Post-apocalyptic sci-fi film Waterworld was, at the time, the most expensive film ever made. The Kevin Costner-starring epic was set almost entirely on water, and was probably responsible for me wanting to grow up to be an acrobatic jet skier (true story).
As memorable as the film was, it unfortunately received mixed reviews and the characterization was widely criticized. However, it turns out an unlikely person may have actually held the key to a more successful version all along: Avengers director, Joss Whedon.
Whedon, a man who has been around Hollywood for longer than seems possible (and surely one of the most hardworking in the business), was an uncredited script doctor for Waterworld, and the ideas he brought to the table for the sea-based saga are a lesson all aspiring writers should take on board.
Whedon took time out of his busy schedule to offer this advice to five up-and-coming writers looking to make it big in the industry. It was part of an initiative organized by Lily Cole and Impossible - a global community whose M.O. is all about helping each other out by sharing ideas, objects and - more importantly - time, by matching an individual's skills to someone who needs them. It's so awesome Joss was so open about sharing his wisdom about screenwriting - and more importantly, why getting to really understand your characters is key.
During the roundtable discussion (which you can read here) Joss revealed that a scene he wrote for the film could have held the key that turned Kevin Costner's character, The Mariner, into so much more than the gruff antihero he became.
Whedon, in an attempt to make audiences understand the character of the Mariner, wrote a small but important scene to do so. The scene placed the Mariner on a boat with Enola, when suddenly he freaks out because the water- his habitat - is out of sight. Joss Whedon explained the scene:
That to me was like "Oh! Y'know, now I understand this guy who has always lived there [the water], who lives in it, who is a part of it, and suddenly for the first time ever, because there’s no land anywhere, it’s nowhere in sight and how f**king freaky that would be
This small 30-second scene could have allowed audiences to empathize with this stubborn, gruff, mutant mariner and really get inside his head. Instead of that, Whedon's scene was tossed, and we never really got that much-needed character depth, a total shame in my opinion.
Perhaps it's the power of retrospect that makes Whedon's scene look like such an obvious choice, but it seems like a total oversight that it was never included. Who knows though, maybe one day he'll remake Waterworld and include it for himself. We can dream!
Want to hear more of Joss's thoughts on becoming a great screenwriter? Then listen to the interview in full, below:
Does Whedon's lost Waterworld scene sound like a winner to you?