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LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Joss Whedon is in final negotiations to direct the movie version of Marvel's all-star super-hero team "The Avengers."
Whedon's name first surfaced on Web site iesb.net in early April as being on the shortlist of directors Marvel was considering for the gig. He quickly and quietly became the only candidate, with reports surfacing Tuesday he was in talks.
Marvel had no comment.
"The Avengers" is the culmination of Marvel's movies and the storylines featuring the company's individual heroes: Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man and Thor; other Marvel comic book mainstays include the Wasp, the Scarlet Witch, the Vision and Hawkeye although it remains to be seen which of those characters will make the cut.
Marvel's dealmaking with its main actors in those previous movies provided for their inclusion in starring roles in "Avengers." That means Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Chris Evan (Captain America) and Chris Hemsworth (Thor) are expected to take part.
The involvement of Ed Norton, who portrayed Bruce Banner/Hulk, is less clear; the last Hulk movie, released by Universal in 2008, saw the actor clash with the company during post-production, leaving future association in doubt.
Marvel executives have a busy time ahead: "Iron Man 2" opens May 7; they are in production on "Thor" in New Mexico; and "Captain America" begins shooting in England this summer.
"Avengers" is expected to begin shooting in early 2011. Paramount, which has handled several of the company's recent pictures, presumably will distribute, though Marvel itself is now wholly owned by Disney.
Whedon is well-regarded in the comic community for creating "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," spin-off show "Angel," and cult sci-fi show "Firefly," and he directed many of the shows' episodes. The one feature he directed -- the big-screen version of "Firefly" called "Serenity" -- received good reviews but failed commercially.
Hiring Whedon as the director of "Avengers" would continue Marvel's out-of-the-box thinking when choosing directors (and actors, for that matter). Jon Favreau, now a superstar director thanks to the first "Iron Man," was considered a fish-out-of-water choice for that movie, having previously shot the well-reviewed box-office bomb "Zathura."