Universal pacts with 'Buffy' man for spec script

A correction was made to this article on Sept. 23, 2005.

Universal Pictures has paid seven figures for “Goners,” a fantasy thriller spec script Joss Whedon wrote and will direct.

Film will be produced by Mary Parent and Scott Stuber. The studio premiered Whedon’s directorial debut, “Serenity,” on Thursday night at Universal City Walk. Pic opens Sept. 30.

Whedon was cryptic in describing the project, but the title conveys that it will tread on supernatural turf comparable to his series creations “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and the bloodsucker spinoff “Angel.”

“It’s the story of a young woman’s journey that involves a great deal of horror and some heroics,” he said. “It’s certainly darker than ‘Serenity,’ and there are a lot of left turns along the way. It is something I had in mind for a while, and it just poured out of me when I finished my film.”

Timing isn’t clear, since Whedon is writing to direct “Wonder Woman,” the Warner Bros. film based on the DC Comics heroine. That may take some time, as Whedon started his script from scratch.

“I was given license to purely make it my own and yet she is already an iconic Amazon princess,” Whedon said. ” ‘Goners’ has some similarities, but the heroines could not be more different, and the story is a bit more intimate and less complicated than ‘Wonder Woman.’ “

Whedon, who began his career writing features “Speed” and “Toy Story,” shuttered his TV operation this year to focus on features. He will continue to spend the majority of his time with bigscreen fare but acknowledged he has been toying with a TV project that would continue the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” universe, focusing on Spike, the punk-haired vampire played by James Marsters.

Whedon’s challenge is to figure a way to do it and be able to keep directing movies.

“Directing a film was as exciting and daunting as it was supposed to be,” said the CAA-repped Whedon. “I learned a lot on ‘Serenity’ and hope I hid that from the audience.”

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