WonderCon 2013: Joss Whedon Brings 'Much Ado About Nothing' to Anaheim

Sunday, 31 March 2013 13:01 Written by  iamrogue
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WonderCon 2013: Joss Whedon Brings 'Much Ado About Nothing' to Anaheim

It's a safe bet that the Bard never anticipated a world in which the writer-director behind the biggest superhero movie of all time would be promoting an adaptation of one of his plays at an annual comic book convention in Anaheim.

But here we are, on the final day of WonderCon 2013.  And here's Joss Whedon applying his famous loquaciousness to a packed Much Ado About Nothing panel in the Arena at the Anaheim Convention Center.

Based on the play of the same name by William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing was adapted and filmed by Whedon over just twelve days while he was directing Marvel's The AvengersShakespeare's comedic play follows two pair of lovers, Claudio and Hero and Benedick and Beatrice.  The play takes place principally at the estate of Leonato, Hero's father, in the Sicilian city of Messina.  Whedon, however, shot the film almost exclusively in his own Santa Monica home.

Whedon, as close to a deity as you can find at a comic convention, took the stage to a rapturous reception and promptly announced that fan-favorite Nathan Fillion – who starred as Mal Reynolds on Whedon's beloved series Firefly and subsequent feature Serenity – would not be present.  Following that, he showed the black and white film's trailer and trotted out castmembers Riki Lindhome, Sean Maher, Tom Lenke, Nick Kocher, Clark Gregg, Spencer Treat Clarke, Brian McElhaney, Jillian Morgese, and Romy Rosemont.  Cinematographer Jay Hunter was also on hand.

After some discussion from the actors, many of whom have starred on Whedon's various television endeavors, the panel moved into two separate scenes from Much Ado About Nothing.  The first was Act II, Scene III, which finds Claudio, Leonato, and Don Pedro discussing that Beatrice is in love with Benedick, though she's engaged to be married.  Just outside, Benedick listens covertly, going to ridiculous lengths to avoid detection while keeping up.  The scene then shifts to shortly later as Benedick, now aware, interacts with Beatrice, desperate to impress her.  In order to do, he strikes a series of overly masculine poses and even drops into some push-ups and sit-ups.

The next scene, Act IV Scene II, has a lot going on, but belongs to Fillion as the detective Dogberry.  The scenes plays out in a jail.  Along with his partner Verges, he's questions Conrade and Borachio about their claim that Don John is a scoundrel.  After some complications, both Conrade and Borachio are hauled out, leading Conrade to call Dogberry an ass on the way out.  The detective's feelings are visibly hurt as he vainly attempts to put Verge's coat, far, far too small for his own frame.

The cast discussed how they became involved with Much Ado About Nothing, with their director revealing that he really had no time to make the film, so he had to rely on people who did have the time.  As for why he chose to adapt Much Ado About Nothing, Whedon explained that he has long felt that it's a particularly modern, accessible play with a packed ensemble of individually compelling characters and resonant commentary on romantic love.  Only when production was about to commence did he realize that is also quite dark and full of pain.

Whedon explained how the film came about as a result of relaxed Shakespeare readings he would conduct with actors such as James Marsters of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  The director was all compliments for his cast, sharing an obvious, humor-filled rapport with all of them.  He commented that he would love to make another film in this almost-impromptu fashion, but adding sarcastically that it would have to be with an entirely different group of actors.  On the contrary, he said that he intends to continue these sort of adaptations with the cast, singling out Hamlet as a source of excitement but saying that one is unlikely to be next up.

Much talk naturally involved The Avengers, particularly from Gregg, who played Agent Coulson in the blockbuster.  Whedon explained that the motivating factor for him with both that film and Much Ado About Nothing was figuring out that he something to say with both.  In the case of the former, it was the thematic hook of isolated characters being forced together against their natures.  In the case of the former, it was the appeal of applying his own style to Shakespeare.

The cast shared many anecdotes about filming in the director's home, including jokes about rifling through drawers and the frequent occurrence of party scenes turning into actual impromptu dance parties.

All in all, it was a predictably lively three-ring circus put on by a convention master.

Much Ado About Nothing is set to hit theaters on June 6th.

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