Whether you know it or not writer and director Joss Whedon has had a tremendous effect on the way you view pop culture today. Though he is best known as the mind behind Buffy The Vampire Slayer his career has seen the world of Hollywood change, at least in part, because of his influence.
Writer Amy Pascale’s book Joss Whedon: The Biography is a treasure trove of stories that reflect that Whedon’s fascinating career. From his childhood days telling jokes to his dads co-workers, the writers of Electric Company, to his years as an outcast in a British boarding school. Pascale does a great job of blending not only one-on-one interviews with those closest to Whedon but a detailed history of his upbringing complete with commentary from Whedon himself.
As a fan of his work the book was a pleasure to read. While a lot of what is mentioned is common knowledge at this point, the level of insight Pascale brings to each chapter really sheds new light on sometimes old material.
For instance, it is fairly well known that Whedon had a hand in the writing of Toy Story. What isn’t discussed is just how much influence he had on the creation of not only the Toy Story world but the Pixar method of filmmaking. At the time the company was filled with the industry’s top CGI people but no writers. Whedon, who had come in for a rewrite, saw the initial problems with the characters and created his own writers room. While not all of his script may have made it on screen his touch is apparent in characters like Rex and especially Buzz Lightyear. The book also gives readers a definitive version of what really happened during the making of Whedon’s famed 1992 version of Buffy and Alien: Resurrection.
What was most surprising about the biography is that it works as not only a historical reference to Whedon’s career but also an almost how-to guide for breaking into the industry as a screenwriter. Pascale takes you through all of Whedon’s trials and tribulations from his first day on Roseanne to the time he sold a spec script based on a joke someone made during a pitch meeting. Throughout his interviews Whedon gives tons of advice to would-be screenwriters and some genuine insight into how the Hollywood system works.
The fact that Pascale is a fan herself shows in her writing. One can almost hear her gushing on the other side of the page as she describes the time young Whedon met his idol Stan Lee at a comic convention and he signed one of his Thor comic books. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it does skew the way information is presented in the medium of a biography. Still, her enthusiasm leads her to some incredible stories.
The Joss Whedon biography is essential reading for anyone that is a fan of good screenwriting. There’s no need to be familiar with Whedon’s work although it certainly helps in some cases. The fact that Whedon is so honest and humble in his interviews allows the reader to see his work, especially his early years, in a new light.
The book hits shelves August 1, 2014.