What fun it must be to be part of Joss Whedon’s acting troupe. Enlisting many actors from his various television and film projects, Whedon takes a fresh look at the 400-year-old Shakespeare play, “Much Ado About Nothing,” and makes it cool and contemporary.
As impressive as the film itself, is the story behind the film. After finishing the principal photography of “The Avengers” in 2011, Whedon was obligated by contract to take a week off while the editors finished the first cut of the film. Most people would take a vacation, or maybe go to a spa. But Whedon and his wife, architect and producer, Kai Cole, decided to make a film version of “Much Ado About Nothing.”
Per the film’s production notes, Whedon and Cole throughout the years would invite friends and actors over to their house to read Shakespearian texts. So when he suggested making a film version of “Much Ado About Nothing,” no one batted an eye.
Shot in an amazingly short twelve days at Whedon and Cole’s house, the actors were surprised to arrive on the first day of shooting to find an entire film crew, catering and costumes. This was slightly different than the informal readings held at Whedon’s house.
Starring as comedic sparring partners Beatrice and Benedick are Whedon cast members Amy Acker (“Cabin in the Woods,” “Angel”) and Alexis Denisof (“The Avengers,” “Angel,” and “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”). Cast as romantic lovers, Claudio and Hero, respectively, are Fran Kranz (“Cabin in the Woods,” “Dollhouse,”) and Jillian Morgese (an extra on “The Avengers”).
Rounding out the ensemble are Whedon favorites, Nathan Fillion (“Castle,” “Firefly”) as the hysterical, bumbling security chief Dogberry; Clark Gregg as governor Leonato, Hero’s father and Beatrice’s uncle; Reed Diamond as the Prince, Don Pedro, and Sean Maher as Prince Pedro’s Black Sheep brother, Don John.
Accepting the gig knowing he’d have to compose quick, hand-held shots was cinematographer, Jay Hunter, who had worked with Whedon as second unit D.P. on “Dollhouse.” Whedon also wanted to shoot in black & white, which was a huge plus for the aspiring Hunter.
Per the film’s production notes, the film’s pre-production was about a month and editing was done on a laptop with Whedon’s editorial assistant Daniel Kaminsky during lunch hours and on weekends during post-production of “The Avengers.” Also getting into the action was Whedon’s brother Jed, who provided music for the film alongside Joss who created melodies that composer Debroah Lurie helped arrange.
And what of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” as a film? It’s a fun, humorous take that elicits great laugh-out-loud moments that feels entirely fresh and of the moment, even with Shakespearian texts. The actors are top-notch and appear to be having the time of the their lives. The scenes in which Benedick and Beatrice are both tricked to think the other is deeply in love with them are priceless.
How interesting that summer has kicked off with adaptations of two classic literary texts – Baz Luhrman’s, “The Great Gatsby,” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing” by William Shakespeare. For all the glitz, glamour and money spent on “Gatsby,” Whedon’s piece feels far more fresh, fun and contemporary even though the text is some 300 years older.
Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” is certainly something to cheer about in a summer filled with big, bloated tentpoles.
“Much Ado About Nothing” is 109 minutes, Rated PG-13, and opens in Los Angeles, New York and other select theaters, June 7.
For other film reviews by Lori Huck, check out:
‘Before Midnight’ Review: Linklater, Hawke, Delpy Wondrously Reunite
LA Film Fest 2013: Summer’s Premier Film Festival