‘There’s Something About This That Hasn’t Been Expressed Yet’

This is supposed to be a dormant archive site, but since BuzzFeed snagged a bit of an update, I’ll add it here.

Whedon’s fantasy horror thriller project with a female lead protagonist has remained dormant for years.

“Every now and then, it crops up in my head. A lot of my stories that I’ve told, I’m like, I’m past that stage of storytelling, or I got it out of my system, and it’s hard to work up the energy to go back. Every now and then with Goners, I’m like, there’s something about this that hasn’t been expressed yet. But I can’t think about anything that involves a number of people. The central character, it’s really her story. But then she really falls in with this, dare I say, team. And I’m just like, Can I please do something that just isn’t that. I’m so tired! So it’s another question mark. Most of these are question marks, sorry! But with exclamation points, and smiley emojis!”

Image of mouth taped shut courtesy Jennifer Moo via the specified Creative Commons license.

‘The New People Just Completely Shit-Canned It’

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, Whedon 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 Whedon 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.

Image of a chamber pot courtesy Tim Evanson via the specified Creative Commons license.

‘That Was Definitely Going To Happen’

Remember the flashback to which I recently linked? Based upon his answer to a question about Wonder Woman from today’s Joss Whedon AMA on Reddit, I’d guess the pain lingers.

They never really told me. But by the time it was looking grim, I was so burnt, and so excited about my next project, Goners, that was DEFINITELY going to happen, that I didn’t mind.

And, no, Wikipedia, that “definitely” was not an announcement that Goners is moving forward. It’s a sarcastic remark about both projects having collapsed in somewhat rapid succession.

If you’d like to read the entire AMA, you can wade though the entire thread or just read his answers (click “context” on any one for the question at hand).

For the record, I didn’t succeed in getting an answer on the matter of buying back Goners from Universal Pictures.

‘I Don’t Usually Go Back’

In a recent interview with GQ in advance of The Cabin in the Woods and Avengers, the soon-to-be “King of all Hollywoodland” was asked a question potentially relevant to Goners.

Are there any unfinished projects that you are hoping to revive post-Avengers?

I do have screenplays I’ve written that never saw the light of day but I don’t usually go back to them. When I’ve told a story, I want to tell another story. Some people might have a hearty laugh about that because I’ve taken Buffy from movie to TV to comic and Serenity from TV to movie to comic. I don’t mind being in the same world, I just don’t like telling the same story. I have spent a bit of time thinking about if Avengers does well and I can do anything I want for a short period of time [laughs]. What would be the next big thing? There are two things that I cannot resist: one is musicals and the other is a spaceship in trouble. But I am smart enough not to combine the two things…

While it’s true that as recently as the middle of 2010, Whedon has expressed interest in the possibility of revisiting Goners after the likely blockbuster success of Avengers, he’s more recently expressed some doubt as to just how that could happen.

It’s probably important to remember that Goners was written six or seven years ago now, and it’s always possible that makes it, in a sense, old news creatively. With a new micro-studio fired up, and plans for a Dr. Horrible sequel as well as a web series collaboration with Warren Ellis, it’s not likely Goners is atop the list of storytelling priorities.

I’m still fairly certain that we’re approaching the start of a two-year period during which, under Writers Guild contract provisions, Whedon could buy back Goners, but I’ve never actually confirmed that and, more importantly, there’s certainly no guarantee that either Universal or Whedon even would be interested in such a sale, or that Whedon could afford to buy it back it he wanted to.

Nonetheless, I and others will persist in “believing unreasonably” (as Whedon said of the Browncoats who wanted more Firefly and found themselves with Serenity) and, as always, seek to free Goners, one way or another.

Image of unproduced screenplays courtesy Sharon Terry via the specified Creative Commons license.

Flashback: January 2006

Recent comments led me to a Total Film piece not previously mentioned here, as it’s from January 2006, prior to this site’s launch.

But what of this idea that Goners might go first? “Universal’s Mary Parent has it. She’s been setting up and working on it knowing that I was finishing my draft of Wonder Woman. But she and I are going to sit down soon and thrash out the work that needs to be done on that, and it really is going to be a case of, ‘which draft is in better shape? Who is ready to pull the switch?’ and then I’ll do whichever. Goners has been very close to my heart for years. Wonder Woman is something I’m in love with as well. I can’t lose!”

Ouch.

Whedon is fairing better this year, with The Cabin in the Woods and The Avengers opening, his micro-studio working up Much Ado About Nothing and In Your Eyes, progress toward Dr. Horrible‘s follow-up, and apparent movement on Wastelanders with Warren Ellis.

Image of directing traffic courtesy Daniel Guy via the specified Creative Commons license.