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September 24 2006

Joel Silver: Punishing Producer? Radar Online ranks Hollywood's nightmares and dreamscapes via "50 of the industry's top power brokers" Exclusive Radar Poll. Highly entertaining!

Silver is runner up to the infamous Scott Rudin.

Also, Brett Ratner wins Hollywood's biggest hack. After seeing X3, I agree wholeheartedly.
Punishing. I don't like that.

All he needs to do with Joss is give him complete creative control and a big pile of money, then sit back and await an even bigger pile of money from the happiest comic book moviegoers ever. I hope he realizes this.
I just hope he doesn't stab Joss's hand with a pencil - or harm any part of Joss with anything solid, liquid, gas, corporeal, or no-corporeal.
All he needs to do with Joss is give him complete creative control and a big pile of money

That's not Silver's call, nor something he can deliver. The studio controls both those aspects, budget and creative control. Silver's job is to mediate between Joss and the studio, be a creative partner in the entire process (up to and including casting and giving notes to him about the script) and get him the money, resources and time he needs to make the movie he wants to make. Silver's job as an executive producer is anything but hands-off, though there are those producers who are less... forceful in giving their opinions or take a much more backseat approach to producing. If you watch the behind the scenes docs in the LotR trilogy, you'll see Barrie Osbourne, the exec producer, literally drafted into directing scenes. Peter Jackson cracks wise that it was the perfect way to get him out of his hair.

I think Silver is pretty noted for being very hands-on with his projects, especially when they're getting off rails. Here's hoping he and Joss have a fruitful partnership.
Lets just thank god Bruickheimer didn't get his hands on WW first. After that experience, I don't think we'd have any joss left.
I just hope he doesn't stab Joss's hand with a pencil


Actually that's ok, Joss is already used at being stabbed by pencils.
I slouch corrected. All they need to do is give him complete creative control and a big pile of money.
I know about his reputation, but on a positive note, he also produces Veronica Mars.
Beat me to it, dreamlogic. I hope that's the Joel Silver that Joss runs into, not a punishy Joel. ;-)
It doesn't really need a spoiler tag so I've removed.

All he needs to do with Joss is give him complete creative control and a big pile of money


Not always the best idea.
In other news, Ron Meyer, President of Universal, is The Biggest Mensch -- which I think is kind of a good thing, isn't it? Hopefully he'll be able to resist NBC's meddling and keep the purplebellies and reavers off the Goners set...
Far be it from me to suggest CCC+BPM as an all-purpose business model, Simon, but when you've got someone who always comes in under budget, is the expert in Hollywood on female superheroes, and has a history of being open to good suggestions while resistant to ones that turn out less so, I submit that it's best to give him what he needs and get out of the way. Some folk need tough love on the job, but there is the other kind.
But then Joss has only made one feature film which under performed considerably at the box office. That and a potentially huge franchise is not going to be completely entrusted to any novice director (despite Joss' obvious qualifications).

And the Superman Returns debacle came about as a result of Bryan Singer been given a lot of creative control and oodles of cash. Result lack lustre box office performance and a movie that was superb in some parts but over all pretty mediocre. So I would imagine Joel and the Warnes Bros execs will taking a very close eye on what Joss proposes to do as a result of Singer's efforts.

Plus Joel Silver has had more hits than I've had hot dinners, so I would assume he knows what he's talking about. And he was the producer on Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, so I love him loads for that.
However, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was the definition of a box office flop. (Although, great movie).
All good points, S, but allow me to complexify.

Despite the normal business tendency to judge moviemakers by the box office performance of their last project, the money people must realize that while Serenity had only a tiny pre-existing audience, Wonder Woman has a huge pre-existing audience. Loads of moviegoers had no interest in seeing a sci-fi/western/comedy/horror even after being informed by close friends and loved ones that it was the best sci-fi/western/comedy/horror movie ever. But there's a huge pre-existing audience that will flock to Wonder Woman as long as they don't hear from reviewers, friends and family that it's Elektra (or a weak Superman).

