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Movie Production Notes

Five-hundred years in the future, the crew of the transport-for-hire ship Serenity takes on two new passengers and soon find themselves in a crossfire between an invincible military force and cannibalistic savages.

Oscar®- and Emmy-nominated writer/director JOSS WHEDON—creator of the worldwide television phenomena of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel and co-writer of Toy Story—makes his feature film directorial debut with the futuristic action-adventure Serenity, based on Whedon’s cult television series Firefly.

Captain Malcolm Reynolds, a hardened veteran who fought on the losing side of a galactic civil war, now ekes out a living pulling off small crimes and transporting passengers and cargo (without asking too many questions) on the Firefly class ship Serenity.

He leads a small, eclectic crew who are the closest thing he has left to family— squabbling, insubordinate and undyingly loyal.

When Mal agrees to transport a young doctor and his unstable, telepathic sister, he gets much more than he bargained for.

The pair are fugitives from The Alliance—the coalition dominating the galaxy—who will stop at nothing to reclaim the girl.

The crew that was once used to skimming the outskirts of the galaxy unnoticed suddenly finds itself caught between this unstoppable military force and Reavers—barbaric savages who roam the edges of space. Hunted by vastly different, equally deadly enemies, they soon begin to discover that the greatest danger to their safety may be onboard the Serenity herself.

Written and directed by Whedon, Serenity is produced by BARRY MENDEL (Rushmore, The Sixth Sense and Wes Anderson’s upcoming The Life Aquatic) with CHRIS BUCHANAN (president of Mutant Enemy, Inc., Whedon’s production company; Best Men), ALISA TAGER (Enemy at the Gates) and DAVID LESTER (Air Force One, The Shawshank Redemption) executive-producing.

The cast reprising their roles from the television series include NATHAN FILLION (Mal), GINA TORRES (Zoe), ADAM BALDWIN (Jayne), ALAN TUDYK (Wash), JEWEL STAITE (Kaylee), MORENA BACCARIN (Inara), SUMMER GLAU (River), SEAN MAHER (Simon) and RON GLASS (Book). The Operative, the Alliance’s man, is played by CHIWETEL EJIOFOR, the exciting young star of Stephen Frears’ Dirty Pretty Things. There is also a brief appearance by Shohreh Aghdashloo, who was nominated for an Oscar® for her role in House of Sand and Fog.

“It’s a story about freedom—how much we need it, how much everybody deserves it and how much we can lose before we have to fight back,” says Whedon. “This movie gives me the opportunity to create worlds on a scale that I’ve never dreamed of before, which is very exciting.”

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Joss Whedon’s trademark wit and compassion have graced a myriad of projects during his career. In addition to creating and executive-producing the series Firefly, Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (as well as writing and directing multiple episodes of each), he has worked as a screenwriter on many films, including Speed, Alien: Resurrection and Toy Story, for which he received an Academy Award® nomination.

He was nominated for the Emmy for outstanding writing on the Buffy episode entitled “Hush.” Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the second highest-selling television series on DVD, and it continues to win fans worldwide and influence an entire school of up-and-coming auteurs of film and television.

While the original feature film version of Buffy was not a huge box office hit when it was released in the U.S., Whedon assumed control of the television series and it became one of the most popular shows of all-time. Firefly, the television series, lasted only 11 episodes before the show left the air. But the firestorm of support from critics and fans—along with impressive DVD sales figures—didn’t go unnoticed when Whedon and Mendel brought the project to Universal Pictures. The result was Universal purchasing the rights to make a major motion picture out of a television series that didn’t even last half a season.

“Firefly was the kind of show that I love and that I hadn’t seen for awhile,” recalls Whedon. “It had real humanity to it. It also had extraordinary special effects for a TV show—effects that looked so real you felt you were living on the spaceship with these people.

And we had nine actors who were born to play the roles. When the show was canceled, it was very clear to me that the story was not done being told. It wasn’t out of me yet...and it wasn’t out of these actors, which is how the idea for the movie came about.”

Whedon was committed to returning his ensemble of actors to the roles they originated in the series and allowing them to play in an expanded universe made possible by a motion picture adaptation.

Nathan Fillion plays ship captain Malcolm Reynolds, a disillusioned rogue who believes in the independence of a life on the move.

His loyal crew includes Gina Torres as Zoe, his second-in-command and every bit his equal as a fighter. Zoe is married to the ship’s skillful, dry-witted pilot Wash, played by Alan Tudyk, who serves as her opposite physically and temperamentally though matches her in devotion to their union. Jewel Staite plays the ship’s mechanic, Kaylee, a sweet and sensual farm girl with a genius for gizmos. The renegade mercenary Jayne, a tough hombre on a lawless frontier on the fringes of space, is embodied by Adam Baldwin.

As close as he is with his crew, Mal’s feelings are strongest for one who no longer shares life aboard the Serenity. Having once allowed his ship to ferry the private craft in which she entertained visitors—often of great stature and power—the Captain still harbors deep affections for a beautiful “companion” named Inara, played by Morena Baccarin. But class differences (her social status being so far above his) and mutual denial keep them from following where their hearts might lead them.

The Alliance has escalated its search for Serenity passengers River Tam and her brother, Simon. Sean Maher is Simon, a physician who has discarded a medical research career and devoted his life to protecting his sister, River (Summer Glau), who possesses powers that are a threat not only to the forces after her, but to the crew of the ship who have given her sanctuary as well.

Ron Glass portrays Shepherd Book, whose counsel proves invaluable as the crew of the Serenity attempts to outwit their pursuers. Chiwetel Ejiofor steps into the role of The Operative, an agent dispatched by The Alliance to capture (if possible) or terminate (if necessary) River...and similarly dispose of anyone who stands in the way of his mission.

The flight crew came into this film having had six months of rehearsal from inhabiting these character while creating the television series.

“We have a group of characters that I adore played by actors that I am awed by. The bonding between them is going to turn this into a movie that I think may actually be quite different from the genre movies we have become used to,” says Whedon. “When it comes to the bells and whistles, yes, we have them all: a hovercraft, action, gunfights, fistfights, cannibals—everything you could want in a movie.

“But more than anything, the movie should leave audiences feeling like they’ve just been through something with people they care about. We have nine people aboard a small transport ship who live on the edges of space, who do the sort of work that is not generally done in science-fiction movies: the odd jobs, the dirty jobs. I love this crew— they’re extraordinary characters. Best of all for me is that the people who play them are also extraordinary actors, extraordinary human beings, and I’m incredibly fortunate to be working with them again.”

Behind-the-scenes talent on Serenity includes Oscar®-nominated cinematographer JACK N. GREEN (Unforgiven, Twister), production designer BARRY CHUSID (The Day After Tomorrow), editor LISA LASSEK (Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series), twice-Oscar®-nominated costume designer RUTH CARTER (Malcolm X, Amistad), Emmy-winning visual effects supervisor LONI PERISTERE (Firefly) and Oscar®-nominated special effects coordinator DAN SUDICK (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World).

NEXT: The Cast

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2005 Entertainment Magazine / EMOL.org