Back in her high school days in a Delaware small town, Whit Anderson’s days were jammed with activity — academics and athletics were all-consuming, and there was little time for empty entertainment. “I didn’t really watch much television at all, but I always watched ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.‘ That was the one show I would watch when I got home. I just loved this character. I was the same age as Buffy, and it was so rare to have a female lead character on TV in those days who was strong and capable and smart but also allowed to be feminine.”
During its seven-season run, the beloved “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” series put some fang into high school melodrama long before “Twilight” made the undead all sparkly, and one big reason was the ability of the show’s creator, Joss Whedon, to put himself in the head of his female fans. Now we’ll find out if that rapport works in the other direction as the 29-year-old Anderson works on the script for a Warner Bros. feature-film “Buffy” reboot that is moving forward without Whedon.
Anderson, with a chuckle, said she was “fighting through” the script right now, but her concept has already energized some key supporters. Charles Roven, one of the producers of “Batman Begins,” said his Atlas Entertainment signed on after he saw something special in Anderson’s tone and story.
“Generally, I wouldn’t have said, ‘Let’s revive this,’ but Whit’s take is pretty compelling and a lot of fun, and it’s interesting to see all of this reimagined. This is a completely new reboot. Tone is extremely important, and you want the audience to realize what is at stake and the peril is real, but at the same time what’s going on should be fun and inviting and keep everyone engaged. It needs to be relevant to today too, and that is what Whit has found a way to do.”
Roven added: “There is an active fan base eagerly awaiting this character’s return…While this is not your high-school Buffy, she’ll be just as witty, tough and sexy as we all remember her to be.”
The project has plenty of hurdles ahead, and there is no announced director, but Roven said he hoped to see the film reach theaters in 2012 or perhaps even 2011. [UPDATE: From a press release that hit after this post went live: Atlas’ Roven and Steve Alexander will produce the feature film alongside Doug Davison and Roy Lee of Vertigo Entertainment (“The Ring,” “How to Train Your Dragon” and “Departed“). Warner Bros. optioned the rights from Fran and Kaz Kuzui and from Sandollar Productions (Sandy Gallin and Dolly Parton).]
The Buffy Summers character first appeared in the 1992 film “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” written by Whedon and starring Kristy Swanson, but it was Whedon’s darker, more nuanced television series, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, that took the property beyond simple satire and created a truly memorable pop-culture epic. The show ran on the WB and then UPN, and its 144 episodes secured an acclaim that far exceeded its ratings. Three years ago, TV Guide ranked it third on a top 25 list of all-time cult shows, putting it right behind “Star Trek” and “The X-Files.” More recently, Empire magazine put it at No. 2 on its list of best shows ever, a tally that had “The Simpsons” at No. 1 and”The Sopranos” at No. 3.
Anderson knows that without Whedon (who is gearing up to direct “The Avengers” for Marvel Studios), the most devoted fans of the old series will be keeping a skeptical eye on this nascent revival — and sharpening their wooden stakes. Anderson, who studied theater at Northwestern and moved to Los Angeles in 2003, said she will take the touchstones of the Whedon world but frame them in “a new story” that is very much of the moment. She cited Christopher Nolan’s revival of Batman as a supreme example of how a familiar character and revered mythology can be brought to the big screen with a vital new vision.
“The thing that was so wonderful about ‘Buffy’ — and what made it special — is it was so timeless,” Anderson said. “The deep struggle she had with duty and destiny, that tug between what you’re supposed to be doing and what you want to be doing. The fate of the world is on her shoulders, but some days she wakes up, and she just doesn’t want to do it. And are we doomed and destined to love someone? That conflict was very interesting to me. Those are the things I loved about her and her world. She also represents — like all the heroes — something empowering for us. She reminds us of what we could be if we were in our top form, the best of us if we were at our very best, and even then we still see the vulnerability and doubts she has inside. That’s where we all connect.”
— Geoff Boucher
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