In 1997, an upstart creative mind gifted the world with the adventures of a vapid young woman whose solemn duty was to rid the world of vampires. Aided by a close-knit group of friends, Buffy: the Vampire Slayer became one of the most beloved fantasy shows of its era. In the process it turned an unknown writer named Joss Whedon into a household name. Of course, there was a lot going on behind the scenes of this drama, much more than meets the eye. How much do you know about the series? Read on to find out.
1. Before He Wrote ‘The Avengers’
Joss Whedon may be a familiar name now (since he redefined blockbusters with The Avengers), but in 1997, he only had a few films credits to his name. As a script doctor, he received recognition for helping with (among others): Speed, Waterworld, X-Men, Twister, and Toy Story. He was also a staff writer for TV sitcom Roseanne.
2. Subverting the Stereotype
Whedon was obsessed with the concept that normal people could be incredible, and that’s where his mind was when he created Buffy, a twist on the old trope where pretty, young blonde girls are often torn apart first in monster movies.
3. Whedon Hated the Movie
Thanks to the script’s jokey quality, the original film’s director perceived it as a full-blown comedy. Whedon, however, had intended to mix his wry dialogue with a more horror-driven aesthetic; as a result, he was disappointed in the original 1992 prototype for the series starring Kristie Swanson.
4. Puberty Was the Real Enemy
When Whedon was developing the show, his concept was less focused on Buffy than it was on teenagers. He wanted to do the show as adolescence being the enemy; as a result, the show’s supernatural elements are all stand-ins for common emotional concerns teenagers confront.
5. The Absent Producers
Here are some people who made a good investment early. Married investors Fran Rubel and Kaz Kuzui were credited as executive producers on every episode in spite of the fact that their only involvement in the show came from funding and producing the original film.
6. The Esteemed Writing Staff
Some of the show’s original staff recruited by Whedon to work for his production house, Mutant Enemy, include: Drew Goddard (director of Cabin in the Woods and writer of The Martian), Rebecca Rand Kirshner (showrunner for 90210), and Doug Petrie (the showrunner of Daredevil).
7. Katie and Ryan Were Up for the Parts
The part of Buffy and Xander Harris were almost given to Katie Holmes and Ryan Reynolds, respectively. Both turned the roles down, Holmes because she wanted to actually go to high school and Reynolds because he didn’t want to be typecast.
8. Who Else Was Almost Buffy?
Before Sarah Michelle Gellar got the part, Julie Benz, Elizabeth Anne Allen, Mercedes Mcnab, Julie Lee, and even Charisma Carpenter auditioned for the role of Buffy. It’s a good thing for Melissa Joan Hart that Gellar got the role, because Gellar was in the running to play Sabrina the Teenage Witch. At one point there was talk of a movie version of that show, and Gellar was again considered for the part of Sabrina (the movie never materialized).
9. Cast members had trouble understanding Whedon’s quick-witted dialogue
According to rumors, when the show began, several cast members had trouble understanding Whedon’s clever dialogue. Of course, that same wit has become Whedon’s trademark in the years since, though, at one point — in an effort to refute the notion that the show was more than clever dialogue — Whedon wrote, “Hush,” an episode with just 14 minutes of dialogue.
10. Mr. Angel Was Supposed to Remain Dead
David Boreanaz — who was actually discovered while walking his dog — was supposed to stay dead when he was initially killed at the end of Season 2. Of course, thanks to strong fan (and studio) reaction, Whedon was asked to resurrect the character in Season 3.
11. Angel, the Dark Knight…Almost
Joss Whedon would eventually go on to see Boreanaz as a great talent and offer the actor his own spin-off. Whedon wasn’t the only great mind enamored by Boreanaz’s performance as Angel, though. Before Christian Bale took the job, Chris Nolan offered Boreanaz the role of Bruce Wayne.
12. Budget Limitations Were Tricky in the Beginning
The budget for the first season of the show was so tight that the producers actually had to use the same stretch of high school hallway repeatedly, so they were forced to shoot from clever or creative angles in order to cut down on the similarities.
13. Giles is the Man
The person who played Buffy’s mentor for the show’s entire run, Anthony Stewart Head, was actually the first role cast. Producers felt that the English actor had the perfect on-screen persona to play Rupert Giles from the moment he walked into the room.
14. Gellar Cried for A Half an Hour Following a Break-up
In Season 3, when Angel’s character breaks up with Buffy, Gellar was so dialed into the scene and the character that she couldn’t stop crying for more than half an hour. Production had to be stopped so she could collect herself.
15. The Superfan Got the Part
Before the character of Dawn was even written, Michelle Trachtenberg had campaigned for a part on the show, even going so far as to pitch Joss Whedon on how she might be included. Before Trachtenberg won the role, Gellar actually championed her, as well.
16. The Brand New Willow
Alyson Hannigan — who later went on to star in How I Met Your Mother — is the only member of the core cast who wasn’t in the original pilot. Actress Riff Regan was actually recast after the pilot at the request of the studio.
17. The Power of Fan Love
Throughout the series, Whedon intended to introduce and then kill off several characters. Due to fan ardor, though, the following people were either spared or got a longer lease on life: Spike, Oz, Faith, Wesley, Drusilla, Jenny, and Joyce.
18. Seth Green Was the Only Actor To…
Seth Green is actually the only actor to be in both the show and the movie. In the series, Oz was a beloved member of the team. In the film, he played an anonymous (and uncredited) vampire. Another movie cameo: Ben Affleck plays a basketball player in one scene.
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