If you're a (talented, cute, snarky) actor in search of a tough-love mentor, you could do worse than Joss Whedon. The creator of Buffy, Angel, and Firefly admits he was cajoled to finally return to television, and delay a film project or two, by protégé–Buffy nemesis Eliza Dushku. A marathon lunch at the Ivy last year yielded the idea for Dollhouse, the memory-swiped-operative-chicks show that premieres on Fox in January. "I was mentioning writers, but Eliza kept saying 'Don't you want to do it? Don't you want to do it? Look how cute I am!' And she's really cute," allowed the strawberry-blond auteur at last night's after-party for the Fox upfronts at Wollman Rink.
We were impressed that Dushku held such sway over Whedon and wondered if he had that kind of bond with other actors. Whedon said that he's closer on a daily basis with Buffyverse alumni like Alyson Hannigan, Amy Acker, and Alexis Denisof. But Dushku, he said, is different. "Eliza and I are seldom in the same place for very long. And I'm an old married guy, she's a lot younger and bubblier." But he has given her plenty of career advice — a tradition that started "when I got frustrated with all these crappy horror movies she was making. Like Wrong Turn and Soul Survivor and whatnot. Those broke my heart." So Whedon staged an intervention. "I said, 'I love you. I think that you have something that no other actor I've worked with has. What can you be making these movies for? Why are you doing this to me? You're killing me! You're better than this.'"
But what about the One True Slayer? "Sarah Michelle Gellar's made some really good choices," he says. "She's had some bad breaks. She goes with the independent, interesting young filmmakers and then they get slammed, like Southland Tales. I'm proud of what she's trying to do. It's hard." And onetime Angel David Boreanaz, who's now scored a lucrative role on the Fox hit Bones? "David owes me money." —Justin Ravitz