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'Much Ado About Nothing': Why Claudio is wearing a snorkel whilst sipping a martini, and more stories behind Joss Whedon's interpretations of the Shakespeare play

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Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, in theaters now, is a modern, lively, sexy take on the comedy by William Shakespeare. It’s an adaptation that embraces both the light and the dark moments of the play, and one that is accessible for Bardolaters and Shakespeare newbies alike. Performed in a contemporary setting but using Shakespeare’s text, the film stays true to the 16th century play while also delivering some 21st century charm.

Following directors like Julie Taymor, Baz Luhrmann, and many others who have displayed the versatility of Shakespeare’s work with fresh film adaptations, Whedon imbued his own wit and his talent for developing depth for several characters, no matter how large the ensemble, into Much Ado About Nothing, a play about the “merry war” between reluctant lovers Beatrice and Benedick. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator told EW that as he prepared to shoot the film, he asked himself, “How can I augment and clarify what is in this text, and — occasionally — how can I spin it?”

Here EW delves into Whedon’s creative choices for various aspects of his adaptation, as explained by Alexis Denisof, who plays Benedick, and by Whedon himself.

SPOILER ALERT: Though the story points of Much Ado About Nothing are more than 400 years old, some might consider the ways Whedon interpreted the play to be spoilers, so do not read on if you have yet to see the film and want those to remain a surprise.

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'Much Ado About Nothing': How a YouTube comedy duo joined the Whedonverse

Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing garnered the attention of many Whedonverse fans with its cast of frequent Joss collaborators, including Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg and Amy Acker. But there are also a few less familiar faces in the cast of the Shakespeare play adaptation, including Brian McElhaney and Nick Kocher of New York-based comedy duo BriTANicK. The two first-time entrants to the Whedonverse talked to EW about getting cast, their experience making and promoting the film, and catching Whedon’s attention with their YouTube videos.

In Much Ado, in theaters now, Kocher and McElhaney play First Watchman and Second Watchman, who, along with the constable Dogberry (Nathan Fillion), take down Much Ado‘s villains in a very comedic manner. They’re two small parts without proper names, but the size of the role, the miles they had to travel from New York to the set at Whedon’s Santa Monica, Calif. home, and the small paycheck for the indie production did not at all deter the two actors from jumping aboard the project because, of course, this was Joss Whedon.

It turns out, Whedon was also a fan of theirs. He wrote a post on Whedonesque.com praising BriTANicK’s YouTube videos (which McElhaney told EW “blew our minds”) shortly before beginning production on The Avengers. When Kocher and McElhaney arrived at Whedon’s house for the Much Ado shoot, “My wife and I were fan gushing over them so badly,” the director tells EW. He discovered the duo’s sketches when a friend sent him “A Monologue for Three,” in which McElhaney attempts to remember the closing lines of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. READ FULL STORY

Joss Whedon's 'Much Ado About Nothing' kicks off Seattle Film Fest with great fanfare

Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing has been on the festival circuit since September, but no other festival has made ado about the film quite like the Seattle International Film Festival, where Much Ado screened for a crowd of 3,000 on Thursday.

The Shakespeare adaptation – which Whedon shot in a 12-day stealth production at his house during what was supposed to be his post-Avengers vacation – kicked off the festival for its opening night at Seattle’s McCaw Hall in what became a record-breaking event shortly after ticket sales opened. The gala screening and party sold out in six hours on April 8, which went on to become the biggest box office day in SIFF’s 39-year history.

“We knew there was going to be a lot of demand but we didn’t really think it was going to go that fast,” SIFF artistic director Carl Spence told EW about the event that featured appearances by Whedon and cast members. “We’ve had other films with major stars that have done well and sell out, but it usually takes a couple of weeks.” READ FULL STORY

Joss Whedon's 'Much Ado About Nothing' to open Oscars Outdoors screening series; See full lineup

It’s much ado about movies at Oscars Outdoors this summer.

The screening series launched by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences last year is returning to Los Angeles this summer, along with some New York screenings in partnership with Rooftop Films Summer Series.

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Watch Sean Maher, Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, more Whedonverse favorites in newest 'Much Ado About Nothing' trailer -- VIDEO

Much Ado About Nothing just got another trailer, this one made for the U.K. The newest peek at Joss Whedon’s take on the beloved Shakespeare comedy spotlights the Bard’s wittiest couple, Benedick and Beatrice – much like the first trailer – though here there’s less merry war and more mountains of affection.

To the tune of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, Beatrice (Amy Acker) and Benedick (Alexis Denisof) are shown falling for each other – and literally falling down the stairs of Whedon’s house (where the film was made during a 12-day shoot). The trailer gives us more glimpses of the play’s other central couple, Hero (Jillian Morgese) and Claudio (Fran Kranz), and also features footage of the villainous Don John (Sean Maher) plotting to ruin their wedding and getting it on with Conrade – a role that got a gender reversal in Whedon’s interpretation.

Check out the trailer below: READ FULL STORY

'Much Ado About Nothing': Check out the new poster for Joss Whedon's Shakespeare adaptation -- EXCLUSIVE

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A man in a pool donning a snorkel and grasping a martini doesn’t exactly shout Shakespeare.

