Whedon exits 'Wonder' film


Joss Whedon, who had been developing a big-screen adaptation of DC Comics superhero Wonder Woman for Warner Bros. Pictures and Silver Pictures, parted ways with the studio and production company on the project.

Whedon announced the news Friday on a fansite, chalking it up to creative differences. "I had a take on the film that, well, nobody liked," he wrote on www.whedonesque.com. Studio and agency sources confirmed the development.

The latest setback on "Wonder Woman," which has gone through a long gestation process, underlines the difficulties studios encounter when developing such marquee pop culture titles.

Over at Paramount Pictures, for example, there is now a question whether J.J. Abrams will direct "Star Trek XI." The studio insists that the "Lost" creator was never officially attached to direct the film, only to produce it. However, in July, upon announcing Abrams' film production pact with Paramount, then-studio president Gail Berman said Abrams was on board to direct the next installment in the sci-fi franchise and that it would be his first project under the new feature deal.

Although Paramount is hopeful that Abrams will captain the Starship Enterprise, sources said the director likely will make his decision later this week.

Several directors — Tim Burton, Brett Ratner and McG — were involved in developing what ultimately became "Superman Returns" before Bryan Singer took the helm. More recently, Jon Favreau surrendered the reins of Paramount's "John Carter of Mars," which has since landed at Pixar, in favor of Marvel's "Iron Man." And Shawn Levy has just stepped in to direct "The Flash," with which David Goyer had been involved.

In the case of "Wonder Woman," "We just saw different movies, and at the price range this kind of movie hangs in, that's never gonna work," Whedon said in his post to his fans. "Non-sympatico. It happens all the time. I don't think any of us expected it to this time, but it did. Everybody knows how long I was taking, what a struggle that script was, and though I felt good about what I was coming up with, it was never gonna be a simple slam-dunk. I like to think it rolled around the rim a little bit, but others may have differing views."

Whedon, who came on board the project in March 2005, was paid $2 million-$3 million to develop and write the adaptation, which Joel Silver is producing. He also was attached to direct. His involvement had looked like it would finally move the project forward. Whedon, the creator of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," was seen as someone who could crack the challenge of making a female superhero movie work, especially one that involved a magic lasso, bullet-deflecting bracelets, an invisible jet and a bathing suit-like costume.

But rumors of script issues intensified last week when Warners bought a "Wonder Woman" spec script from newcomers Matthew Jennison and Brent Strickland that the two wrote on spec as a writing sample to win other assignments. Even though the studio said it was taking the spec off the market to protect itself against the possibility that any similarities between the scripts could be fodder for future legal action, it clearly liked certain elements in the new screenplay (HR 2/1).

Whedon's take on the Amazonian princess set the tale in the present. In contrast, Jennison and Strickland's script is set during World War II, the era when the character was created. However, sources said that Silver and the studio are not interested in making a period picture.

"The worst thing that can happen in this scenario is that the studio just keeps hammering out changes and the writer falls into a horrible limbo of development," Whedon wrote. "(Warners and Silver) had the clarity and grace to skip that part. So I'm a free man."

CAA-repped Whedon still has plenty to keep him occupied. He is working on "Goners," a thriller he is attached to direct for Universal Pictures; will be taking over writing chores on "Runaways," a comic series about super-powered teens, for Marvel Comics; and is overseeing a new story line of "Buffy" for Dark Horse Comics.