Filmmaker Joss Whedon on Monday responded to years of allegations made against him by actors and crew members he worked with – admitting that he had multiple affairs with actors on the set of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which he wrote, and attacking the stars of some of his other films.
Whedon angered many on the set of 2017’s Justice League, leaving Gal Gadot, star of Wonder Woman, to state in December 2020 that she had ‘my own experience with [him], which wasn’t the best one’.
Her remarks came after her co-star Ray Fisher, in July 2020 tweeted: ‘Joss Wheadon’s on-set treatment of the cast and crew of Justice League was gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable.’
Whedon has not responded, until now.
Filmmaker and showrunner Joss Whedon, above in 2019, told Vulture that Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot may have misunderstood him on set because ‘English is not her first language’
Gadot, 36, responded to Whedon’s theory by saying: ‘I understood perfectly’
Whedon wrote Justice League and took over as director in 2016, overseeing 40 days of reshoots after Zack Snyder stepped down following the suicide of his 20-year-old daughter
Last year, the Israeli-born actress said Whedon ‘threatened’ her career and told her that he’d make sure it would be ‘miserable.’ Above, the Justice League cast in London in November 2017
Whedon rocketed to stardom in 1992 with the film version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which then became a hugely popular cult-classic series.
He went on to write Toy Story and Alien Resurrection, and then direct some of the most lucrative franchises around – among them Marvel and D.C. Comics films.
But since 2017, Whedon has been under a growing cloud, as fans reassessed his work and those on set with him began speaking out about his behavior.
On Monday, Whedon finally discussed the years of allegations and rumors – and admitted to having multiple affairs on the set of Buffy, insisting he was ‘powerless’ to resist.
Whedon, married to Kai Cole from 1995 until 2016, said he was ashamed of his behavior during the series – which ran from 1997 until 2003.
‘I feel f****** terrible about them,’ he said, when asked by Vulture about the affairs.
Whedon, now 57, said ‘it messes up the power dynamic.’
He said he felt he ‘had’ to sleep with them, that he was ‘powerless’ to resist.
‘I’m not actually joking,’ he said, saying that he feared if he did not have sex with them he would ‘always regret it.’
A 1997 image to promote Buffy the Vampire Slayer with, from left: Nicholas Brendon, Anthony Head, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Charisma Carpenter and Alyson Hannigan
Whedon, now 57, is seen at the screening of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which he produced
A woman described by Vulture as a high-level member of the Buffy production team claimed that Whedon and one of the actresses came into her office while she was working, and began rolling around on the floor, making out.
‘They would bang into my chair,’ she said. ‘How can you concentrate? It was gross.’
The woman said it happened multiple times, and she quit her job – even though she did not have another job to go to.
‘These actions proved he had no respect for me and my work,’ she said.
Whedon said he did not recall the incident.
‘That seems false. I don’t understand that story even a little bit,’ he said, adding that he ‘lived in terror’ of his affairs being discovered.
One of the Buffy actresses, Michelle Trachtenberg, said that she was warned not to be left alone with Whedon.
Trachtenberg, now 36, was 14 when she was cast on the show as Sarah Michelle Gellar’s little sister Dawn Summers in 2000.
Trachtenberg claimed in February 2021 that Whedon was ‘not allowed in a room alone’ with her during filming.
Whedon told Vulture on Monday he had no idea what she was talking about, but a source claimed an informal rule did exist, though it was possible Whedon was not aware of it.
Another Buffy actress, Charisma Carpenter, has since 2009 criticized Whedon’s behavior, explaining over the years that he bullied her on set and claiming he called her fat while she was pregnant.
Michelle Trachtenberg claimed Whedon, the creator of Buffy, was ‘not allowed in a room alone’ with her during filming. She is pictured right with the show’s star, Sarah Michelle Gellar
Charisma Carpenter (left in 2019 and right in Buffy in 199) called out Whedon for his behavior on Buffy The Vampire Slayer in which she starred as Cordelia Chase
Whedon’s behavior triggered an investigation from the studio. WarnerMedia said it looked into Fisher’s complaints had concluded and ‘remedial action’ had been taken
‘Joss Whedon abused his power on numerous occasions while working together on the sets of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel,’ she wrote on Twitter.
‘The disturbing incidents triggered a chronic physical condition from which I still suffer. It is with a beating, heavy heart that I say I coped in isolation and, at times, destructively.’
Carpenter said Whedon found his alleged misconduct ‘amusing,’ according to the Hollywood Reporter.
She said he called her ‘fat’ in front of the cast and crew when she was pregnant and asked if she was ‘going to keep it.’
‘He was mean and biting, disparaging about others openly, and often played favorites,’ she wrote.
The show’s titular star, Sarah Michelle Gellar, later posted a statement in support.
