It’s fairly well known that Marvel and writer/director/magician Joss Whedon came to a semi-amicable separation following his most recent film, Avengers: Age of Ultron, the movie that capped off his contributions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Though normally tight-lipped about inside details, Whedon shed some light on his split during a December Q &A at Oxford University’s Oxford Union: “ I made a completely clean break — not because we had a falling out — just because I was like, ‘I can’t,’” Whedon said of continuing his relationship with Marvel.
Whedon’s talk spanned his entire career, but the details in question come at around the 10:30 mark when the moderator asks him, “Will you have any involvement in the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe?” The conversation, with Whedon’s response, continues from there:
“No. You know, I was their sort of consigliere for awhile, and…”
“Consigliere, did you say?”
“Do you think that’s representative of how Marvel is run then, as a consigliere?”
“We do not discuss our thing. But, I sort of had my finger in all of the films in the second phase, but then I just had to concentrate only on Ultron, and sort of know when it was done I was just going to stop. So I made a completely clean break — not because we had a falling out — just because I was like, ‘I can’t…’ If I was still there going, “Well, here are my thoughts on this film,” I’d be there every day. I wouldn’t do anything else because there are a lot of films, and it is a lot of fun. It’s very seductive. When you can put your little fairy dust on things and just improve them slightly, and they actually listen to you. I was a script doctor for a long time, and the part where they listen to you was very rare; so it was very important for my own self to go ‘we can still be friends,’ but…”
So Whedon and Marvel are still friends, kind of? His tepid response seems born out of exhaustion at the blockbuster filmmaking process mixed with exhaustion over having to deal with Marvel’s complaints, despite hearing they have his 100-percent support.
Later, near the one-hour mark in response to a question about how to cope while proposing new ideas and trying your best in the face of criticism, Whedon said:
“Ultron has been the most complicated response I’ve gotten, and the way I deal with it is becoming fetal for about eight months. I fucking have no spine or self-identity or anything, and it’s horrifying. It sucks, but I’ll be okay later.”
So Whedon is done with Marvel, but he doesn’t regret his contributions or decisions. He also explains the apparent contradiction of fan-favorite character Agent Coulson dying in The Avengers only to be brought back again in ABC’s Marvel TV series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
“I don’t regret bringing back Phil Coulson because he’s Clark Gregg, and he’s so bad ass,” Whedon said, and elaborated further:
“That was an aspect of it that became a headline in the internet, because that’s what they do. It was sort of, ‘Oh, that’s the meanest thing he’s said, let’s use that.’ You have to go, ‘Well, okay, if you take it back in TV, does it take it back in film?’ That was the the thing, because it came from, ‘Why wasn’t he in the second film?’ I’m like, ‘Because I have time to explain that.’ It’s like, ‘In addition to introducing nineteen new characters, this guy’s alive again.’ I couldn’t do that, so… It’s an aspect of it, but it’s a small one. It’s not how I feel about it.”
Despite Whedon tackling some heavy and potentially controversial material, the sprightly Q&A with adoring Oxford students is worth checking out for fans. It includes some tidbits about an abandoned idea for a Firefly spinoff and how he identifies with his villains — especially Ultron, whom Whedon says he’s like because he’s “always right, and fucking nuts. He also says he’s working on some top-secret smaller projects, which seems like a right fit for him in his new post-Marvel phase.
The talk was part of the university’s debating society that has welcomed a seriously wide range of people including everyone from disgraced former FIFA head Sepp Blatter to “Gangnam Style” singer PSY.Photos via Getty Images