On Goners And Goldfish At SXSW

There has been some talk about, after ‘The Avengers,’ trying to resurrect it. I’m not sure what that process would be like.

At today’s conversation with Joss Whedon event at SXSW, there was an audience question about Goners. At this point, all we have is an incomplete transcript of the exchange via the Snarkmarket live coverage.

Audience: Whatever happened with Goners? The way you described Cabin in the Woods was sort of how you’d described Goners.

JW: Goners and Cabin were very different movies. [Exposition about the fate of Goners that seems complex and hard to summarize.]

Short story is, Joss felt yanked around by studios with Goners. He describes the feeling of constantly being jerked around as being akin to the experience of being a goldfish.

If at some point someone posts a complete transcription of this exchange, rather than Snarkmarket’s attempt to give the gist of Whedon’ remarks, I’ll post it here. In the meantime, some thoughts.

First, whoever asked the question likely was referring to the fact that in a recent interview about The Cabin in the Woods (don’t read until you’ve seen the movie) Whedon made an observation.

I think that’s the thread that’s going to run through all of my stuff: Nobody is expendable

That’s remarkably similar to something he said back in 2006 about Goners.

But it’s told on a very mystical scale and, in a way like everything I’ve tried to do including Buffy, it’s an antidote to that very kind of film, the horror movie with the expendable human beings in it. Because I don’t believe any human beings are.

As for Whedon’s description of the development process on Goners over at Universal, for which we currently have only the reporter’s “short story” version and not Whedon’s actual quote, it sounds mainly like a more blatantly stated version of the sense one gets from the slideshow of quotes over on Dear Universal, FREE GONERS (and scattered as well throughout the Development category here), so perhaps not entirely a surprise.

It’s not clear from Snarkmarket’s coverage if Whedon spoke only of the development process or also gave any indication of Goners‘ current status or potential for revival (or rescue), but it doesn’t sound like it.

Update: Thanks to The Playlist, whose coverage of the panel includes the following lengthy section on the Goners exchange, edited only for additional paragraph breaks.

When someone asked in the crowd about “Goners,” the 2005 spec script sold for “seven figures” to Universal, they asked if elements of the screenplay, which was said to have been a kind of widescreen horror epic, had been cannibalized for “Cabin in the Woods.” Whedon had described the movie as “Like ‘Buffy,’ but scary,” but said little else in the way of details.

None of “Goners” is in “Cabin in the Woods,” though.

“‘Goners’ and ‘Cabin in the Woods’ are very different movies. ‘Goners’ was sold to Universal through Mary Parent. She was the de facto producer of [big screen adaptation of his short-lived ‘Firefly’ television series] ‘Serenity.’ And she set up her shingle at Universal, so I thought it would be protect. But the new people that came in turned around and said, ‘No.'”

Whedon remains cautiously optimistic about the project: “There has been some talk about, after ‘The Avengers,’ trying to resurrect it. I’m not sure what that process would be like.”

He still sounds wary of the studio system that had treated him so poorly (“I think I come up with super-commercial ideas”), and “Goners” was certainly part of his entrance into the creative wilderness.

“‘Goners’ came after ‘Wonder Woman.’ And that was the kind of one-two punch that made me do ‘Cabin’ and ‘Dr. Horrible.’ I had been led to think that, well, sometimes you’re not naive, you’re a goldfish. But ‘Goners’ was, like ‘Cabin,’ about getting under the skin of horror in a big way, and I’d love to make it but I don’t know if I can suffer through the process.”

Image of goldfish courtesy Jon Culver via the specified Creative Commons license.