Yet that image is becoming ever more closely associated with William Shakespeare by Bardolaters and Browncoats who are eagerly anticipating the June release of Much Ado About Nothing as interpreted by a modern bard, Joss Whedon. The image of a party-ready and dive-ready Fran Kranz (DollhouseCabin in the Woods) was originally seen on a mysterious website that first hinted at the existence of the production, and now it’s on the film’s newest poster.

Shakespeare’s comedy about the “merry war” and reluctant romance between his wittiest couple, Benedick and Beatrice, made its way into Whedon’s home about a decade ago, at one of the Firefly and Avengers maestro’s famed play readings among friends. There, Amy Acker (Angel, Cabin in the Woods) and Alexis Denisof (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, AngelDollhouse) took on the roles of Beatrice and Benedick, the same parts they play in the film, which Whedon shot over 12 days at his Santa Monica, Calif. home during what was supposed to be his post-Avengers vacation. The stealth production for Much Ado rallied together many actors familiar to fans of the Whedonverse, including Nathan Fillion (Firefly), Clark Gregg (The Avengers), and Tom Lenk (Buffy, Cabin in the Woods).

Here EW exclusively debuts the new poster for Much Ado About Nothing, which features Kranz as Claudio — one half of the play’s other central couple — taken from Whedon’s interpretation of a key scene featuring Claudio and the villainous Don John (Firefly’s Sean Maher). It’s a poster that evokes more of Much Ado’s comedy, while the international poster was more about the romance, with Benedick and Beatrice locked in each other’s gaze. Underneath the title is the first tagline for the film: “Shakespeare knew how to throw a party.” READ FULL STORY

Joss Whedon's 'Much Ado About Nothing' adaptation gets June 2013 release

To be, or not to be … Joss Whedon.

The Avengers writer-director’s film adaptation of the comedic Shakespeare classic Much Ado About Nothing has been slated for a June 7, 2013 joint theatrical release by Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions, according to a press release Thursday.

The contemporary take on the play stars Whedon alums Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof and Nathan Fillion, plus Fran Kranz, Jillian Morgese, Sean Maher, Clark Gregg, and Reed Diamond. Whedon and his wife Kai Cole produced the film through their studio Bellwether films, with Daniel Kaminsky as a co-producer, according to the release.

The movie, about bickering lovers Beatrice (Acker) and Benedick (Denisof), was filmed in only 12 days. Any loyal fan of Acker and Denisof in Whedon’s Buffy spinoff Angel, or Fillion in Whedon’s sci-fi western show Firefly, will appreciate the stars’ performances in Much Ado.
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Joss Whedon on 'Much Ado About Nothing' and how Shakespeare and 'The Avengers' are similar

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Joss Whedon’s name has been flung around the movie stratosphere with Thor-worthy momentum since his superhero blockbuster The Avengers staked a claim on the box office this summer.

But the Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly creator still feels relatively nervous, modest, yenta-ish and excited when it comes to film festivals. His equally modest, black-and-white Shakespeare adaptation Much Ado About Nothing premieres Saturday at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. The festival runs from Thursday through Sept. 16.

“I’ve been to two festivals in my life, and I’ve never been to Toronto. I haven’t really been making festival movies. This is new territory for me,” Whedon told EW.com. “I’m kind of festive. Toronto has an amazing rep. The entire cast is coming. That’s so exciting for me, since they’re all my buddies. I would like to find a distributor and would really like to see other people’s movies.”

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Alexis Denisof explains his role in the 'Avengers' universe: 'I'm certainly on the villain team'

Being a member of the Whedon-verse certainly has its perks — just ask Angel alumnus Alexis Denisof, who stopped by EW’s Comic-Con suite to chat about his latest Joss Whedon project, upcoming (partially musical!) Shakespeare adaptation Much Ado About Nothing, which also stars Amy Acker, Clark Gregg, and Nathan Fillion.

Since we had Denisof sitting on our couch, we just had to ask him about his role in another Joss Whedon-directed film: The Avengers. What, you didn’t know that Alexis Denisof was in The Avengers? Don’t feel too bad  — he was shrouded in shadows and under a  few layers of prosthetic make up.

Denisof, who is credited as “The Other,” appears in the film three separate times — he addresses Loki at the very beginning of the film, then argues with him at the halfway point. But at the very end of The Avengers, during the bonus post-credits scene, Denisof’s character speaks with a new baddie: the death-obsessed alien overlord Thanos, whom Darren Franich has already explained more effectively than I will attempt here.

Mind you, Denisof is not Thanos — he made that clear himself — instead, he’s the figure addressing Thanos. For now, we simply know him as “The Other.”

So who is this mysterious “Other?” Well, that’s tough to say, but here’s what we know: According to Denisof, he’s “certainly on the villain team” and “report[s] to Thanos.” As he explains, “Loki and The Other have a relationship. We’ve struck a deal, but the deal doesn’t deliver, so there are ramifications.” Listen to the whole conversation below: READ FULL STORY

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