I feel a little late to the party on this, you guys, but Joss Whedon was/is involved with just about every movie ever made in Hollywood. The guy is one of the most requested script doctors out there and as Whedon put it, he’s usually brought in to make the third act more exciting and cheaper. Whedon started out writing on Rosanne before moving on to projects like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and doing punch-ups for Speed and X-Men.
Today is Whedon’s 50th birthday, and I thought it would be fun to look back at some of the movies few people realize he worked on in some capacity. Starting with Kevin Costner’s big budget sea adventure…
1. Waterworld (1995)
Yes, Joss Whedon was part of the Kevin Costner flick that should probably be banished to somewhere at the bottom of the ocean. Whedon wasn’t called in to help with the script until late into the film’s production when producers became concerned that Costner’s excessive notes were mucking up the movie. Unfortunately, there just weren’t enough jet skis and as Whedon described to the A.V. Club, there was not much he could do to save the film.
“Waterworld was a good idea, and the script was the classic, ‘They have a good idea, then they write a generic script and don’t really care about the idea.’ When I was brought in, there was no water in the last 40 pages of the script. It all took place on land, or on a ship, or whatever. I’m like, ‘Isn’t the cool thing about this guy that he has gills?’ And no one was listening. I was there basically taking notes from [Kevin Costner], who was very nice, fine to work with, but he was not a writer.”
2. X-Men (2000)
It’s actually pretty amazing that X-Men turned out as well as it did. Bryan Singer said no to the movie down several times, because he had never heard of the X-Men and didn’t like comic books. He only agreed to direct after watching the animated series and empathizing with the prejudice shown to mutants.
The script was also horribly fraught with holes according to Whedon, who came in to help ghostwrite some of the fight scenes.
“They wanted me to punch up the last fight. I said, ‘I think you’ve got a greater problem than that,’ explained the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. ‘I didn’t think the script was any good, so I did a major overhaul of the script. And yeah, I was the only real X-Men fan on the project that I know of.”
3. Titan A.E. (2000)
While much of Whedon’s rewrite on X-Men never saw the light of day, a good portion of his rewrite on Titan A.E. actually stuck. It was at least enough that the writer/director made a point to see the film, the same can’t be said for X-Men.
“I did a great thundering re-write on that, bigger than the one I did on X-Men and a lot more of that actually stayed in the film. I’ve seen Titan, I haven’t seen anything of X-Men – no-one is actually contractually or legally allowed to say the words ‘X-Men’ to me in the workplace anymore…I’ve gotta see, I’m so curious to know. Every director has his vision, but I would not have given Halle Berry that hair.”
4. Speed (1994)
As revealed in our facts piece for Speed’s 20th anniversary, Whedon was brought in to punch-up most of the dialogue on Graham Yost’s original script. As Whedon told In Focus, he wanted to show that Jack was never trying to be a hero cop.
“Part of what I did on Speed was pare down what they had created, which was kind of artificial. The whole thing about ‘[Jack Traven is] a maverick hotshot,’ I was sort of like, ‘Well, no, what if he’s not? He thinks a little bit laterally for a cop. What if he’s just the polite guy trying not to get anybody killed?’”
5. Toy Story (1995)
Just after finishing up the film version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Whedon hooked a deal with Disney and a then-unknown studio called Pixar for their film about toys coming to life. Most of the characters were already developed, but as Whedon describes it, Rex the dinosaur was all him.
“I went up to Pixar…and stayed there for weeks and wrote for, I think, four months before it got greenlit, and completely overhauled the script. There was some very basic things in there that stayed in there. The characters were pretty much in place except for the dinosaur, which was mine. I took out a lot of extraneous stuff, including the neighbor giving the kid a bad haircut before he leaves.”
He had also written more of an ass-kicking T2 Sara Connor type of role for Barbie where she would help save Woody and Buzz, but problems with licensing from Mattel nixed the idea.
6. Twister (1996)
Like most of his other script doctoring projects, Whedon was brought in to help beef up the movie’s third act. Not as much made it into the final cut as with his earlier work in Speed, but there’s a good chance any joke that Bill Paxton delivers as well as everyone gathering around Aunt Meg’s dinner table can be credited to Whedon.
7. Alien: Resurrection (1997)
Okay, technically there is actually probably very little of Joss Whedon in Alien: Resurrection, but he did write five different endings for the film. It was just such a horrible experience working with the studio that he called it his own personal Vietnam and tried to block out having ever been associated with the movie. The four endings that didn’t happen were: a forest ending with the flying thresher machine, a futuristic junkyard, a maternity ward, and a barren desert.
8. The Quick and the Dead (1995)
Whedon told the A.V. Club that he took the writing gig on Quick and the Dead just to meet Sam Raimi. Raimi was so impressed with Whedon’s punch-ups that he expressed how he wished Whedon could have penned the script from the beginning. As told to IGN:
“In 1994, I was making The Quick and the Dead and having a script problem, and I came to the studio and said, ‘Can you find me a writer? I’ve shot this movie, and the end isn’t working.’ And ultimately, the movie didn’t quite work. But they suggested Joss Whedon, who was doing ‘Buffy,’ so I met Joss and he saw the movie, and he helped me solve this ending in one afternoon. I thought, ‘Damn, you’re a good writer. I wish I could have had you rewrite the whole movie and save this picture.'”
Whendon’s script for Wonder Woman has been hanging around since 2007, but there’s no telling if it will ever see the light of day. I can’t imagine Marvel is eager to let him start hanging out with the DC kids anytime soon.