Joss Whedon’s version of Much Ado About Nothing has been one well-traveled movie over the past few weeks. So far, it’s been to Texas, Istanbul, Ireland (where it won a prize), the UK and Canada. This past weekend, the movie was in two film festivals. After the jump, a report on its premiere at the San Francisco International Film Festival.
Fans of Whedon, Shakespeare, and romantic comedies cheered the April 27th showing of Much Ado About Nothing at the Sundance Kabuki Theater. Fans cheered when they saw Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof on the theater stage. Alexis even called Joss just before the film began. While he put the microphone next to the phone, he asked Joss to introduce it for them. Joss was hard to understand, but he did hear the crowd through the phone.
While Lionsgate has asked movie critics to hold off on writing a formal review, we can say the crowd loved the movie. The two clips that were shown at WonderCon in Anaheim drew even bigger laughs in San Francisco. Alexis said that the movie will be shown in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco on June 7th, and more cities two weeks later, depending on the response. Judging from the buzz the movie has already generated, a lot more cities will see it.
Before the movie, Whedonopolis talked to Alexis and Amy about being in San Francisco, and what was it like to portray one of literature’s most famous romantic couples. First, they talked about how they applied their experiences of reading the text to bringing it to life.
“I think the readings gave us a certain relaxation with each other and with the format,” Denisof said, “and with doing Shakespeare at Joss’ house, which is where we shot this film. So, in a way, we were showing up for another reading, but this time we stood up and knew the lines and acted out the scenes.”
“A lot of the readings had surprise elements to them where, like, when we did the reading of Much Ado, Joss surprised us all, and had written a song,” Acker added. “There is always kind of little elements that really made it more than just a reading, and this just made it extra special.”
They also said that Joss actually though Amy and Alexis made the perfect Beatrice and Benedick, but he didn’t tell them he would be making a movie. “Luckily, he didn’t tell us,” she said, “or I think we would have been calling him every day and saying ‘are we making it now? Is it today?’”
Alexis added that Fran Kranz and Jillian Morgese, who play Claudio and Hero, were in Boston for the film fest premiere there. Alexis said he was happy with how this movie is quietly generating a lot of interest. “Anybody connected to it is surprised and delighted at what this little movie is proving to be capable of.” He added: “We had a huge amount of fun making a movie, and we’re having even more fun now that it’s rolling out, and people are getting a glimpse, yet another shade of Joss’ genius.”
As for what other Shakespearean characters they’d like to tackle, Amy said she’s like to be Helena from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, while Alexis preferred anything from the comedies or tragedies.
About two hours later, Amy and Alexis returned to the stage to talk about the film and field a few questions. Alexis admitted that when he was first called about Much Ado, he was worried his role in The Avengers (he played “The Other”) was cut. Of course, he wasn’t cut. He said that the fact they didn’t have much time to prepare was actually the best thing about it, and it got even better when Joss realized it was coming together.
Amy said Nick Kocher and Brian McElhany of the BriTANick comedy group became the two watchmen when they were cast by e-mail after someone saw their YouTube channel. Nathan Fillion wanted to back out until, according to Amy, he realized “Shakespeare’s just talking like Yoda.” He and Tom Lenk are a riot as two cops who think they’re on NYPD Blue, investigating whether Hero was unfaithful to Claudio. Joss even left his house unlocked so that Amy and Alexis, and soon a few other cast members, could rehearse. All of this led to a movie that seems like Shakespeare in the Park, but is more than that. “This film,” Alexis said, “finds a very happy union between the feel of theater and the possibility of film.”
One fan asked Amy and Alexis what it was like to be a romantic couple again after they were Wes and Fred on Angel. At one point, Alexis said it would have been wrong to bring Wes and Fred into this movie, then realized it would have been a great idea. They were happy to be collaborating with Joss again, while Alexis hinted about what could have been if the show hadn’t been cancelled in season five. “We felt like this show was getting stronger and stronger,” he said. “When they pulled the plug in season five, we were bummed. I was especially upset because of what was in the works for Wesley and Fred.” He didn’t get into specific details, but he said what could have been next was “awesome”.
They talked about how making a movie for a small amount of money can be liberating, especially when a big budget can affect the process of getting a movie done. With a smaller budget, we can see Alexis as Benedick try to impress Beatrice with push-ups, or see Beatrice do one big pratfall (which is in the latest trailer). “Guerilla filmmaking can be exciting, rewarding,” he said, “and is usually an active passion, and therefore is important.”
Amy said that Joss had been interested in making Much Ado for some time, “and I think one of the reasons that this worked is that it fit so perfectly into this house what (Kai Cole, Joss’ wife) built.” Amy says that the house is as much a character in the film as the cast was.
The partying that they had during the Shakespeare readings influenced the partying in the movie. Amy jokingly said, “Every time I’ve seen it, I can’t decide if I want a drink, or I want to like check into AA.” Of course, it was fake alcohol in the movie. She was also surprised her face was part of the festival logo this year. She just took a picture of it, and sent it to her mom.
Just before this showing, it was announced Much Ado won the Audience Award at the Belfast Film Festival. Next, it will open the Seattle International Film Festival on May 16th. It premieres in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco on June 7th, and other US cities two weeks later.
If you have seen the movie already, especially this past weekend in San Francisco and Boston, please give your comments below. Also, please keep your comments spoiler-free, and tell Lionsgate you want to make much ado about Much Ado to make sure it comes to your town in late June.