Writer/director Joss Whedon is one of geekdom’s most cherished creators. Known primarily for creating cult classic TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997) and Firefly (2002), and for directing the first two Avengers films, Whedon’s reach actually goes much further than nerd culture movies and TV. Whedon also has a reputation for being one of Hollywood’s most requested and respected script doctors, with a ton of the most popular films of the last few decades having his fingerprints on them, even if he doesn’t have a credit (he worked on the Twister (1996) script, for instance, but his work is uncredited).
Whether you’re a Whedon diehard or just kind of liked that first Avengers movie, we think you’ll appreciate these 10 interesting facts about Joss Whedon.
10. His First TV Writing Job Was On ‘Roseanne’
Whedon moved to Los Angeles in the late 80s and landed his first writing gig not long after on the sitcom Roseanne (1988). Whedon penned four episodes for the show’s 1989-90 season and followed that up with three episodes of Parenthood (1990) before getting the opportunity to write his first movie script in 1992. The movie? Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which Whedon would later adapt into a very successful TV show five years later. Considering Whedon graduated from Wesleyan University in 1987, landing a writing job on a major network series only two years after graduation is a pretty significant accomplishment.
9. He is a Third-Generation TV Writer
Writing truly is in Whedon’s blood, as he may well be the first third-generation television writer in history. His grandfather John Whedon was a successful sitcom writer in the 1950s and 60s, contributing scripts to shows such as The Donna Reed Show (1958) and Leave It to Beaver (1957), and his father Tom Whedon worked on The Dick Cavett Show (1968), Alice (1976), and The Golden Girls (1985).
8. His First On-Screen Appearance Was In ‘Angel’
Whedon’s various TV shows, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel (1999), Firefly, and Dollhouse (2008) are often referred to as being part of the “Jossverse.” Since Whedon is so often closely associated with his creations, you would think that he would cameo quite often, but he didn’t actually appear on-screen in one of his shows (or any show he worked on for that matter) until the Angel episode “Through the Looking Glass,” where he appeared as “Numfar” of the Deathwok Clan. His role included a lot of dancing for some reason.
7. He Attempted To Rewrite The Script For ‘X-Men’ (2000)
Whedon’s early career is full of scriptwriting wins — he worked on films such as Speed (1994) and the original Toy Story (1995) — and he even got the chance to come in and try to rework the script for Bryan Singers first X-Men. Unfortunately, the film’s producers didn’t like Whedon’s changes and scrapped the majority of his work. One line that did survive? Storm’s infamous “You know what happens to Toads when they get hit by lightning?” bit. Funnily enough, Whedon blames Halle Berry’s delivery for the dialogue coming off, claiming that her delivery sounded “like she was [The Addams Family’s] Desdemona.” Sorry Joss, but we don’t think any kind of delivery was saving that line from being a stinker.
6. He’s Indirectly Responsible For A ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’ (2006) Plot Line
Although Whedon had nothing to do with the actual creation of the awful X-Men: The Last Stand, the film did borrow concepts he originated in his Astonishing X-Men comics run. The idea of a mutant cure developed by Dr. Kavita Rao, Beast’s interest in it, and the prominent role played by both Kitty Pryde and Colossus, were all inspired by Whedon’s “Gifted” story. In hindsight, we wish Whedon had actually been involved with making the film because it sure could have used someone who knew what they were doing at the helm.
5. He Worked On ‘Waterworld’ (1995)
Like most screenwriters, Joss Whedon has some films in his back catalog that he probably wants to forget about, such as the 1995 debacle Waterworld starring Kevin Costner. Fortunately for him, Whedon didn’t actually have that much to do with the final product, as he wasn’t brought in to do script rewrites until very late in the production and as he tells the AV Club, there wasn’t much he could do to save it: “When I was brought in, there was no water in the last 40 pages of the script. It all took place on land, or on a ship, or whatever. I’m like, ‘Isn’t the cool thing about this guy that he has gills?’ And no one was listening. I was there basically taking notes from [Kevin Costner], who was very nice, fine to work with, but he was not a writer.”
4. He Almost Made A ‘Wonder Woman’ Movie
Joss Whedon has earned a reputation for crafting female-driven stories, making him an obvious choice for a project such as a Wonder Woman movie. It turns out that Whedon was actually attached to bringing the DC Comics heroine to the big screen back in 2005 as writer/director. Whedon ended up leaving the project in 2007 over creative differences with the studio, with Whedon claiming that they never showed much interest in his ideas for the film. “I would go back in a heartbeat if I believed that anybody believed in what I was doing. The lack of enthusiasm was overwhelming.” Fortunately, he eventually found his way to Marvel and made the sensational The Avengers (2012), but we’re still curious about what Whedon’s Wonder Woman would have looked like.
3. He Directed Some Of The Marvel Post-Credit Scenes
Whedon is well known for directing The Avengers and its sequel Avengers: Age of Ultron, but what you might not know is that he also directed a couple of the post-credits tags included at the end of every Marvel movie. He directed the post-credits scene in Thor (2011) where Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) shows Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) the Tesseract, as well as the mid-credits scene from Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) that introduces Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen).
2. He Allegedly Made More Money From ‘Dr. Horrible’ Than ‘The Avengers’
Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (2008) and The Avengers couldn’t be much different from one another: one is a comedic musical that Whedon self-funded for around $200,000 and the other is the third highest grossing film of all time. You would think that Whedon’s Avengers paycheck would have outstripped whatever he made off of Dr. Horrible, but as Whedon claimed during a Q&A at Paleyfest in 2015, he made substantially more off of the latter. Thankfully, he got a big raise for Age of Ultron, though he did deny reports that estimated his pay as being a staggering $100 million.
1. His One Major Criticism of ‘The Avengers’
Despite being a big studio production, The Avengers was clearly a passion project for Whedon, as the self-professed comic geek wrote and directed the film. Still, Whedon is refreshingly self-critical when necessary. On the commentary track for The Avengers, Whedon admitted that he didn’t really like how the nuclear bomb that Iron Man sends through the portal over New York single-handedly wipes out the Chitauri threat in one fell swoop, claiming that the “kill the queen bee, kill the drones” nature of the scene wasn’t what it could have been. However, he does claim that it was necessary so that the Avengers could enjoy a moment of triumph at the end.