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How Joss Whedon Completely Changed Waterworld's Story

Joss Whedon became a household name after the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series propelled him into the spotlight. Before that, though, he was just another writer trying to navigate Hollywood and get some work. Back in the late '80s and throughout the '90s, he worked as a writer on Roseanne and provided some touch-ups for major blockbusters. Speed, Twister and Alien: Resurrection are just a few of the projects to which he lent his talents back in the day. However, the one that caused him the most headaches was Waterworld, a damp quid starring Kevin Costner that went on to become a cult classic. Just don't expect to see a Waterworld sequel any time soon.

Waterworld takes place in a future in which the polar ice caps have melted and left most of the earth underwater, forcing humanity's surviving denizens to branch off into different societies and travel the seas looking for sanctuary. Of course, some members of the human race have succumbed to their primal instincts and turned into savages. The Mariner (Kevin Costner), meanwhile, is a lone-wolf hero who helps those in need. However, prior to Whedon's involvement in the film, Waterworld was a much different type of movie. That said, he doesn't think that he played an important part in its evolution.

Joss Whedon was tasked with making Waterworld more mature

According to ScreenRant, Waterworld was originally conceived as a children's adventure movie in which the villainous Deacon (Dennis Hopper) dressed like King Trident and slapped his underlings in the face with fish. The goal was to create a cheap post-apocalyptic Mad Max knockoff that would appeal to younger audiences, but that all changed when Costner signed on to star in the movie and added some A-list gravitas to the proceedings. Joss Whedon and David Twohy were subsequently hired to sprinkle the script with their magic dust, and Waterworld became more ambitious, expensive and serious as a result. For Whedon, however, the experience wasn't the most positive one, and he's chosen to distance himself from the film throughout the years. 

In an interview with AV Club, The Avengers director revealed that his job was to turn Costner's notes into meaningful material, but his contributions came out poorly in the finished product. Whedon's involvement might not have been as significant as some people might assume, either. In the aforementioned interview, he downplayed his involvement in Waterworld, describing himself as nothing more than a glorified stenographer. "I was supposed to be there for a week, and I was there for seven weeks, and I accomplished nothing. I wrote a few puns, and a few scenes that I can't even sit through because they came out so bad." Whedon described a similar experience working on the script for the first X-Men film.