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“How Shakespeare Saved ‘Avengers’: Joss Whedon on His ‘Much Ado About Nothing’”

From today’s NYT:

“Honestly, if you’re not a workaholic,” Joss Whedon said recently, “this is hard to explain.”

Mr. Whedon, the prolific writer, producer and director, was speaking by phone from Los Angeles as he discussed an unusual moment in his life, in fall 2011, when he had just finished principal photography on the soon-to-be comic-book blockbuster “The Avengers.”

With some well-earned time off before he started postproduction on that movie — a $200 million behemoth that was easily the biggest project Mr. Whedon had taken on — he canceled an anniversary trip he had planned to take with his wife, Kai Cole.

Instead, Mr. Whedon used his break from a movie to make another movie: a black-and-white adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” shot in 12 days at his home in Santa Monica and starring actors he’d worked with on his TV shows, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel,” “Firefly” and “Dollhouse,” as well as on “The Avengers.”

When it comes to creativity, there is something to be said to going with your gut. Like immersing oneself in Shakespeare while directing a mammoth project like The Avengers:

And so, for perhaps the first time in history, a team of superheroes was saved by Shakespeare. Rereading “Much Ado” on the set of “The Avengers,” Mr. Whedon said he was struck by the intertwining tales of Beatrice and Benedick, and Hero and Claudio, as they fall in love and fight and reunite, and reminded of the screwball romances of directors like Billy Wilder and Preston Sturges.

“I went, ‘Oh, it’s been staring at me for years,’ ” he said. “‘This is a very dark, very complex deconstruction of a romantic comedy, and I’m so in.”

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Mr. Whedon found that when he returned to postproduction work on “The Avengers,” he was far less conflicted about cutting down that film, and no longer felt like he was losing control of the project.

“I came back from ‘Much Ado’ going, ‘That’s the point,’ ” he said. “ ‘The film is not called “Joss.” It’s called “The Avengers,” and when I’m done editing it, it will still be a film by me.’ ”

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But what he’d learned from both kinds of filmmaking, Mr. Whedon said, is that one is no less real or important than the other, and that “The Avengers” was no less a passion project than “Much Ado About Nothing,”

“I would also describe ‘Avengers 2’ as a passion project,” he said. “I don’t take any project for which I have no passion. Why would you do that?”

Interesting to see writer-directors like Joss Whedon, J.J. Abrams, Shane Black, and Christopher Nolan take the helm of huge franchise movies. It makes me wonder how much of the success of these movies is tied to the writer side of these filmmakers and their understanding of story… even to their affection for Shakespeare.

Much Ado About Nothing opens June 7.

For the rest of the NYT article, go here.

Video Interview: Joss Whedon

Via THR:

“It’s all about figuring out just enough for everyone, because too much is going to throw people, and at the same time, you don’t want to leave anybody in the cold. It really is just hard work figuring out structurally how they’re going to matter, how they’re going to drive the plot. But then once you’ve got that, it’s just writing the characters – and that’s fun.”