What does someone do when they've just finished principal photography on one of the most anticipated films of next summer and you have a month off? Well, if you're (insane, a workaholic, a demigod) like Joss Whedon, you shoot a whole other movie.
Whedon shot Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing" in 12 days at his home starring a cast of Whedon regulars. The story revolves around a group of friends returning home from battle and celebrating the love young Claudio finds with a beautiful girl by the name of Hero. But Don John (their bastard cousin) seeks to destroy Hero's reputation and stop the marriage and all hell breaks loose. It's kind of the original "rom com" except classier. Because it's Shakespeare.
Whedon will face some challenges, though. This is an independent film and does not yet have a distributor. (emphasis on yet) He hopes he can get it into film festivals early next year. (Hey Joss, SXSW is a GREAT place to premiere a film. And Austin is way nice in March. And their deadline for film submission is in a couple weeks. . . . . Just saying.) Another challenge will be the invited comparisons to Kenneth Branaugh's film version, who also had an amazing cast and director. As much as I love the various citizens of the Whedonverse, they're not the Royal Shakespeare Company and don't have the gravitas of some of the actors in that version. Then again, I've seen high school productions of Shakespeare that were better than some professional versions. Regardless, I have high hopes because Joss Whedon has never let me down before.
Whedon's cast is top notch. The key characters of Beatrice and Benedick, who I can best compare to the original Sam and Diane (Cheers) or Maddie Hayes and David Addison (Moonlighting), will be played by Alexis Denisof (Wesley from Buffy/Angel) and Amy Acker (Fred from Angel, Dr. Saunders/Whiskey from Dollhouse). As quick as this production was done, Denisof and Acker had actually previously done readings of key Beatrice and Benedick scenes at Whedon's home.
The real key to this production, however, will be the inclusion of Nathan Fillion. He gets to play the key role of Dogberry, the inept local constable who bumbles his way through the investigation but nonetheless (spoiler alert?) helps uncover Don John's treachery. Dogberry is one of, if not the greatest, comic roles Shakespeare ever wrote. And Fillion will be perfect for it.
The part of Don John will be played by Sean Maher (Serenity/Firefly), who I also think is a great choice. As the villain, he'll be playing against type, which will be a nice change of pace. And, he'll be the only one NOT compared to his counterpart in the Branaugh version, Keanu Reeves.
Another great decision by Whedon was to not only set this in the modern day with modern dress, but to film it entirely in black and white. This sort of deconstructed approach is also going to be an interesting touch to a very well-known play, and will also set it apart from the very colorful and sunshiny Branaugh version.
I personally can't wait. The simple fact that this was done as a passion project right AFTER doing the Avengers has got to say something about how Whedon feels about this. So I have nothing but the best hopes, and especially hope to get to see this soon.