In a great interview for The Sunday Times Culture Magazine a couple weeks ago, there’s an interesting bit about the period in Joss Whedon’s career immediately following the release of Serenity.
At the same time, Warner Bros. told Whedon they had been unhappy with his work on an adaptation of Wonder Woman he’d been set to direct, and a change of management at Universal meant that Goners, a horror project he’d been nursing, was shutdown on the verge of production. “It was a whole laundry list of gut punches. There were years where I wondered if I should even go to Comic-Con. I had nothing to say, other than, ‘I failed at the following things…’”
This actually was the first time I’ve ever heard the project described as “shutdown on the verge of production”, having mainly remembered an apparent series of re-writes in 2007, and then the project going away after Mary Parent left her production deal with Universal for a post at MGM.
So I asked the reporter about where that came from, and in the post comments there he kindly provided the relevant portion of his interview transcript.
“After I made SERENITY, I had GONERS set up at the studio. Mary, who’d basically produced SERENITY when she was working at Universal, had bought it. Everything was in place. And the new people just completely shit-canned it. And I wasn’t ready for that.”
Those re-writes in 2007 did not appear to be going well as late as that fall and winter. Mary Parent left her deal with Universal for MGM in March of 2008. By that July, Joss was quoted as saying the project had been “back-burnered”. I guess now we know the operative phrase wasn’t so much “back-burnered” as the more colorful and decisive “shit-canned”. But it’s also the first time, to my knowledge, we’ve heard the project described with “everything was in place”.
All of this perhaps sheds some more light on just what Joss meant mid-2010 when referenced the project for a Sydney audience in the context of a more recent one.
The producers that were attached to it still are attached to it emotionally, and the regime at Universal has changed, and I actually met with them recently and they were saying, “You know, you’ll be finished with the Avengers in ten or twelve years, so why don’t we revisit this.”
It’s never been entirely clear to me here whether the “them” in “met with them recently” referred to the new regime at Universal or to Mary Parent and her then-partner Scott Stuber. Given that the regime at Universal scuttled the project, I’d tend to suspect now that it’s a reference to Parent and Stuber. He again referenced this idea of revisiting the project at SXSW this year, but said he wasn’t sure exactly how that would work.
In the end, the developing tone seems to be both harsher about the project’s demise, and perhaps more skeptical on the idea that it could be resurrected. And that doesn’t even reach the issue of whether or not it’s necessarily even amongst the projects Joss most wants to be working on at this point.
Nonetheless, and as always, I encourage people who want to free Goners to write those open letters. The world might have forgotten about her, but, unreasonable as it might be, some of us still haven’t.