The money folks can also differentiate between giving CCC+BPM to a Bryan Singer, whose previous experience with comic book superheroes was as story writer and director for two box office successes (the first two X-Men movies) and a Joss Whedon, who created a big, popular money-making superhero (Buffy), wrote and directed a dozen or so financially and artistically successful scripts about the character, and basically lives to tell popular stories about adolescent girls with superpowers. Singer's a good director who may have got lucky with the X-Men. Whedon's career was built on making stories about a female superhero popular and well-respected. Whedon's put more thought into telling a female superhero's story to a mass audience , and achieved greater popular and critical success, than just about anyone.

I didn't see Superman Returns and don't know how much money it made, but I think that its shortcomings creatively or financially can be said to "a result of Bryan Singer [being] given a lot of creative control and oodles of cash" only if there was someone above him who would have made better creative choices--IOW, someone who would have spent the money better.

It would be a big mistake if the money gods concluded from Serenity's performance that they know how to make a more successful female superhero movie than Joss. An understandable and typical mistake, but one that, if they keep in mind the track record of their writer/director when it comes to telling and selling the story of a young woman with superpowers making her way in the world, they will wish to avoid.

I just hate to think of him having to spend hours arguing with people who don't realize how easy it is to screw up a comic book movie that that, no, it's really not going to improve box office if he puts Diana Prince in Daisy Dukes. Joss knows the cinematic potential of the woman superhero, and the pitfalls to be avoided with her, better than anyone. The safest, smartest thing they can do with their investment is put it in his hands, make whatever suggestions they want, but leave the final decisions to him.
And I didn't like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, although I think Robert Downey Jr. is great in everything but prison.

[ edited by Pointy on 2006-09-24 16:41 ]
But there's a huge pre-existing audience that will flock to Wonder Woman as long as they don't hear from reviewers, friends and family that it's Elektra (or a weak Superman).

And it's as much the studios responsibility (ie the producers), as much as the directors, to ensure they deliver a good movie.

I think the people at Warner Bros, and Joel, are intelligent enough to realise that Joss knows his shit. He both loves and understands cinema, is on his way to understanding how to deliver a good film and can control a project. That said, however, if they simply go "That script is great!", rush it into production and send him no notes, and it appears in cinemas next summer, I'll be very, very afraid. Why? Because there should be somebody, somewhere in the chain who can say "You know this scene where Catwoman eats catfood from a cat tin? People are going to LAUGH at that. And in a very, very bad way". Clearly, that didn't happen with Catwoman.

Don't get me wrong - I think anything a director makes should be their movie, and during shooting everybody should follow to the tune of the directors vision (or, indeed, instructions). However, if a company has $100m sunk in a project, I believe they also have the right to shape the project to what they know is profitable.

So, do all studios know what they are doing? No. Do all directors? No. What's the best case scenario on a film? I great writer, director, producers, studio, actors and a whole load of luck. A collaberative process, basically, between all involved. In theory, a studio should bring expert knowledge in finances, marketing and everything else to a table -- stuff a director doesn't (and shouldn't) necessary understand, which will help them with the process.

Serenity is a classic example. During post production, Serenity didn't exactly leap out of early test screenings (non-fan) with great results. The studio folk helped with suggestions which cleared up areas of confusion for the audience, and it became a better movie. Of course, yes, there was a slight problem with the advertising.
And I didn't like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang


Pointy, I know what you mean. The scenes weren't balanced well. The first Kiss, meh, but by the second, things were much more open and probing. Same pattern with the Bangs--the final climax of the last Bang was earth-shattering.

I would think Joss would want to work with talented people with strong opinions they voiced often--he certainly never indicated resentment of the feedback he received on Serenity, did he? But having final say--I think he might very much want that.
Who cannot love Kiss Kiss Bang Bang?

Who are you and what planet are you from! (I'm only joking, different tastes and all)

Smooch Smooch Explosion Explosion was one of the best movies of the year and I love it like a mother loves its child! Michelle Monahan can be my child anyday.

Wait.

That was wrong.

I think I may have given connetations of incest. Really bad incest. I didnt mean child like...or any kind of unbridled sexual fantasy. Oh god someone stop me.

I SO did not mean it that way. Incest is just not funny anymore.
I don't think they would've let Joss wear both writing and directing hats if all the powerful They didn't ttust and have confidence that the man can produce an entertaining film on budget.

Singer seems very overrated to me. I mean, I liked the "Usual Suspects" as much as the next person, but...

