Practically from the first moment that Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell announced their Kickstarter campaign for a Veronica Mars movie — and certainly after the project amassed over $2.5 million in 24 hours — people began wondering if the same could be done for another gone-before-its-time TV series.
Joss Whedon was one of them.
“Yes, obviously, the next thing will be that we will try to Kickstart a Dollhouse reunion,” Whedon told BuzzFeed.
He’s joking, folks. Whedon — a professed Veronica Mars super-fan — says he knew almost instantly that now that fan-based funding had been proven viable at a feature-film scale, the constant drumbeat of “when will there be another Firefly movie?” would only get louder. Whedon is something of a pioneer in the realm of reviving a canceled series into a feature film: Three years after Fox unceremoniously axed Firefly in 2002, Whedon convinced Universal Pictures to bankroll a feature-film version that served as his feature-directing debut. Alas, Serenity grossed a meager $38.9 million worldwide, scuttling any lasting hope that a major studio would step up to do it again. But if Fox or Universal signed off on distributing a fan-funded Firefly film…? Just the idea of it is enough to get Browncoats everywhere scratching at their wallets.
Initially, however, Whedon declined to talk about what the implications of Veronica Mars’ success would mean for Firefly. But then, he says, “I realized if I don’t, it’s the only thing I’m ever going to be asked ever by anyone.”
So here’s what he had to say:
Adam B. Vary: So what was your reaction when you heard this was happening with Veronica Mars and it was so successful?
Joss Whedon: It was unfettered joy. A) I thought it was an awesome and ballsy move. B) I love V. Mars and want more of it. And C) It feels like a real game-changer. Like, not since Louis C.K. [selling his comedy special directly online].
ABV: There has been some bellyaching about the idea of going to fans to ask them to donate money to a project that they won’t be true investors in.
ABV: Any thoughts on that?
JW: You know, I get that. I understand that it feels not as pure, and that the presence of a studio makes it disingenuous somehow. But people clearly understood what was happening and just wanted to see more of the thing they love. To give them that opportunity doesn’t feel wrong. If it was a truly wrong move, I don’t think it would have worked. I feel like people would have said, “Hey, that’s not fair! That doesn’t count!” It costs a lot to see a movie anyway. And it’s usually not one you like. That kind of passion, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. I might not be thinking it through. I’m not exactly business Joe.
ABV: So, what does this mean for Firefly?
JW: That’s what everybody wants to know about. Uh, yeah. My fourth feeling when I read about [the Veronica Mars Kickstarter campaign] was a kind of dread. Because I realized the only thing that would be on everybody’s mind right now. I’ve said repeatedly that I would love to make another movie with these guys, and that remains the case. It also remains the case that I’m booked up by Marvel for the next three years, and that I haven’t even been able to get Dr. Horrible 2 off the ground because of that. So I don’t even entertain the notion of entertaining the notion of doing this, and won’t. Couple years from now, when Nathan [Fillion]’s no longer [on] Castle and I’m no longer the Tom Hagen of the Marvel Universe and making a giant movie, we might look and see where the market is then. But right now, it’s a complete non-Kickstarter for me.
ABV: I think you would need at least 10 times the budget of what the Veronica Mars folks are asking for their movie to make a Firefly movie make sense.
JW: Yes. We come to Veronica Mars to hear her talk and hear her father talk. But Firefly/Serenity, it’s kind of a different animal — and then there’s also the question of what kind of animal it is. Because some people are talking about Firefly episodes. Some people are talking about [a new] Serenity. I think anything we could get off the ground would be appreciated by the fans. But what form it would take is I think under some debate.
For me, [Kickstarter] doesn’t just open the floodgates. God knows, things are cheaper now than when we made even Serenity. Good effects can be done in a different manner. Nor is that universe all about spectacle either. But it is a tad more expensive — and a little all-consuming! And of course, there’s the other fear: What if it’s not that good? I can do something that’s not that good — that’s fine. But if I do that and it’s not that good, I’m going to feel really stupid.
Because I’m too busy to deal with it, I did have a moment of just, Oh my god! I’m in trouble now. I’ve always said, “Yes, I’d love to do another one,” and it’s still true. But I sort of got slapped in the face with it. Or probably will.
ABV: Well at least you have a good excuse to kick the can down the road a bit, since you’re, how did you put it, the Tom Hagen of Marvel Universe? That’s a great metaphor.
JW: (laughs) That’s how I see it. At some point, [Marvel Studios chief] Kevin Feige is going to turn to me and say, “You’re out, Joss.”
This interview has been edited and condensed.