Joss Whedon is set to break box office records with “The Avengers,” but his focus was almost on something completely different: Batman.
The DC Comics franchise is set to finish its trilogy this summer under director Christopher Nolan. But Whedon — best known for his work on shows like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Firefly” — recently talked about how that franchise was almost his … and what he would’ve done if it were.
Whedon felt that Bruce Wayne would demonstrate his motivation to protect the innocent much more directly, namely by protecting a young girl in an alley similar to where his parents were killed.
“And he’s like this tiny 12-year-old who’s about to get the shit kicked out of him,” Whedon recently told GQ. “And then it cuts to Wayne Manor and Alfred is running like something terrible has happened, and he finds Bruce, and he’s back from the fight, and he’s completely fine. And Bruce is like, ‘I stopped them. I can stop them.’
“That was the moment for me. When he goes, ‘Oh, wait a minute. I can actually do something about this.’ The moment he gets that purpose, instead of just being overwhelmed by the grief of his parent’s death.”
Whedon was one of several people approached to take over the Batman franchise after it breathed its last dying breath with George Clooney in the title role. Darren Aronofsky (“The Wrestler,” “Black Swan”) was one of the people attached to the role, set to take on the franchise with Frank Miller writing. The only problem was that he had plans to turn the franchise on its head, including making Alfred African-American and Bruce Wayne homeless.
Wolfgang Petersen (“Enemy Mine,” “Troy”) was also attached to a project that would pit Batman against Superman in a collision of Warner Bros. movie properties. However, when Petersen left the project to direct “Troy,” Nolan and his team was brought in, and “Batman Begins” was released in 2005.
Whedon’s idea didn’t make it past the pitch stage.
“The executive was looking at me like I was Agent Smith made of numbers,” Whedon said, making a Matrix reference. “He wasn’t seeing me at all. And I was driving back to work, and I was like, ‘Why did I do that? Why did I get so invested in that Batman story? How much more evidence do I need that the machine doesn’t care about my vision?”
Whedon got an answer to that question soon after he arrived back in the office. He got a call telling him that “Firefly” has been cancelled by Fox.
“And I was like, ‘It was a rhetorical question! It was not actually a request! Come on!”
Whedon found his own thing with “The Avengers,” which is already getting some strong reviews from critics, and surprisingly big numbers overseas (superhero films usually don’t do as well in foreign markets). And at the same time, Whedon likes what Nolan has done with the Batman franchise, and expects to be warming a seat when “The Dark Knight Rises” opens later this year.