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Interview with Clark Gregg About ‘Nothing’


October 24, 2011

A To-Do About a Surprise ‘Muc Ado’ From Joss Whedon

By DAVE ITZKOFF

Having recently wrapped principal photography on “The Avengers,” a big-budget, big-stakes action film about that Marvel Comics superhero team, Joss Whedon has surely earned the right to kick back on his couch, eat bonbons and catch up on daytime television for a few weeks. Instead, Mr. Whedon, the overachieving producer of fantasy television shows like “Buffy,” “Firefly” and “Dollhouse,” has once again thrown audiences for a loop by announcing that he has just finished shooting a low-budget adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” that was filmed in 12 days.

Following a surprise announcement that appeared Sunday night at muchadothemovie.com – and, subsequently, many excited blog and Twitter posts from Mr. Whedon’s fan base – the production company Bellwether Pictures said Monday in a news release that the project, filmed in black and white and “entirely on location in exotic Santa Monica,” features “a stellar cast of beloved (or soon to be beloved) actors – some of them veterans of Shakespearean theater, some completely new to the form.”

Clark Gregg, an “Avengers” star who will play Leonato, the governor of Messina, in this production of “Much Ado,” said he was as taken aback as anyone by the online response to the film’s announcement.

“Anything Joss does seems to inflame and animate his army of devoted followers,” Mr. Gregg said in a phone interview. “I had no idea anything like this was going to happen. I literally was shooting yesterday afternoon. I didn’t think I was going to wake up to 1,000 emails.”

Bellwether Pictures, an independent studio created by Mr. Whedon and his wife, Kai Cole, said that this version of “Much Ado” will feature Alexis Denisof (“Buffy” and the television comedy “How I Met Your Mother”) and Amy Acker (“Alias”) as the adversarial not-yet-a-couple Benedick and Beatrice; Nathan Fillion, a star of the ABC series “Castle” and Mr. Whedon’s online musical “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog,” will play the constable Dogberry; and Fran Kranz and Jillian Morgese will play the lovers Claudio and Hero.

Mr. Gregg, a veteran film actor and a founding member of the Atlantic Theater Company, said Mr. Whedon approached him about the “Much Ado” project just as they were completing their work on “The Avengers.”

“We were at a party at his house,” Mr. Gregg recalled, “and I was saying, ‘What are you going to do for your vacation? I hope it involves beaches and foreign languages.’ And he said, ‘It’s funny you bring that up – I was going to call you.’”

Mr. Gregg, who was already committed to starting rehearsals on a new Ethan Coen play for the Atlantic, said he wasn’t sure he could take the two-week “Much Ado” assignment. “But then a few things worked out,” he said, “and the next thing I know, I was desperately trying to learn an awful lot of Shakespearean dialogue.”

Filming on Mr. Whedon’s movie was finished on Sunday, after which Mr. Gregg had to leave before he could fully celebrate the accomplishment.

“I heard they had a wrap party while I was gone,” he said. “From the energy that was on the set yesterday, my sense is they had a second one last night. I think one of the reasons this particular piece was chosen is because it’s a play that has several parties and two weddings. It just was an excuse to have a lot of catered parties.”

Bellwether Pictures said in its statement that Mr. Whedon’s version of “Much Ado about Nothing” was “dedicated to the idea that this story bears retelling, that this dialogue is as fresh and intoxicating as any being written, and that the joy of working on a passion project surrounded by dear friends, admired colleagues and an atmosphere of unabashed rapture far outweighs their hilariously miniature paychecks.”

Asked if the film would be loyal to the period details of Shakespeare’s original play, Mr. Gregg said: “Let’s just say that my character has an iPad. When I talk about guests that might be coming to Messina, that news has reached me via my iPad.”

Mr. Whedon added in a statement, “The text is to me a deconstruction of the idea of love, which is ironic, since the entire production is a love letter – to the text, to the cast, even to the house it’s shot in.”

No release date or distribution for this “Much Ado” was immediately announced, though the studio said the film “should be completed by early spring and headed for the festival circuit, because it is fancy.”

Origianl Interview at The New York Times

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