Charisma Carpenter, pictured in October 2019, accused Whedon of abusive behavior on set
Whedon told Vulture on Monday he understood now he was not as ‘civilized’ back then.
‘I was young,’ 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.
‘I was not mannerly,’ he continued.
‘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.’
Asked if he had called her fat when she was pregnant, he replied: ‘I did not call her fat. Of course I didn’t.’
Other top-billed Buffy stars that have supported Carpenter and Trachtenberg include Elisha Duzku, Amber Benson, and Emma Caulfield.
The highest-profile criticism in recent years has come from the stars of 2017’s Justice League, which Whedon took over in the final stages, when Zack Snyder pulled out.
Last year, the Israel-born actress Gal Gadot said that Whedon had ‘threatened’ her career and told her that he’d make sure it would be ‘miserable.’
Gadot first claimed Whedon had threatened her in May 2020, as translated by the Twitter account Discussing Film.
‘He threatened my career and told me that if I did something, he’ll make sure my career will be miserable and I just took care of it on the spot,’ Gadot said.
A source told the Hollywood Reporter that Gadot had ‘multiple concerns with the revised version of the film, including issues about her character being more aggressive than her character in Wonder Woman.’
‘She wanted to make the character flow from one movie to the next,’ the source said.
Yet on Monday Whedon said that the Wonder Woman star may have misunderstood him.
‘English is not her first language, and I tend to be annoyingly flowery in my speech,’ he said.
He said Gadot misheard a joke that if she wanted to get rid of a scene, she’d have to tie him down to a railroad track and do it over his dead body.
‘Then I was told that I had said something about her dead body and tying her to the railroad track,’ he said.
Gadot, 36, responded to Whedon’s theory by saying: ‘I understood perfectly.’
An unnamed actress on Angel, another one of Whedon’s shows, told Vulture that Gadot’s story sounded familiar.
She said that when her agent pushed for her to get a raise, Whedon called her at home and said she was ‘never going to work for him, or 20th Century Fox, again.’
‘Wow, he’s still using that line,’ she reportedly said when she read Gadot’s quote.
Ray Fisher in July 2020 lifted the lid on the Justice League set, and suggested that Whedon had told editors to lighten the skin of an actor of color.
From left: Jason Momoa, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller and Ray Fisher in a scene from Justice League
Justice League actor Ray Fisher called Whedon’s on-set treatment of the cast and crew ‘gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable’ in 2020
Fisher branded him ‘abusive’.
Fisher, who plays Cyborg in the film, first raised concerns over Whedon in June 2020, posting a video to Twitter of himself previously singing the director’s praises, writing: ‘I’d like to take a moment to forcefully retract every bit of this statement.’
Fisher followed it up on by tweeting: ‘Joss Whedon’s on-set treatment of the cast and crew of Justice League was gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable. He was enabled, in many ways, by Geoff Johns and Jon Berg.’
The Baltimore-born actor then revealed that the studio had launched an independent investigation after ‘five weeks of interviews’ with cast and crew.
Fisher had an extensive interview in The Hollywood Reporter about the ordeal.
He slammed the studio’s handling of the allegations and claimed that some executives are not fit for their positions.
Whedon on Monday criticized Fisher’s acting, much of which he cut from the film, telling Vulture that the actor is a ‘malevolent force. We’re talking about a bad actor in both senses.’
The film was thrown into disarray in 2016 after director Zack Snyder stepped down following the suicide of his 20-year-old daughter Autumn Snyder.
Whedon, who wrote the film, took over as director and oversaw 40 days of reshoots, but the directors’ visions never aligned correctly, with Vulture claiming that Snyder’s god-like version of superheroes clashed with Whedon’s irony-laden approach.
Justice League was a commercial and critical failure, not even breaking even at the box office and scoring a 40 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
Snyder has since released his own cut of the movie on HBO Max.
The studio’s parent company, WarnerMedia, said that its investigation into Fisher’s complaints had concluded and ‘remedial action’ had been taken.
It did not elaborate and Fisher has since demanded that the results of the investigation be released publicly.
Speaking about what he claims was a cover-up by studio executives regarding the investigation, Fisher said: ‘I don’t believe some of these people are fit for positions of leadership.
‘I don’t want them excommunicated from Hollywood, but I don’t think they should be in charge of the hiring and firing of other people.’
He said he feels he has been able to make a point over the last year.
‘If I can’t get accountability… at least I can make people aware of who they’re dealing with.’
In the Vulture interview, Whedon says he cut many of Fisher’s scenes from the film because he thought they didn’t make sense and the acting was bad.
He said he discussed cutting down scenes with Fisher extensively, and explained Fisher’s motives for coming forward with criticism as: ‘We’re talking about a malevolent force. We’re talking about a bad actor in both senses.’