WonderCon 2013: Joss Whedon’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ Panel

Joss Whedon‘s cinematic adaptation of the classic William Shakespeare tome Much Ado About Nothing kicked off the Sunday edition of the 2013 WonderCon in Anaheim, CA today in the arena at the Anaheim Convention Center.

The film, which is in black and white and is about a far as you can get from Whedon’s past projects, which include last year’s gold plated smash success The Avengers, (written and directed by the famed wordsmith Whedon) is set for a national release soon to theaters, coming off of a slow climb since late last year when it was showcased at various film festivals. Early word of mouth and reviews have been generally positive, and it’s definitely a nice departure of sorts for Whedon to take on a project in Much Ado About Nothing that has nothing do with costumes, special effects and classic stereotypical action/comic book film eye candy, instead focusing on having skilled actors spout complex dialogue and narrative.

However, Whedon has still managed to pull a few of his past tricks out of his sleeve with this one, at least with some of the casting. He’s put some of his colleagues in the forefront of the production, which include Clark Gregg, who has been in a few of Whedon’s past projects, Sean Maher and Nathan Fillion, best remembered as the Captain in Whedon’s short lived but immense cult TV show smash, Firefly (which also starred Maher). Both Gregg and Maher, along with Whedon and most of the cast of Much Ado About Nothing, made up the panel in the arena. Joss came out right away to inform us that Nathan couldn’t make it today on the panel, to the extreme chagrin of the audience, but, in a funny show of solidarity with them, hilariously pretended to cry and ensured that “we’d all make it together” in dealing with Nathan’s absence.

Moderated by Adam Vary, who introduced the trailer for the film, which sported a snazzy jazzy score and was lovingly photographed in rich black and white tones with dramatic lighting and camera movement, it almost baffled the Avengers fed crowd who might have been expecting something completely different, which for sure they probably were. The crowd ate it up anyway.

The large cast was then introduced, and Whedon mentioned that since “The Avengers didn’t do as well as he hoped,” it was the impetus to make this new film, which was filmed in 12 days. He lauded the cast, and revealed that their professionalism was a large reason why the film was done so quickly.

Each cast member spoke of working with Joss and how they felt when he first contacted them. Gregg, to massive applause, in which he responded “Don’t feed the beast” and thought that Whedon was having a nervous breakdown, making the film at his house akin to a “Strange Shakespeare party”, but summed it up by saying, “Don’t underestimate the Whedon.” When asked what the difference was between this and The Avengers, he said he didn’t have to think about being “killed off in this one.” But ultimately, he likened the cast to a different kind of Avengers considering the large and eclectic ensemble of performers that made up the main cast. Tom Lenk said it was easy to act in the film, it was a simple matter of letting Nathan Fillion “do all the work with his handsomeness.” Sean Maher, who promised he wouldn’t let his potty mouth get the best of him during Easter Sunday, still exclaimed he played an “evil bastard.” He said he got the part, cause Josh was looking for a “sexy villain,” to which Maher asked, “do you think I’m sexy?” In which Whedon replied, “Oh come on Sean, are you in or out?”

Another clip from the film was then shown, dialogue filled and rather comedic, almost slapstick meets Shakespeare. In viewing it, it seems that Whedon was conscious that in order to reach a mass audience with this very ultimately tricky production, he would need to camp it up with broad comedy, which was on full display in the clip. In a lot of ways, this is like his version of Woody Allen’s A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy, which followed a lot of the same kind of approach and milieu that that film did. Whedon also stressed that the play is something that can work in today’s climate because of how contemporary it is, and how passionate he felt about the project and the original play. Vury asked him if he would do this again, to which Whedon wittily answered “well, not with THESE people again.” But in all honesty, really felt that he’d love to do “anything, whatever it is actually,” with the cast again.

Another clip followed, which also had the same tone as the others. It was an interrogation scene, again, following the broad comedy to kind of temper and make the complex dialogue easily accessible. Even though there were seven people in the scene, Whedon’s creative direction didn’t make it feel cluttered or claustrophobic. Fillion was the highlight of the scene, and the crowd ate it up voraciously.

Q&A covered questions about if the writing of Whedon mirrored Shakespeare, to which Whedon replied, “yeah, we both don’t make sense, it’s not in order and you have got to make that shit up.” He got red faced when he hoped that that quote wasn’t going to be Tweeted, in which an audience member assured him that instantly, it had been, right after he said it. A young teenager also asked him how to use social media to help budding filmmakers like herself, and he replied, “look, you are talking to Wilford Brimley about Twitter. I still use my cell phone to MAKE CALLS.”

Ultimately, a nice way to kick off the day at the arena on Easter Sunday on the last day of 2013 Wondercon in Anaheim. Funny, bright, sharp, personable and extremely engaging and warm, to sum up, the panel sported the same type of adjectives that also looks like what Much Ado About Nothing will also exhibit, when it reaches theaters sometime soon.

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