Joss Whedon’s fall from grace has been a long time coming. Last year, Charisma Carpenter shed light on historic rumblings of a toxic work environment on the set of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, while Ray Fisher detailed racist behavior on the set of Justice League. Gal Gadot even said he threatened her career for raising her own concerns about the DC flick. Whedon had mostly remained silent on the allegations, but in a new, wide-spanning interview with New York magazine’s Vulture, the one-time feminist hero commented on his blind spots — by pretty much denying everything.
Fisher, who as Cyborg portrayed DC’s first Black superhero, accused Whedon of racism for cutting out scenes that provided Cyborg a nuanced backstory. In a since-retracted statement to Forbes, he also accused Whedon of using color-correction to change an actor’s complexion because he didn’t like their skin tone. Speaking to Vulture, Whedon pushed back against both claims, arguing that he cut many of Fisher’s scenes because Cyborg’s story “logically made no sense” and because he felt the acting was bad. Whedon also said he brightened every actor’s face in the film to give it a lighter look. Casting off Fisher’s motives, Whedon referred to the actor as a “malevolent force.” “We’re talking about a bad actor in both senses,” Whedon said.
Whedon’s explanation for Gadot’s accusations is even more ridiculous. In response to allegations that Whedon said he would make Gadot’s “career miserable,” the director insisted she must have misunderstood him, since English is not her first language. “I don’t threaten people. Who does that?” Whedon said. “English is not her first language, and I tend to be annoyingly flowery in my speech.” He went on to explain his version of events, in which he joked that Gadot would have to go “over his dead body” to cut a scene she didn’t like. Gadot did not agree with his explanation. “I understood perfectly,” she told New York in an email.
Elsewhere in the interview, Whedon spoke about his characterization as a bad showrunner on Buffy. He denied two of its stars’ most damning allegations — that he called a pregnant Charisma Carpenter fat and that he was not allowed in a room alone with a teenage Michelle Trachtenberg — but conceded that he was not as “civilized” back then as he should have been. “I was young,” Whedon said. “I yelled, and sometimes you had to yell. This was a very young cast, and it was easy for everything to turn into a cocktail party.”
Buffy crew members painted a similar picture of a volatile work environment. One unnamed source described Whedon’s habit of “writing really nasty notes” on scripts, to the point of making writers cry, and recounted an incident where Whedon and an unnamed actress rolled around the floor of her office, making out while she worked. (Whedon’s ex-wife, Kai Cole, described his numerous affairs with women from Buffy in a 2017 letter.) Buffy costume designer Cynthia Bergstrom recalled an incident during the filming of Season Five in which, after Bergstrom tried to mitigate an argument between Whedon and star Sarah Michelle Gellar about what Spike’s Buffy-bot should wear, Whedon dug his fingers into her arm, leaving an imprint in her skin. Whedon denied the claims.
Whedon acknowledged his shortcomings to an extent, noting that he had begun seeking treatment for sex and love addiction, among other addictive tendencies. But, by the story’s end, the writer-director seemed to have made peace with himself, stating, “I think I’m one of the nicer showrunners that’s ever been.” Seems like he’s really been working on himself.
Read Whedon’s full interview with Vulture here, and read Liz Shannon Miller’s piece on why Whedon’s comments did him no favors in the long run.