Joss Whedon Decompresses from ‘The Avengers’ with ‘Much Ado About Nothing’

Movie Talk

Whoever thought Shakespeare would be the fun and comic books would be the work?

Most filmmakers would fall into a deep six-month slumber after undertaking the gargantuan task that was "The Avengers." Joss Whedon invited a bunch of his pals over to his house and made a movie of "Much Ado About Nothing."

This particular post-"Avengers" activity wasn't always the plan. In September 2011, when Whedon was about to wrap principal photography on the Marvel superhero mashup, he was planning an anniversary trip to Italy with his producer wife, Kai Cole. She apparently suggested they ditch the travel plans and instead use the time to film that "Much Ado" adaptation he'd been talking about ever since he heard Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof as Beatrice and Benedick at one of the regular Shakespeare readings Whedon and Cole hosted at their California home.

Whedon and Cole set up shop through their own Bellweather production company, which was designed for run-and-gun micro-budget projects (as opposed to gigantic Disney-run tentpoles). The film was shot at the couple's own Santa Monica residence with a cast made up of familiar Whedon players, including Nathan Fillion as bumbling constable Dogberry (a role turned decidedly Beetlejuice-ish by Michael Keaton in Kenneth Branagh's 1993 version) and Clark Gregg as wealthy party-thrower Leonato. The production was kept low-key if not completely a secret, with the outside world first hearing about it on Oct. 23, 2011 via a short tweet from Fillion that linked to the film's press release.

"Much Ado About Nothing" was in the can about a month after deciding to make a movie rather than take a vacation.

As illustrated by the trailer, this particular Shakespeare play might have been written specifically so Joss Whedon could film it someday (and in black and white, at that, because why not?). Its tale of two pairs of lovers -- Benedict (Denisof) and Beatrice (Acker); Claudio (Fran Kranz) and Hero (Jillian Morgese) -- flitting and flirting about, engaging in impossibly witty and irony-laced exchanges as only a vague idea of an actual conflict forever hovers on the narrative fringes, is pure Whedon. His meta-approach to the material -- turning a film about a party into an extended party of a production -- is sure to delight the many citizens of the Whedonverse (though, admittedly, probably won't win over any new fans). All that's missing is at least one scene where a woman kicks a guy in the face (remember the Whedon rule: Strong Woman = Hot, Sarcastic and Knows Kung Fu).

"Much Ado About Nothing" is set to screen at SXSW this month, followed by a limited theatrical release on June 21. It may not cause as much fanfare as "The Avengers," but hardcore Whedon fans will probably cherish it a hundred times more.

Check out the trailer for 'Much Ado About Nothing' here: