Welcome to Script to Pieces, a recurring feature at Wicked Horror where we look at the best, most interesting and at times most unbelievable horror movies that never happened. Sometimes these will be productions that never came together at all, other times, they will be original incarnations that were completely different from what we wound up with. Each should be fascinating in its own way, because the stories of movies that never see the light of day can sometimes be even more interesting than the stories of those that do.
Sometimes, as a fan, it’s hard to think that Buffy the Vampire Slayer went off the air in 2003. It’s been and has remained a part of so many people’s lives that it’s easy to forget that it’s been over fifteen years. There have been so many attempts over time to revisit the world of those characters, almost all of them with original creator Joss Whedon involved. After Buffy ended, gears were shifted toward the creation of an animated series. A pilot was made, but the show did not get picked up. For a while, it looked as though Giles would receive his own spinoff, Ripper, written and directed by Whedon himself. For a time, it seemed that that would happen before Buffy even ended, and there were several attempts made—most of them through the BBC—to make it a reality over the course of several years.
A Faith TV series, Slayer School, a Spike TV movie, all these things came close to becoming a reality, but nothing ever quite made it. In the late 2000s, meanwhile, we started to see a lot of attempts to revive recognizable vampire brands thanks to the massive pop culture phenomenon that was Twilight. In 2011, we even got a Fright Night remake written by none other than Buffy’s Marti Noxon. It only made sense, then, that in 2009, the reboot was announced.
Of course, Buffy the Vampire Slayer began life as a movie even though most people certainly remember the show. The movie was not a success at the time, though it did eventually become a cult favorite. Fran Rubel Kuzui and Kaz Kuzui, who produced the show with Fran directing the original film, partnered with Vertigo Entertainment’s Roy Lee and Doug Davidson to begin developing Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a new movie for the big screen. It would not, it seemed, take place in the same continuity as Whedon’s TV show, but the hope was for it to be an “event” with “franchise potential.”
It’s surprisingly unclear exactly what the movie would have been, as there are a lot of conflicting reports. This was around the same time that The Amazing Spider-Man was in development. Vampire stories were definitely catering to a teenage crowd. So initial reports that the movie would not be set in high school were surprising. Especially considering the fact that, if they wanted to center on characters that were a little older, why not use the cast of the show?
Then there were reports that the movie would center on a new slayer and not necessarily Buffy herself. That’s a good idea considering it would allow the film to be set in the universe of the TV show while also telling a completely new story. But it’s also confusing because the reboot was definitely going to be called Buffy the Vampire Slayer. That part, at least, was always very clear.
Rumors began circulating that Vanessa Hudgens was being eyed to portray the new slayer. It seemed that the approach was for her to be a new, younger slayer and rumors even started that Sarah Michelle Gellar was being courted to return as an older Buffy guiding and training the new slayer. That, I think, would have made the reboot easier to swallow for most fans. It would have kept the original Buffy and just made the new film a story within that universe. It would also make sense to bring in Gellar’s Buffy for a passing of the torch. Those rumors did not seem to be unsubstantiated, but Hudgens apparently turned it down because she considered that with Twilight still a big success, the market was just oversaturated with vampire content.
What really made people nervous, though, was the absence of creator Joss Whedon. So much of the show had been his own creative vision and since Buffy went off the air, not even a comic book had been made without his involvement, with Whedon himself even writing some of those comics while in the midst of directing his two Avengers movies.
The cast of the show all proved to be vocally against the notion of doing Buffy without Whedon’s involvement. Gellar called the attempt without him “the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.” Alyson Hannigan said “If Joss isn’t involved, it’s only the title.” And others such as David Boreanaz, Anthony Stewart Head and Seth Green echoed those statements.
Whedon himself was refreshingly coy about it, even though he could not have been happy. When actually asked for a comment, he responded: “This is a sad, sad reflection on our times, when people must feed off the carcasses of beloved stories from their youths—just because they can’t think of an original idea of their own, like I did with my Avengers idea that I made up myself.”
The original Buffy, Kristy Swanson, was vocally in support of the reboot which she hoped would be more in line with the original film than the television show, and said that it would be “fantastic” if she could be a part of the film.
In 2010, Warner Bros. joined with Vertigo Entertainment and the Kuzuis to produce the new movie. Whit Anderson was hired to write the script. At the time, she was a surprising choice because she didn’t have a lot of work under her belt and was primarily known as an actress with small roles in Yes Man and as Jill in the short animated comic Saw Rebirth. Since being hired to write the script for the Buffy reboot, however, Anderson has garnered some major writing credits, on shows such as Allegiance, Ozark and Daredevil. That last one is especially worth noting as it is a show spearheaded by Buffy writers, including Drew Goddard, Doug Petrie and Steven S. DeKnight.
Then, in 2011, things started to slow. The L.A. Times reported that development of the reboot had halted as the producers were not happy with the script Whit Anderson had written. She was then taken off the project, which was put on indefinite hiatus. That was the last we ever heard about that incarnation of the series.
In 2018, a new Buffy reboot was announced for television. It made a lot of people mad until the new showrunner, Monica Owusu-Breen, confirmed that it would be set within the same universe and focus on a new slayer, serving as an extension of the original series and its world more than anything else. She also revealed that her new take on the material had Joss Whedon’s full support and that he was guiding her when needed. The creator, by all accounts, seemed to agree that it was a perfect time for a new voice to take a fresh approach to the material.