One of the media events I’m most excited about in 2013 is the long-awaited release of Joss Whedon’s film version of Shakespeare’s’ Much Ado About Nothing. Filmed in October 2011 at Whedon’s California home, the play reunites many actors from his various projects including Amy Acker (Angel, Dollhouse, Cabin in the Woods), Alexis Denisof (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel), Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Fran Kranz (Dollhouse, Cabin in the Woods), and Sean Maher (Firefly). In many ways, it is this that is one of the project’s biggest draws for me – as a long-time fan of Whedon’s work on the small and large screens, I’m intrigued to see many of my favourite actors from his projects come together.
Even for those not familiar with Whedon’s work – nor drawn by the thrill of seeing beloved actors (many of whom fail to land mainstream roles) on the big screen – the film offers to chance to see Shakespeare’s play re-imagined again for the contemporary age. As a Shakespeare fan, especially of Much Ado About Nothing, I never get tired of seeing new interpretations and versions of his classic plays. From Baz Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet to Ethan Hawke’s Hamlet, by way of most of Branagh’s versions, there is always a thrill for me in seeing new ways of viewing familiar plots and lines. Similarly, as a writer known for his witty dialogue and characterisation, I’m intrigued to see how Whedon works when having to put the lines written by another writer into his characters mouths and how the usual Whedon flair is tempered or transformed by the process.
The gap between the filming of Much Ado in 2011 and its eventual release in June 2013 speaks to the issues in terms of distribution and screening of such a low-budget independent endeavour. It’s no accident that the film’s emergence now follows on the heels of Whedon proving that he can be involved in popular and successful blockbusters such as The Avengers and attract more genre-specific crowds for his horror project Cabin in the Woods. Whatever the ultimate reasons for the sudden decision to put mainstream money behind distributing the film, it promises to be one of my most anticipated media moments of the year, and will hopefully further cement Whedon’s position as a successful and innovative film-maker.