The biggest hurdle for Joss is going to get people to like Wonder Woman. People are going to flock to it at the start to see a hot chick in an outfit, and then they're going to hear a less than traditional origin story about an island and greek gods and...it's a harder sell than than the first 10 minutes of Serenity, if you ask me.
Starwars killed the incest jokes flat. Also with the Michelle Monahan love.
the money people must realize that while Serenity had only a tiny pre-existing audience, Wonder Woman has a huge pre-existing audience.


Can you name 5 Wonder Woman fans? I can't :p. Out of the big 3 (those being Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman), I think Wonder Woman has the smallest group of fans. I'd even go so far as to say there are far more Browncoats than Wonder Woman fans. Which is why Joss can get away with making changes, he knows there won't be much of an uproar. As opposed to say he was making the Transformers movie and decided Megatron should be bright pink.

Joss Whedon, who created a big, popular money-making superhero (Buffy), wrote and directed a dozen or so financially and artistically successful scripts about the character, and basically lives to tell popular stories about adolescent girls with superpowers. Singer's a good director who may have got lucky with the X-Men. Whedon's career was built on making stories about a female superhero popular and well-respected. Whedon's put more thought into telling a female superhero's story to a mass audience , and achieved greater popular and critical success, than just about anyone.


Joss made money for 20th Century Fox, not so much for the networks that aired Buffy and Angel. Somewhere I read that the WB and UPN were not that overjoyed about the ratings Buffy and Angel got in regards to the fees they were forking out for them. Whilst I would agree that the shows were a critical success, I wouldn't say they were a popular success for the networks.
I think it's hard to compare Wonder Woman with Superman Returns or Serenity.

Serenity was tougher to market; it was riding on the back of a cancelled television series that nobody had heard of with a name that doesn't click with science-fiction western action (whereas Wonder Woman is a name everyone is familiar with and knows roughly what to expect from), it came out at a slow time of the year, it had poor marketing strategy (eg the free screenings which were just daft).

Superman Returns was a sequel to some very old films yet with a franchise designed to appeal to children; despite being a sequel the entire thing felt more like a retread of the first film, the character seemed a bit too old for younger people to relate to, there wasn't much action... people just aren't excited about Superman any more, he's been done on film for years and there are more interesting superhero franchises out there - SR didn't really define Superman as being more interesting than any of them.

Bryan Singer isn't as imaginative or smart a director as Joss Whedon... in fact I don't think Bryan Singer is a particularly great director. His films are okay but nothing to get excited about (and unlike Whedon he doesn't even write his screenplays). So I hope that Silver doesn't use Singer as an example.
Simon, I think the knowledge of Wonder Woman is much, much, much greater than Firefly, though. It's just that a lot of people remember the TV series - fighting for our rights in tights! - as it was pretty popular back in the day. And worldwide. However, anybody know any obsessional Wonder Woman fans? Or hardcore fans? Anybody know any Wonder Woman episode names?

Here's a true story: I've mentioned to a few people at work and friends that Joss has Wonder Woman. And every single one has laughed at me. Or at Joss. I'm not sure which it is. Possibly both of us.

Of course, if anybody is going to do it, it's Joss.
If you're going to go flashing your superior knowledge of the 'formers, Simon,I can't compete. But virtually everyone in America knows who Wonder Woman is, and I couldn't say that about River. WW's been around since WW II. She's Americana. Not as big as Superman and Batman, but next big. People go to Superman and Batman movies as long as they don't hear a good reason not to. I expect, sans any marketing expertise of my own, that WW will follow the same model. "A Wonder Woman movie by the guy who did Buffy" -- that will sell tickets. "A sci fi/western/horror/comedy by the guy who did Buffy" -- people had to see it to believe it was good.

The message I would send (destined to be deleted unread) to the financial powers that be is: If anyone can make a great, popular, iconic, monumental Wonder Woman movie, it's Joss Whedon. Do you know anyone in the industry who could do it better? If not, when it comes time to make judgment calls, leave the final decisions to him. And then get ready to be hailed for your vision, you wealthy, powerful, dark suited feminists, you.
To me, Wonder Woman is a way bigger character than she's getting credit for. Are there that many hard-core WW fans ? I suspect not (which is the major reason, IMO, that Joss can get away with changes) but that doesn't mean she's not an icon.

