Anybody who has thoroughly read Shakespeareances.com knows that on my list of Top 10 Non-Shakespearean Theatrical Moments is Joss Whedon at Number 7. I point out that the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly (and director and writer of next year’s The Avengers movie) was not only heavily influenced by Shakespeare, he also held regular readings of the plays with his cast members at his home. “My greatest Shakespearean wish is for him to film some of the plays, if not the entire canon,” I wrote in that entry.
Whedon filmed in secret Much Ado About Nothing at his Santa Monica home over 12 days in October, finishing principal photography on Oct. 24. He and his wife, Kai Cole, who formed Bellwether Pictures as the self-financed film’s production company, plan to present the movie at film festivals next year and release it in some form afterward.
The cast includes Amy Acker as Beatrice, Alexis Denisof as Benedick, Nathan Fillion as Dogberry, Sean Maher as Don John, Clark Gregg as Leonato, Fran Kranz as Claudio, and Reed Diamond as Don Pedro.
Whedon and his wife had planned to take a vacation after he wrapped The Avengers, but Cole suggested he do something he’d long wanted to do instead: film Much Ado. Swearing the cast and crew to secrecy, Whedon shot the film entirely at his house. “One of the advantages of Much Ado is it all takes place on Leonato’s estate. It’s all one location,” Whedon said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. “I don’t have an estate. I have a nice house.” A house with “a maze of halls and so many different bedrooms and this pool that overlooks the Santa Monica mountains,” Maher said in the same interview.
Not surprisingly, then, the play is set in modern times, and not just in modern dress but the cast members’ own clothes. “The costume designer went shopping in all of our closets, and she just sort of chose,” Acker said in the EW interview.
It is Much Ado’s modern tone that appealed to Whedon, he told EW. “It wasn’t why I chose it, but I do think it’s one of the reasons why I love it. It’s very modern. The language, the jokes, and the attitudes translate really, really easily. [The actors] do say the words as they’re written, but they connect to a modern audience in a way that portions of the other comedies don’t necessarily.”
While some of the cast members are experienced Shakespeareans, many were performing The Bard’s text for the first time—at least publicly. But even the novices had participated in Whedon’s readings, including the quarreling couple at the play’s center who were both part of the Angel cast. “We’d done a reading of [Much Ado] starring Amy and Alexis years ago, and that’s when I knew that if I could ever do it, I would do it with them."
November 4, 2011
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