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Joss Whedon Reveals He Tossed Out & Rewrote Zak Penn's Original 'Avengers' Script

by Kevin Jagernauth
May 2, 2012 3:04 PM
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Joss Whedon Mark Ruffalo The Avengers

By any standard -- critical or commercial -- not only is "The Avengers" a megahit, which by the end of this weekend could be looking at $585 million worldwide, it's also considered by many to be the best Marvel movie to date. And when the dust clears and the money is counted, Marvel and the fans will have one person to thank: Joss Whedon. While it seems like a no brainer to give the fanboy favorite Whedon the keys to their biggest movie to date, Marvel was taking a bit of a risk. For Whedon, it was his first venture with an expensive, tentpole movie with a lot riding on it, but not only did Marvel have faith he could pull it off, they let him write the damn thing too. But it could have turned out much differently.

GQ recently sat down with Whedon to talk about this career and the film and he candidly reveals that he tossed aside a script that was penned by Zak Penn to start from scratch. "There was a script. There just wasn't a script I was going to film a word of," he bluntly stated. Ouch.

But perhaps fans should be happy. While the scribe did write the celebrated "X2" (or at least has a "story by" co-credit) Penn was the scribe behind lesser-celebrated comic book movies like "Electra," "X-Men 3: The Last Stand" and "The Incredible Hulk" (in which he was famously outmuscled by Edward Norton, who revised chunks of the script). And no matter how good Penn's script might have been, it's hard to argue that Marvel and Whedon didn't make the right choice by choosing to start fresh, though Penn wishes he would've been involved. 

"We could have collaborated more, but that was not his choice. He wanted to do it his way, and I respect that. I mean, it's not like on the 'Hulk,' where I got replaced by the lead actor," Penn said. "That was an unusual one. This was more normal."

So, just a chunk of trivia to take with you to the theater this weekend. Penn retains a story credit, but clearly, it's an all-Whedon world up there on the big screen. "The Avengers" opens on Friday and don't forget to stay after the credits.

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  • Kal | May 4, 2012 5:51 AMReply

    I am so so happy to read this article, getting ready to see the film I took a sneaky peak on Rotten T, and saw Penn was credited with writing the film.
    I thought there must be something up. A successful superhero film with his name on it?!

    Oh it's nice to know Joss was right there ready to throw out a piece of shit script. Must have felt good for him after all those years of people throwing out his superhero scripts.

    Now I really can't wait ot see the film!

    p.s: If anyone can please tell me how Zak Penn is still able to get a job with Marvel, or any film, I would really like to know although I do have bad knee's and can't be down on them for too long, and all my photography equipment is pretty bad so no low-light shooting.

  • cinematic_high | May 2, 2012 11:27 PMReply

    Penn wrote three movie scripts that were complete shit.....and Norton had every right to come in and strongarm his ass.....step your writing game up and your shitty scripts won't become toilet paper......or double as a coaster or paper weight.

  • SupermanStarts | May 16, 2012 10:08 AM

    Norton had NO right. He just insists on doing a draft of everything he' in. He's a big head which is why I don't want him anywhere near the BATMAN reboot (he wants the role). He got no writers credit on THE INCREDIBLE HULK and so had an incredible sulk about it (and his demand for a 2hr 20mins cut was turned down)

    While Penn tends to be good at story ideas, he's not that great with full scripts.

    I would like to know how much of Penn's script was used becaues WGA don't give you credit if you haven't written a significant amount of the script. Joss re-wrote ALL the dialogue on SPEED and made the bad guy an ex-cop ... but got no screen credit.

  • Mr Anonymous | May 2, 2012 5:34 PMReply

    Whedon 1 - Penn 0. Penn was involved with Electra, X-Men 3: The Last Stand and The Incredible Hulk - all major disappointments. Whedon made the right decision.

  • Matt | May 2, 2012 10:50 PM

    The Incredible Hulk (with Edward Norton) was hardly a disappointment.

  • berk | May 2, 2012 5:22 PMReply

    I swear, Kevin made a deal that he would grit his teeth and cover every "Avengers" story so long as he could post "Girls" recaps.

  • Wolverine | May 2, 2012 3:40 PMReply


    "I CAN'T!!"

  • Mansion Attack | May 2, 2012 3:11 PMReply

    Before people start shitting all over Zak Penn, the dude wrote the story for X2, which is arguably the best of the X-Men Films and features two of the best comic book movie sequences ever put on film (I haven't seen Avengers yet). Yeah, I'm talking about the mansion attack and the opening.

  • Oof | May 7, 2012 11:02 PM

    Not sure about that scene. It's well constructed scene but that doesn't make a movie. I think X2 was pretty weak and I love love love the X-Men Comic book. I liked X1 but I thought it was okay. You never really see them fight as a group. Their fights are very compartmentalize.

  • Alohaha | May 3, 2012 3:20 AM

    Credits are largely the subject of SAG's determination rules (available on their website). The bar is set very high for directors to take sole credit do as to protect writers from overbearing directors

  • Really? | May 2, 2012 4:06 PM

    "Before people start shitting all over Zak Penn, the dude wrote the story for X2, which is arguably the best of the X-Men Films and features two of the best comic book movie sequences ever put on film (I haven't seen Avengers yet). Yeah, I'm talking about the mansion attack and the opening."

    Zak was one of several writers on X2. Who knows how much input he had? remember, AVENGERS gave him a story-by credit, but he wrote none of what we saw.

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