I do agree though that even the best creators sometimes need a dissenting voice in their ranks. If someone had taken Bryan Singer (who I think is a very talented director) aside and said "Bri, mate, it's got some beautiful shots and it's a lovely homage to the Donner films and the comics but it's just too frikkin' long dude" then 'Superman Returns' would have been a complete success rather than just the partial one I thought it was (though it's definitely a film for fans what with the recreation of the cover of Action Comics #1 etc.). Joss is only human, he's gonna find it as hard as the next writer/director to kill his babies when it comes to pulling favourite scenes or dialogue he's proud of.

(that said, i'm not sure the 'suits' are the best people to be giving advice on these things and though Joel Silver's got a good track record it's probably worth remembering that as well as Veronica Mars, the first Matrix movie and 'Kiss Kiss...' he also produced such filmic masterpieces as 'House of Wax', the other Matrix movies and 'Swordfish')
If anyone can make a great, popular, iconic, monumental Wonder Woman movie, it's Joss Whedon.

Which is pretty much exactly the reason Joel gave for hiring Whedon in the first press release. :o)

Ah, Swordfish. Features Hugh Jackman having a blowjob whilst breaking encryption and a firewall. Classy film with many layers.
Yep, from superficial via superficialer all the way through to superficialist.

Still, at least all the computer stuff was completely accurate.
House of Wax was mentioned.Think Paris Hilton has a shot at the Wonder Woman role?......just kidding.lol

[ edited by Buffyfantic on 2006-09-24 21:22 ]
I actually think this point is huge:

I've mentioned to a few people at work and friends that Joss has Wonder Woman. And every single one has laughed at me. Or at Joss. I'm not sure which it is. Possibly both of us.

because widespread awareness of WW does not automatically translate into contemporary American relevance. Don't get me wrong -- as a little girl, I adored the cheesy TV series and dreamed of bullet-deflecting bracelets and golden lasso all of my own. But I also think both Wonder Woman and Superman, while both classic Amerinca icons, seem out of step with contemporary American culture. Whenever I mentioned to anyone how excited I was about Superman Returns, I got a usually lackluster "eh" in response. Superman is a classic icon, but his whole appeal is this corn-fed, uncomplicated patriotism and apple pie: not something that really resonates in our modern, irony-rich and post-idealism culture.

Both WW and Superman are almost like throwbacks to a simpler time. I don't think it's a coincidence that all of the superhero franchises that have struck a real chord in today's culture have a messier, less idealized appeal.

Spiderman: there's the heroics, but also the real world problems of being a teenager, and lots of sarcastic and hip humor. Buffy is so Spiderman's descendant.

Batman: a great hero with an even greater dark side. The anti-hero hasn't been so big in American culture since the film noirs of the fifties (which were a reaction to the Doris Day mentality).

The X-Men: a bunch of freaks (mutants) navigate a hostile world in which most ordinary people are scared of them, and yet have to act heroically to save the world. Real world metaphors plus interpersonal drama and messy morals.

The problem is Singer didn't just make a Superman movie, he made a respectful Superman movie, being ultra-faithful to the old movies and his traditional qualities. If Wonder Woman is to succeed as a movie, it has to be hip, contemporary, feminist and a little bit edgy. It has to be Joss at his very best, and I have very few doubts he can make a great movie, but I don't know if today's audiences will be up for that kind of fare. Because whenever I too mention there's gonna be a WW movie, most people don't seem enthused at all. If Joss weren't writing and directing it, I wouldn't be either.

It may irritate the purists (but frankly, they don't make a movie a blockbuster), but Joss needs to re-invent WW for today. Make her fierce and edgy and have all the comics fan howling for his blood. Joss, live on the edge!
Well, she should be fierce but too far and you end up with the (almost) disastrous 90s Superman interpretation (black suit, no cape, very edgy even anti-heroic etc.).

I think Singer knew exactly how people feel about Superman today (in fact the film is even partly about him being out of step with contemporary culture) and I think he did exactly the right thing. There is still a place in the world for people who do right for the sake of it, who don't lie or cheat or steal (even for all the right reasons) and the film is basically one long case for just that (it reminded me of simpler times both personally - all those years ago, the first time I believed a man could fly - and globally). I think Singer's saying 'Maybe it's not him that needs to change ?'.

