Joss Whedon//The Biography, by Amy Pascale

joss whedon

This book calls itself “The Biography.” The first thing I think is that this is slightly pretentious. “THE biography?” Perhaps “A Biography” would be better. But I’m not here to review the title. In fact, I really didn’t notice that until I sat down to write this review. So I’ll carry on.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I’ve been a huge fan of Joss Whedon ever since I got hooked on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in the early 2000s. Sadly, it had been on for several seasons before I started seriously watching it. And I have my oldest daughter, Rachel, to thank for that. She told me she wanted to start watching it, and would have been, probably, in her pre-teens. We started watching it together, every Tuesday night, finished out the series, and, somewhere in there, started buying all the DVD sets so we could watch it right from the beginning. But hold on . . . I digress. This isn’t a review of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, either.

I think Amy Pascale has done a pretty decent job of giving us a picture of the man behind all of these things. (Literally, too, as there are pictures in the middle of the book.) But, in my mind, it’s not so much a “biography” of Joss Whedon, as it is a “history” of all that he has accomplished.

Sure, there is biographical information at the beginning, but once we get his background, the book launches into a blow-by-blow account of everything from Roseanne (yes, he wrote for Roseanne) to The Avengers. I learned a lot, reading this book. For example, Joss’s paternal grandfather, John Ogden Whedon, wrote for The Donna Reed Show, The Andy Griffith Show, and The Dick Van Dyke Show. Joss’s father, Thomas Avery Whedon, wrote for Captain Kangaroo, was instrumental in the beginnings of The Electric Company, and wrote for The Golden Girls. So, you see, story-telling runs in his family; it’s in his blood.

I loved reading about how Buffy the Vampire Slayer came to be, followed by Angel and Firefly. I loved reading about Joss’s passion for those shows, especially Firefly. It seems that out of everything he has done, Firefly holds the dearest place in his heart, which makes me still even more angry at Fox. Amy even uses the phrase, “the Friday night death slot,” which I have been saying for years.

What is, perhaps, most astounding, is what Joss did with The Avengers. It was the first high-budget blockbuster movie that he had ever been in charge of. And he delivered it “on schedule and under budget.” That is astounding, even for a seasoned director! But for one who had never worked on a film of this scale, it is beyond astounding. The respect that Joss has garnered during all of this is wonderful. It’s no wonder that he is so widely loved as a writer, producer, and director.

There were many heartbreaks along the way; the cancelling of Buffy, Angel, and Firefly, along with at least one film that has yet to see the light of day (Goners), but Joss always kept going. Even during the writer’s strike that delayed Dollhouse, he worked on an idea that would eventually revolutionize the way movies would be released, Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog, a film that was released entirely online. At one point, Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard spent a weekend in a two-story hotel room, one downstairs and one upstairs, and hammered out what would eventually be The Cabin in the Woods (which also almost never got released).

In the midst of all this story-telling, Joss and friends would meet regularly at his house, and read Shakespeare. Joss has a great love for the Bard. But it was serious reading. Joss insisted on it. Amy writes about these casual readings early on in the book, but I knew it was a foreshadowing of something greater, as would any real fan of all things Whedon. Because, you see, these readings would eventually evolve into what is probably Joss’s favorite production of his, a modern-day setting of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, shot on location . . . at Joss Whedon’s house! Pretty much all of his favorite people are included in the film (which was shot in black and white by a handheld camera): Amy Acker, from Angel and Dollhouse, played Beatrice; Alexis Denisof, also from Angel and Dollhouse, played Benedick; Fran Kranz, from Dollhouse and Cabin in the Woods, played Claudio; Nathan Fillion, from Firefly and Buffy, played Dogberry; Clark Gregg, from The Avengers, played Leonato (Tony Head was originally slated to play the part, but they couldn’t work out the schedules); Reed Diamond, from Dollhouse, played Don Pedro; Sean Maher, from Firefly/Serenity, played Don John; Jillian Morgese, “an extra in an Avengers scene,” played Hero; Tom Lenk, from Buffy, played Verges. I’ve seen this movie, and can attest that it is really quite good. It’s a lot of fun to see all of these people doing Shakespeare together.

Where will Joss go from here? After this book was published, he completed the Avengers sequel, The Avengers: Age of Ultron. I confess, I still haven’t seen that one. I simply don’t have a lot of time in my life for movies. I will see it, though, as I enjoyed the first Avengers movie quite a bit. Ever since Firefly was cancelled, there has been talk of a reboot. But so far, as much as he loved Firefly, Joss simply has not had time to tackle that. IMDB lists nothing that he is currently working on, other than Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the TV spinoff from The Avengers. So who knows what the future holds for Joss Whedon. But if you’re a fan, you should probably read this book. Just like me, you might learn a thing or two about this guy.

Oh, and I forgot the mention . . . the foreword was written by Nathan Fillion.

TTFN, y’all!

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