Joss Whedon pans Zak Penn’s original ‘Avengers’ screenplay

While screenwriter Zak Penn may have received a “story by” credit on “The Avengers”, based on a recent GQ article (thanks to the Playlist for bringing it to my attention) it appears he didn’t have much of anything to do with the completed film hitting theaters this Friday.

“There was a script…there just wasn’t a script I was going to film a word of,” “Avengers” writer/director Joss Whedon told the gentleman’s magazine after reporter Alex Pappadernas called him out on his earlier claim that Marvel “didn’t have a script” when he was first brought on board. After all, Penn was hired to write the superhero flick way back in July 2007, while Whedon didn’t sign on to the project until April 2010.

While Whedon clearly wasn’t fond of Penn’s interpretation of the comic book to begin with, he also, it seems, felt the need for near-total control over the film’s creative aspects – or, in his words, a “bedrock of certainty”.

“I needed that bedrock of certainty, so that when they asked me why something was [in the script], I could tell them exactly,” he said.

When asked by GQ to comment on Whedon’s statements, Penn came back sounding unmistakably regretful over (albeit accepting of) what essentially amounted to his complete removal from the creative process. From the magazine:

“‘We could have collaborated more, but that was not his choice. He wanted to do it his way, and I respect that. I mean, it’s not like on the Hulk, where I got replaced by the lead actor,’ he says, referring to Edward Norton’s infamous decision to install himself as lead screenwriter on that film. ‘That was an unusual one. This was more normal.'”

Penn, of course, is no stranger to penning superhero movies – beginning with the “story by” credit he received on Bryan Singer’s “X2”, his resume includes the screenplays for “Elektra” (2005), “X-Men: The Last Stand” (2006) and 2008’s “The Incredible Hulk” (though the last of those, as noted above, was virtually taken over by Norton during production).

In any case, it’s worth dredging up the following quote from the article our own Drew McWeeny wrote a couple years back following confirmation that Whedon had gotten the job: “Zak Penn is hard at work on the screenplay, and I’m sure Whedon’s going to be a great sounding board during that part of the process.”

Little did anyone realize at the time that Whedon never really planned on collaborating with Penn at all.

Thoughts anyone? Sound off in the comments!