I never really saw Superman as a patriotic emblem (i'm not American) so losing '...the American way' from his platform didn't bother me (in fact it always amused me that it was 'Truth, Justice and the American way' - so they're separate ideas then ? ;) but I sure would've been pissed off if the 'Truth, Justice...' had gone.

Likewise, I don't see a particular reason to darken Wonder Woman (darkness isn't the same as moral or emotional complexity). Sometimes I think we have to accept that hero myths aren't always relevant to contemporary times i.e. they don't always tell us who we are, sometimes they tell us who we ought to be).
Superman and Wonder Woman look like total cheese on the surface. Their traditional costumes are laughable.

That's my opinion as someone who's never picked up one of their comics and has some experience with their adaptations. I watched and kinda liked the WW TV series with my mom while she was on maternity leave when I was 4. Saw the Donner Superman flicks ages ago, saw Singer's--and liked it well enough, especially certain aspects. Currently going through the entire DC Animated Universe--which included Batman: The Animated Series and its animated films, Superman: The Animated Series, and will soon be expanding into Batman Beyond and Justice League/Unlimited once I finish with the solo shows. I love the animated universe. It's a lot of fun and many episodes are very well written, especially Batman's (Superman, despite being pretty decent and even great on occasion, often feels like its plots need more breathing room than the 22 minutes they're given...maybe that's why I've enjoyed the multi-parters the most).

I guess I shouldn't hide the fact that I watched Seasons 2 through 4 of Smallville, as well as a little of Season 1. Before getting into the animated Superman series, I probably learned more about the character's background and origin story from discussions on the Television Without Pity message boards about what departures had been made than from any other source.

One thing to say in favor of two of DC's biggest franchises, Batman and Superman have awesomely painful origin stories (especially liked the Brainiac-involving spin that Bruce Timm and his team added to the animated series' depiction of Krypton's destruction). I have no idea about Wonder Woman's, aside from vague knowledge about one version of her beginnings saying she was formed from clay?

Sage said:
"I never really saw Superman as a patriotic emblem (i'm not American) so losing '...the American way' from his platform didn't bother me (in fact it always amused me that it was 'Truth, Justice and the American way' - so they're separate ideas then ? ;) but I sure would've been pissed off if the 'Truth, Justice...' had gone."

I'm pretty sure Superman was originally created by one or two Canadians to begin with, so he was more adopted by America than anything...Okay that's kind of a stretch, I'm sure his first publication was American in origin.

But I've still always thought it was stupid to consider Superman the quintessential American superhero when you've got the sorta ridiculous Captain America as another option (who, to be fair, was created later...but still, if you absolutely must relate your superheros to country-specific patriotism, seems like Cap would be the popular choice in the USA, if only he'd gotten more recognition over the years. I don't know a whole lot about the character--was he created in reaction to World War 2, like all those propaganda films that were made at the same time it was going on?).

[ edited by Kris on 2006-09-25 00:42 ]
Must stop repeating myself like that ;-).

Kris, Joe Shuster was from Toronto (and moved to Cleveland as a kid) but Jerry Siegal was born and raised in Cleveland. Superman's first appearance was in Action Comics #1 which was a DC title (i.e. in America). As Bryan Singer (and others before him) has said though, since Superman is pretty much the ultimate immigrant made good, he kind of exemplifies the American dream.

(Captain America was, indeed, introduced during WWII in March 1941 - possibly, though this is pure speculation, partly to rally US opinion towards war ? Or maybe partly out of frustration/guilt on the part of Simon and Kirby the two jewish Americans that created him ?)
Jumping into the conversation a bit late, but I feel as if I must add in a tid-bit (I don't think anyone has previously) but Brian Singer is also involved with producing and directing episodes of House. He's got the TV talent as well, and that goes a long way. He was also director of The Usual Suspects, a film that has launched one extremely good movie reference (Kaiser Sose anyone?).

Of course, Joss still wins, but it's because he's got the established talent and the longevity. He has seniority over Singer, though I think if Singer tries hard enough and works hard enough, he'll get to the big leagues.

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