When it comes to Shakespeare, even master storytellers have to pay their respects. Joss Whedon, the cult filmmaker and helmer of summer blockbuster The Avengers, is such a fan of the Bard that he shot a new film adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing at his home in Santa Monica in just 12 days! Whedon, who has a long tradition of putting on readings of the playwright’s famous works with his friends, found surprising similarities between working on a 16th century comedy and a $200 million superhero movie.
“We started the home Shakespeare readings 10 years ago or more,” Whedon told Entertainment Weekly. “It was season five or season six of Buffy. A smattering of writers and actors from the shows did them. With Much Ado, eventually the technology changed to the point where you can make a movie, and not just a stage reading, but an actual production at home.”
For Whedon’s homemade Much Ado (which marks the first film from his indie studio Bellwether Pictures), the director tapped Angel cast members Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof as comically adversarial lovers Beatrice and Benedick. Castle's Nathan Fillion also stars as bumbling cop Dogberry alongside Clark Gregg (A Few Good Men), Reed Diamond (The Homecoming), Fran Kranz (Death of a Salesman), Sean Maher and Jillian Morgese.
“There’s a reason Tony Stark makes fun of Thor, and mentions Shakespeare in the Park in The Avengers,” said Whedon. “It’s great to play high drama and comedy alongside a modern story. Shakespeare was shameless about that stuff, pop culture references. Much Ado is very much in the vein of the movies I make, which surprised me. It’s not that different from The Avengers. It’s about finding why everyone is in the movie. What makes Ursula the maid shine? It was oddly similar.”
And what about that other pet project of Whedon’s, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog? The director’s new deal with Marvel Studios “carved out room for movies like Much Ado and Dr. Horrible 2.”
Much Ado About Nothing will premiere on September 8 at the Toronto Film Festival.