Fun fact: Writer/director Joss Whedon filmed his Shakespearean comedy adaptation, Much Ado About Nothing, in 12 days at his Santa Monica, Calif., home with a cast that he had worked with before. The chemistry was the there, but that didn’t mean he allowed his actors to slack.
“The one thing he said [Whedon] was I need all of you to know your lines,” said Alexis Denisof, who played the leading male character, Benedick.
Whedon’s film captures the unconventional love story between two couples that fall in love in extremely different ways. Benedick and Beatrice fall in love after the walls they’ve built up fall down. As cliché as it sounds, Claudio and Hero fall madly in love at first sight. The comedy is dark, and yet light is shown through each couple’s affection for each other. Whedon chose to use the same Shakespearean text while modernizing the setting. His film is also shot in black-and-white, which adds a timeless feel to the already timeless dialogue.
“I wanted to evoke a kind of old-fashioned, sort-of-noir comedy that they don’t make as much anymore,” said Whedon, who tackled Much Ado immediately after wrapping up work on the smash superhero blockbuster The Avengers.
Cast members Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg, Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof were in attendance with Whedon for its South by Southwest premiere. This wasn’t the first time the cast worked with Whedon. Acker and Denisof had worked on Angel back in 1999. Fillion had worked with Denisof in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Gregg had recently worked with Whedon on Avengers. The familiarity of having worked together helped during the 12-day shoot, they said.
“Everyone you’re looking at, you know that they’re there because they’re well-liked. It was all about the comfort level,” said Fillion.
Gregg, however, hadn’t worked with the cast before Much Ado About Nothing. He said he had been a fan of Whedon’s work and jumped at the opportunity to do another project with him.
“I was like, ‘Listen, the Beatles need a guest drummer for the weekend,” said Gregg. “The cast acted as if I did all of these other shows with them. They were very kind.”
Usually, filming takes about two months, but in Whedon’s latest, that wasn’t the case. The movie was filmed in such a short time frame because Whedon filmed it during his vacation. Some of the actors, however, didn’t seem to mind.
“There’s something great about that [12-day filming] because you don’t have time to think too much. You got to know the lines well and you got to understand what they mean,” said Gregg.
Fillion interjected, saying, “I had so many notes on the side of my script.”
The most compelling part of the film is the story. Denisof and Acker play the two leading characters Benedick and Beatrice. The extra wittiness they brought to their characters captured a rare connection on screen.
“Before I knew I had a movie, before I understood the text well enough, the two leads were cast,” said Whedon. He then pointed at Acker and Denisof saying, “These guys are my guys.”
The story unfolds through a series of events that happened through betrayal, miscommunication and love. Much Ado is a comedy, but it’s a dark comedy that offers laughter during unfortunate situations.
“It wasn’t until I found this sort of darkness that the comedy comes out of that I understood why I needed to make the film. We went for comedy, but not just comedy—some of the lowest form of comedy,” said Whedon.
Luckily for Whedon, some of his cast members had performed this story before in its traditional play structure, such as Acker and Gregg.
“I had done it before as a sophomore in college,” said Gregg. “I saw a very attractive person, a woman I can say, walk in to the theater and suddenly I had a lot of time on my hands. I followed her in and they were doing auditions for Much Ado About Nothing, so I auditioned.”
But Fillion, however, hadn’t done Shakespeare before. He said he only knew how to play his character, Officer Dogberry, dumb. His role in Much Ado, compared to his character on Castle, was small, which he said helped him.
“I hadn’t been challenged like this in a long time. My problem was understanding what the words meant, but Joss was very easy on me,” said Fillion.
The film was challenging in the sense that there wasn’t the usual two-month filming period, and yet Whedon seemingly executed the film well through his filming location, black-and-white style and more importantly, his decision to use a cast that already had a rare chemistry.
“The whole damn thing was fun. It was hard work that you love to do,” said Denisof.
Watch the official trailer for Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing below.