Joss Whedon, Buffy creator and director of films including The Avengers and Justice League, has responded to multiple allegations of misconduct, denying claims from actors including Gal Gadot and Ray Fisher that he threatened and belittled them on set.
In a lengthy interview with New York magazine, Whedon responded to the stream of allegations made against him, which began to gain momentum in 2020 when Fisher detailed his experiences on the set of Justice League. Whedon stepped in to direct the film after the departure of Zack Snyder.
Fisher described Whedon as “gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable” and claimed his behaviour was “enabled” by senior executives at Warner Brothers studio. He said he had been told by a source that Whedon had lightened his skin tone in the 2017 film, and criticised Whedon for cutting several actors of colour from the film in rewrites, including reducing his role as Cyborg. When he shared his feedback, Whedon told him: “It feels like I’m taking notes right now, and I don’t like taking notes from anybody – not even Robert Downey Jr.”
Whedon denied Fisher’s account at the time, but gave no further statement. But speaking to New York magazine, Whedon said he had brightened the entire film in postproduction, not just Fisher’s skin tone, and that he had cut down Cyborg’s role because he felt Fisher was a bad actor. He claimed viewers at test screenings had reported that Cyborg was “the worst of all the characters in the film”.
“We’re talking about a malevolent force,” Whedon said of Fisher in the interview. “We’re talking about a bad actor in both senses.”
Fisher did not respond to New York’s request for comment, but wrote on Twitter: “Looks like Joss Whedon got to direct an endgame after all … Rather than address all of the lies and buffoonery today — I will be celebrating the legacy of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Tomorrow the work continues.”
Looks like Joss Whedon got to direct an endgame after all…
Rather than address all of the lies and buffoonery today—I will be celebrating the legacy of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Tomorrow the work continues.#MLKDay
— Ray Fisher (@ray8fisher) January 17, 2022
Gadot, who plays Wonder Woman in Justice League, had also claimed Whedon “threatened” her on set and said he would make her “career miserable” during disagreements. A witness told Hollywood Reporter: “Joss was bragging that he’s had it out with Gal. He told her he’s the writer and she’s going to shut up and say the lines and he can make her look incredibly stupid in this movie.”
Whedon denied he had threatened Gadot to New York magazine, saying she had misunderstood him when he said she would have to tie him to a railroad track before he’d cut a scene she had requested he take out.
“I don’t threaten people. Who does that? English is not her first language, and I tend to be annoyingly flowery in my speech,” Whedon said. In response, Gadot told New York: “I understood perfectly.”
In 2020, Warner launched an internal investigation into the Justice League set and announced “remedial action” had been taken. HBO also dropped Whedon as showrunner of The Nevers, a series he created about women with supernatural powers.
After Fisher’s claims in 2020, Charisma Carpenter, who played Cordelia on Buffy and the spin-off series Angel, alleged in social media posts that Whedon had a “history of being casually cruel”. She claimed he had called her “fat” to colleagues when she became pregnant while filming Angel, and asked her if she “was going to ‘keep it’”.
“He proceeded to attack my character, mock my religious beliefs, accuse me of sabotaging the show, and then unceremoniously fired me the following season once I gave birth,” she wrote. Multiple Buffy actors including Sarah Michelle Gellar, James Marsters and Michelle Trachtenberg supported Carpenter’s account of a “toxic environment”.
Whedon denied to New York he had ever called Carpenter fat, but admitted he “was not mannerly” to her, saying: “Most of my experiences with Charisma were delightful and charming. She struggled sometimes with her lines, but nobody could hit a punch line harder than her.” Of the Buffy set, he 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.”
Whedon also spoke about his affairs, which were first revealed in 2017 by his ex-wife, Kai Cole. Then, she called Whedon, famed for creating the feminist icon Buffy, a “hypocrite preaching feminist ideals” in an open letter to his fans about his behaviour towards women.
On the matter of sleeping with multiple employees, journalists and fans while married, Whedon said he felt “fucking terrible about them”, but felt he “had” to have sexual relationships with women, especially beautiful and young women who he felt would have ignored him before he became famous, because he would “always regret it” if he hadn’t.
He admitted he could be difficult to work with, but lamented that people had used “every weaponisable word of the modern era to make it seem like I was an abusive monster. I think I’m one of the nicer showrunners that’s ever been.”