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.”
Much Ado, starring Angel alums Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof as sparring lovers Benedick and Beatrice, and Firefly alum Nathan Fillion as comically incompetent constable Dogberry, is as far from The Avengers’ large sets and booming action as you can get. The movie was shot over 12 days at Whedon’s home in Santa Monica, Calif. It’s the first feature from Whedon’s mini studio Bellwether Pictures, which he created with his wife Kai Cole.
Acker, who has flown somewhat under the radar since her role as wide-eyed Winifred Burkle on Angel, did a reading of Much Ado with Denisof years ago at Whedon’s house. Hopefully the film version will land Acker back in the spotlight.
“Amy’s the best actress I’ve ever worked with. Get ready for an ace star performance. People were speechless,” gushed Whedon. “We started the home Shakespeare readings 10 years ago or more. It was season five or season six of Buffy. Sarah Michelle Gellar did not do the readings. A smattering of writers and actors from the shows did them. With Much Ado, eventually the technology changed to the point where you can make a movie, and not just a stage reading, but an actual production at home.”
As for Fillion, Whedon said the Castle star had never read Shakespeare, before filming the movie, and that Fillion was scared. “But he was so assured, and so funny. People are thinking spinoff!” said Whedon.
Whedon also mused about the connections between Shakespeare and The Avengers, which has grossed more than $650 million domestically at the box office since its May debut, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com. Apparently a knack for dry, snarky, intricate language and twisting, turning plot lines spans generations, TV, movies and plays.
“There’s a reason Tony Stark makes fun of Thor, and mentions Shakespeare in the Park in The Avengers,” said Whedon. “It’s great to play high drama and comedy alongside a modern story. Shakespeare was shameless about that stuff, pop culture references. Much Ado is very much in the vein of the movies I make, which surprised me. It’s not that different from The Avengers. It’s about finding why everyone is in the movie. What makes Ursula the maid shine? It was oddly similar.”
As for making other independent films, with Whedon’s mega stuffed Marvel schedule working on The Avengers sequel and TV spinoff S.H.I.E.L.D., will there still be time, or even room in his Marvel contract, for the multitasking writer-director to feed into Bellwether Pictures? Whedon said yes.
“The agreement with Marvel carved out room for movies like Much About Do and In Your Eyes, which my wife produced, which we’ve finished post on. And Dr. Horrible 2,” said Whedon. “Anything that is not movie and TV. I can do web, comic books, macramé, art.”