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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

'Much Ado About Nothing': Choosing Joss Whedon's next literary muse

Back in 2011, between shooting and editing The Avengers, Joss Whedon was supposed to take his wife, producer Kai Cole, on a dream Italian vacation to celebrate their 20th anniversary. Sensing an oncoming crisis of faith in filmmaking — perhaps one reason they’ve been able to achieve 20 years of marriage in an industry that seemingly grinds up and spits out unions just for kicks — she had another idea.

She suggested he finally shoot his dream project, a new black-and-white contemporary spin on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing using the original text with his friends/constant collaborators like Nathan Fillion, Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker and set in his Santa Monica house, during his 12 days off.

“Pretty much making Much Ado was my anniversary present from my wife. It wasn’t so much that she said she’d let me make the movie. She said she was going to make me make the movie,” Whedon explained exclusively to EW at Wednesday night’s Oscars Outdoors screening and Q&A in Hollywood. “We were supposed to go to Venice, [but] she said, ‘I think the best thing for you would be to do Much Ado. We’re ready. We have our micro-budget studio set up. You have a crew. You have a cast. The location is really cheap. And you have a palpable need to reconnect with why you love your job. And Venice isn’t sinking that fast.’ So, yeah, she performed an act of extraordinary sacrifice, and on the first day of shooting, she asked me, ‘Are you happy?’ I smiled so hard that my face broke.” 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

SXSW: Five movies we can't wait to see

The South by Southwest Film Festival kicks off this Friday evening, March 8 in Austin, TX. The opening night festivities include a double feature of The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, with stars Steve Carell, Jim Carrey, and Olivia Wilde on hand to welcome movie lovers to the venerable Paramount Theater, and the highly anticipated remake of the 1981 cult horror classic Evil Dead. The nine-day festival will celebrate 133 films, from the US premiere of Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, in which former Disney stars run amok, to the world premiere of I Am Divine, Jeffrey Schwarz’s documentary about the legendary drag queen. There will be conversations with the likes of Danny Boyle and Matthew McConaughey, red carpets with Willie Nelson and Billie Joe Armstrong, and movies premieres of Big Ass Spider! and Unhung Hero, whose self-explanatory titles are a thing of pithy and bold beauty. Out of so many riches—Before Midnight, Don Jon, Good Ol’ Freda, You’re Next, The East—it’s cruel to pick what intrigues us most, but here are five flicks for which we can’t wait to turn off our phones. READ FULL STORY

Joss Whedon's 2013 to-do list: 'The Avengers 2,' 'Much Ado About Nothing,' and maybe more 'Dr. Horrible'

Will 2013 finally be the year that Joss Whedon’s legion of fans get to sing along with the long-awaited sequel to his 2008 Internet sensation Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog starring Neil Patrick Harris, Felicia Day and Nathan Fillion? The geek pop polymath who gave us Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Firefly, and a surprisingly successful indie about a band of superheroes no one had ever heard of called The Avengers made no promises when Entertainment Weekly caught up with him late last year, but he did say that putting a crooning Doogie back in a lab coat is on his “to do” list.  “We really want to shoot it next year. We feel strong about the idea and we have a bunch of stuff written,” said Whedon, who is currently directing the pilot episode of Marvel’s S.H.I.E.L.D. series while also writing the script for the sequel to The Avengers, plus prepping the release plan for his film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, due in theaters this summer. In between: The occasional napping.

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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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