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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

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

Check out the first trailer for Julian Fellowes' 'Romeo and Juliet' -- VIDEO

The first trailer for the newest adaptation of Romeo and Juliet is now online, and there’s plenty of ancient grudges, unclean civil hands, and death-marked love on display in this peek at the film.

While the other buzzy Shakespeare adaptation of 2013 — Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing — went the route of a fresh, modern interpretation, this Romeo and Juliet is going back to the play’s Elizabethan roots, with period costumes, a shoot in Verona and other Italy locations, and a young pair of actors playing the leads. The film’s Juliet, Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit), who shot the film when she was 15 years old, is much closer to Juliet’s age (nearly 14) than most actors taking on the role these days, and the film’s Romeo, Douglas Booth (The Pillars of the Earth) was 19 during production.

But as traditional as this adaptation is, the trailer has some modern touches, like the song “Skin” by industrial pop artist Zola Jesus. The preview also does some interesting things structurally, kicking off with the very last lines of the play, and concluding on quite a sweet, romantic note (complete with a ride off into the sunset) that we all know is not how we’ll see Romeo and Juliet’s tragic story end when the film opens in theaters later this year.

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 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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Joss Whedon on his secret film of 'Much Ado About Nothing': 'This is the best vacation I've ever taken' -- EXCLUSIVE

After wrapping production on Marvel Studios’ gargantuan summer tent-pole The Avengers, writer-director Joss Whedon was supposed to go on a monthlong vacation with his wife, Kai Cole. Instead, Whedon tells EW exclusively that his wife suggested he finally make the feature film version of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing he’d been ruminating over for years.

And so he did — adapting the script, casting the film with Whedonverse alums like Nathan Fillion, Amy Acker (Angel), Alexis Denisof (BuffyAngel), and Sean Maher (Firefly), and shooting the self-funded, black-and-white indie in secret over 12 days at his Santa Monica, Calif., home. (Production wrapped on Sunday, and Whedon says it will be ready for spring 2012 film festivals.) How did Whedon pull all this off? What was it about this particular Shakespeare comedy that drew him in? And what did stars Sean Maher — who plays the fiendish villain Don John — and Amy Acker — who co-stars with Denisof as the sarcastic, talky couple at the center of the play — make of all of this ado about Much Ado? Check out EW’s exclusive Q&As with Whedon, Maher, and Acker below, as well as exclusive shots of Maher, Denisof and Acker from the film:  READ FULL STORY

Joss Whedon announces secret film of 'Much Ado About Nothing,' ability to warp time and space at will

Just kidding about the second thing. And yet it seems that as far as Joss Whedon is concerned, writing and directing the massive comic book tentpole blockbuster The Avengers; writing and overseeing the Buffy Season 9 and Angel & Faith comics for Dark Horse; readying the long-in-limbo The Cabin in the Woods (which he co-wrote and produced) for an April 13, 2012 release by Lionsgate; and developing a post-apocalyptic web series with Warren Ellis is just not busy enough. Earlier today, actor Nathan Fillion, among others, tweeted out a link to muchadothemovie.com, announcing that Whedon had finished principal photography on a film presumably based on William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About NothingREAD FULL STORY

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