinger: “Wait till you see the cast. I love these people. They’re so good. The only thing is that it will last only a few episodes and no one will see it.” He wanted to do the show his way, and he wanted Basinger to see it before it was yanked off the air. After the first episode, he asked her if she liked it, and she told him that she did. The show ran for seven seasons, and she always watched in real time. Her husband, an actor and teacher, commented: “ ‘Buffy’ is worthy of John Milton.”
           In the show, she could hear “his peculiar cadences, his wit, his aches and pains, his worries... I could feel his heart beat. I could feel his heart beat.”
          On her first visit to the Buffy set, she was scared on his behalf, the way she was when her daughter was learning to drive. She wanted to yell: “Watch out! This is a hard, tough business.” But she saw how proficient he was. “I’m so very proud of him.”
            She also loved “Firefly.” “It’s just fabulous.” But Fox executives pulled it before all 14 episodes aired. “If I could murder those people, I would.”
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