WonderCon: 'Much Ado About Nothing' and Why Joss Whedon Says 'I'm Just Like Shakespeare'
The final day of WonderCon brought out fan favorite Joss Whedon. But instead of appearing at this year's convention to tout a new Marvel movie or some sci-fi project he's working on, Whedon instead brought his cast and cinematographer along to promote the William Shakespeare comedyMuch Ado About Nothing coming out June 7.
While it was pretty clear that most of the people who filled the Arena were more Whedon fans than Shakespeare aficionados. The hour-long panel included three clips and plenty of laughter.
11:02 a.m. – Joss Whedon walks out onto the stage to thunderous applause. While certainly humbled by the reception he steps up to the podium to deliver a special announcement. Everyone is expecting some kind of Marvel announcement but instead Whedon says, "I have the distinct honor of announcing to you all that Nathan Fillion could not be here today." The disappointed crowd groans. "He has a hideous facial disease guys. It's terrible," Whedon jokes and then takes his seat as the panel to begin.
11:05 – Adam Vary from Buzzfeed is the moderator for the panel and introduces the cast members of the movie as they walk out onto the stage. Cast members appearing are Clark Gregg, Spencer Treat Clark, Nick Kocher, Riki Lindhome, Tom Lenk, Sean Maher, Jillian Morgese and Romy Rosemont. Cinematographer Jay Hunter joins them on stage as well.
11:08 – The first question is posed to Whedon and asks when did he have time to make it and what compelled him to make the movie now. Whedon responds, "I have a problem where I can't stop working and so for the longest time, it just didn't quite fit into my schedule. It's a shame that Avengers didn't do as well as we expected," he jokes, "but now felt like the right time."
11:10 – The cast is asked how they came on board the project. They each answer in succession.
Riki – "I got an email from Joss asking if I wanted to be in this and I said yes. That's about it."
Nick – "I'm still not certain if this is a prank. If it is, I'm going to be seriously pissed off. But yeah, I got an email from Joss as well asking if I wanted to play a small part."
Clark – "I actually knew he had just finished shooting Avengers and I thought he was going to go into the editing phase of the movie and so when I heard that he wanted to adapt a Shakespeare play, I thought, 'Great, Joss is having a nervous breakdown. He thinks he's making a movie at his house.' But I underestimated the Whedon."
Tom – "I got an email and was just excited to let Nathan do all the work and capitalized on his comedic skills and how handsome he is. I was kind of nervous to say yes though because I had been shamed by my Shakespeare teacher at UCLA. I got a C in that class, so I wasn't sure if Joss knew what he was doing."
Spencer – "I was in Wyoming working on another project when Joss called. I had horrible service so I couldn't quite make out what he was saying, but I knew he asked me to be a part of something, so I just said yes."
Sean – "I was in Chicago working when I got an email from Joss that read, 'I need a sexy villain. What sayeth you?' and I responded back, 'Does this mean you think I'm sexy Joss?' and he replied back, 'Stop fishing for compliments, are you in or out?'"
Jillian – "I was actually a background actor on Avengers and so I met Joss that way. I ended up Skyping my audition with him and there was a point when he offered the part to me and I said yes and turned off Skype that I didn't quite know what had happened. And then it started to hit me and I got sweaty, but a couple weeks later, I showed up on set and everyone was fantastic and I would spend a lot of time behind the monitor watching this great cast do their thing."
Rory – "I met Joss at a Glee party and a few weeks later he sent me a text and asked me if I wanted to play a small part in the film."
11:18 – Hunter is asked how he came on to the project. He responds, "I met Joss on the second season of Dollhouse and hadn't really spoken to him since that time. I got an email from his assistant out of the blue and basically, when Joss calls you, you say yes."
11:26 – Two clips are shown in succession. The first one finds Leonato, Claudio and Don Pedro standing by a window and discussing how in love Benedict is with Beatrice. From behind, Benedict pops his head into view from outside, desperately trying to hear every word. The trio move to a different room in the house and stand in front of a set of glass doors, continuing their conversation as Benedict military rolls into view behind them still trying to eavesdrop on the conversation.
The next clip finds Benedict out in a field as Beatrice calls him in for dinner. Desperate to show off, Benedict strikes ridiculous poses including push-ups and sit-ups. Both scenes are really funny and play very well to the Arena crowd.
11:28 – Whedon is asked why he chose Much Ado out of all the Shakespeare plays. He responds, "It's incredibly funny, modern and accessible. But then I look at the play again and I said, 'Oh, this is dark and full of pain!' Examining the underbelly of what is going on, the motivations of each characters. The movie has a lot of commentary about love and how we're pushed in certain ways when in love and then tears it all down. And then I threw some sex in." He continues, "I tried to put a lot of sex in Avengers but Scarlett [Johansson] just told me stop embarrassing myself."
11:30 – A third clip is shown, this time featuring Nathan Fillion!
The scene: Set in a prison, we see Dogberry (Fillion) and Verges (Lenk) interrogating Conrade (Lindhome) who has been accused of calling Don John (Maher), a villain. They call in the Watchmen (Kocher and Brian McElhaney) who read out the charges against the two. The Sexton (Rosemont) calls them to be taken away but before they can be escorted out of the room, Conrade approaches Dogberry and calls him "an ass." Dogberry is hurt by the name-calling and Fillion milks the flustered comedic moment skillfully. The scene ends with Dogberry trying to put on a jacket that is too small for him. The crowd is eating the scene up.
11:33 – Audience questions now. Gregg is asked if there was a difference between making Avengers and making Much Ado. He answers, "Well, I knew there was no risk of someone turning into a raging green giant and it was going to be difficult to kill me off [referring to Agent Coulson's death in Avengers]. But it was a great opportunity to work with Joss again with a new group of Avengers."
11:36 – Whedon is asked what the next Shakespeare story he'd like to adapt. "I'd like to do something different," Whedon says. "I had so many new experiences making this that I want to keep doing new and different things. And as long as it is with this cast, I don't care what it is." The audience "Awws" in response.
11:38 – Whedon is asked if there are any similarities between him and Shakespeare. Whedon replies, "Neither of our words make any sense and you have to look a lot of stuff up. I'm just like Shakespeare." He then quietly says to himself, "That's going to get out on Twitter," and immediately an audience member shouts out, "Tweeted it!" The audience and panel burst into laughter.
11:46 – Whedon is asked if there was a struggled bringing the old and new together. He says, "The first adaptation I ever saw was set in World War I. It translates very well and always does. There were certain decisions that had to be made like guns instead of swords and cell phones and cars. We wanted to modernize it, but also create a distance between it."
11:50 – Joss is asked about how he chooses his projects. He says that the key thing is "whether or not I have something to say. I debated a long time with Avengers, but I felt connected to the story of character who are brought together when they just want to be alone. I totally got that. With Much Ado, it was my chance to offer my version of what I think Shakespeare was trying to say."
The panel ends with a hilarious exchange between Gregg and a fan whose fiancée dumped her during Wonder Con. Gregg offers her a free hug after the panel.
The panel wraps and the Arena empties out. Without a doubt, the audience loved every minute of the panel. Much Ado opens relatively early in the summer movie season, but word of mouth could propel this entertaining movie to success.
Derrick Deane, Fandango Content Personnel/Movie Blogger, joined Fandango in 2010, bringing more than 10 years of filmmaking and writing experience with him. While The Godfather, Rear Window and 12 Angry Men are all favorites, he will always have a soft spot for Die Hard, Leon: The Professional and Back to the Future.
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