Well you know that you’ve made it when you’re fifty years old and people start writing 450 page biographies of you. Joss Whedon: The Biography is on shelves August 1st. I don’t recommend buying it though, because let’s face it, it’s going to fall off of shelves and kill your loved ones.
All the headlines surrounding the book are not in fact questioning a volume that in length puts those of several president’s biographies to shame (Theodore Roosevelt’s autobiography was famously just a bullet with a racist yet quotable phrase engraved in the the brass) but that it tells just how bad a situation he found The Avengers in when he initially came on board.
See, Zak Penn wrote the initial script for Disney. As you might expect from the sterling pen that brought you Elektra and X-Men: The Last Stand, the script was terrible. So terrible that when Whedon read it, he told the disposable Disney executives that they basically had a pile of oddly shaped toilet paper. “I don’t think you have anything. You need to pretend this draft never happened.”
Then Whedon went home, wrote a five page outline of what he would write for the movie. The executives loved what they saw and signed him instead, presumably with Zak Penn sobbing in the corner, which is really quite surprising given what is greenlit on a day to day basis. Maybe Whedon wrote the outline in crayon, with stick figures of the characters doodled into the margins? I mean, you’ve got to know your audience.
Penn’s response was almost depressingly levelheaded: “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. That was an unusual one. This was more normal.”
You kind of have to feel for the guy when his reaction to being shit on is not to defend his work or complain, but just to compare the consistency and texture of said shit to all the other times he’s been used as a public bathroom. “Still not as bad as the time my wife left me for lawn chair,” Penn might have said in my imagination, “and then there was the time my dog calmly walked into traffic rather than playing fetch with me. That was an unusual one.”