Shakespeare gets black and white Californian treatment
Joseph Hill “Joss” Whedon (born June 23, 1964) is an American screenwriter, film and television producer, director, comic book author, composer, and actor.
Joseph Hill “Joss” Whedon (born June 23, 1964) is an American screenwriter, film and television producer, director, comic book author, composer, and actor. He is the founder of Mutant Enemy Productions and co-founder of Bellwether Pictures. He is best known as the creator and showrunner of the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003), Angel (1999-2004), Firefly (2002-2003), Dollhouse (2009-2010), and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013), as well as Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (2008). Whedon co-wrote Toy Story (1995), wrote and directed Serenity (2005), co-wrote and produced the horror film The Cabin in the Woods (2012), and wrote and directed the film adaptation of Marvel’s The Avengers (2012), the third highest-grossing film of all time.
Whedon is notable for his work in the comic books Astonishing X-Men, Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics, Angel: After the Fall and Runaways, and his collaborations in online media. Many of Whedon’s projects have cult status.
On October 23, 2011 Bellwether Pictures confirmed they had completed principal photography on Much Ado About Nothing, which Whedon scripted, produced, directed, edited and composed, based on William Shakespeare’s play of the same name. It was filmed in black-and-white over a period of 12 days at Whedon’s residence in Santa Monica, California. The film had its world premiere at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival. It had a limited theatrical release on June 7, 2013, and was expanded nationwide in the U.S. on June 21, 2013. Whedon’s idea to adapt the play for the screen originated from having “Shakespeare readings” at his house with several of his friends, years prior. Despite its comedy, he discovered that there were elements in the text “of debauchery” that brought out a core darkness, and while influenced by the visual nature of film he decided to permeate a motif of sexuality into the script.
Whedon and his DP Jay Hunter took advantage of natural lighting in order to make it feel “very found”, noting, “Our lighting package rose in the east and set in the west”. Using mirrors, glass and windows to shoot through, he explains, “[It’s] something I’d like to do all the time, but particularly in a movie that’s all about lies, and manipulation and misunderstandings. The more you can warp the frame a little bit, the more it speaks towards what’s going on”. The film was shot with multiple hand-held digital cameras, often with a RED Epic, and used a Lensbaby Composer with Double Glass lens on a Canon 7D to differentiate certain scenes. Working with the actors, Whedon determined that, although giving them notes for guidance, “...what I understand is what an actor wants to know. ‘Why am I doing this, and how should it come out?’ And ‘Will I be safe to try something strange?’ And ‘Will I be asked to do more?’ I don’t come at it from any other standpoint than that”.
Film: Much Ado About Nothing
Director: Joss Whedon
Starring: Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof
BLACK and white movies are suddenly de rigeur once more. Last year it was The Artist. This year it’s A Field In England, about the English civil war, and this latest Hollywood take on one of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies.
Black and white always lends an air of nostalgia to a film, and is often used to hint at the past. American director Joss Whedon said: “I wanted to give this movie some of that old Hollywood glamour, and I think we would have had more of a challenge if it wasn’t in black and white.”
Whedon, whose father and grandfather were both successful scriptwriters, wrote the first Toy Story screenplay, but really made his mark by writing TV series Buffy The Vampire Slayer and its sequel, Angel.
In between projects, the 49-year-old took a few days off —12, to be precise — grabbed a few acting mates, decamped to his Spanish-style house in a Californian suburb and filmed Much Ado About Nothing. Just like that. Oh, and by the way, he funded the project out of his own pocket.
The two infamous sparring partners, Benedick and Beatrice, have been played on stage over the years by some impressive duos — Maggie Smith and Robert Stephens, and Donald Sinden and Judi Dench, to name but two. This time they are played by Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker, both of whom are little known on the big screen but have starred in his Buffy and Angel series.
The setting is modern day and the players waft about their Californian mansion in lounge suits and ties quaffing lots of cocktails, but apart from a few adjustments, the language in this “noir” comedy is fairly true to the Bard’s original.
The film has been described by one critic as a “triumph”. It plays at the Regal Picturehouse in Henley from today (Friday).