TIFF 2011: Toronto International Film Festival

Thursday | August 21, 2014

Whedon a 'workaholic'


Actor Alexis Denisof, writer/director Joss Whedon and actor Sean Maher of "Much Ado About Nothing" pose at the Guess Portrait Studio during 2012 Toronto International Film Festival on September 9, 2012 in Toronto, Canada. (Matt Carr/Getty Images/AFP)

TORONTO - You're deep into post-production on the most expensive, most anticipated film of the year. You've got a little bit of time off before you need to go back into the editing room and guide this monstrously complex project to completion. So what do you do for fun?

If you're Joss Whedon, you make another movie.

"It's the best vacation I've ever taken. I came back so refreshed," Whedon said of shooting Much Ado About Nothing, his (sort of) modern-day Shakespeare adaptation that made its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival.

What kind of a guy gets a brief holiday from an insanely pressure-filled gig and then uses it to make more work for himself?

"A workaholic," said Whedon. "Or a creator. I don't know. There's a good version and a bad version of everything, and the good version is it is my great joy to make things whenever can. The bad version is I don't know how to do anything else."

For years, Whedon and his tightknit circle of actor friends have done table reads of Shakespeare plays at Whedon's house, just for grins. When he decided the time was right to take Shaky Bill's rom-com to the next level, Whedon enlisted many of these same folks, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Alexis Denishof, Dollhouse's Amy Acker, Firefly's Nathan Fillion and The Avengers' Clark Gregg, as well as newcomer Jillian Morgese.

"They were working their asses off for peanuts," Whedon said. "And I was apologizing until I realized, wait a minute"¦ this is a dream for all of us, not just me."

The entire movie - shot in black and white digital video - was filmed in just 12 days at Whedon's Santa Monica home. While the location and time period are modern, Whedon stuck to Shakespeare's original text, with its many thous and wherefores.

"Shakespeare is his text," he said. "What else would I keep? His stage directions?"

Much Ado About Nothing is the first release from Bellwether Pictures, a microstudio formed by Whedon and his wife, Kai Cole. Having the freedom to make these small movies (as well as work on other pet projects, such as the upcoming new season of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog) was key in Whedon agreeing to write and direct The Avengers 2. It's a three-year commitment that will also have him working as a consultant of sorts on almost everything related to Marvel's superhero squad, including the upcoming Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, as well as ABC's spin-off TV series, S.H.I.E.L.D.

"Very talented people are writing and directing these movies, and what I don't want to be is the guy they dread, who's going to come in and say" - here, Whedon affects a pompous British accent - "'Oh, well I have the power to say change this.' I'm not that."

Whedon can't yet talk specifics about The Avengers 2, but he knows what he wants to accomplish with the 2015 sequel to this year's $1.5-billion blockbuster. Given how much of his work has been grounded in the relationships between people who are thrust into extraordinary circumstances, it shouldn't come as a surprise that he'll see how far he can push Earth's mightiest heroes.

"The creation of the team is not the happy ending," he said. "It is the beginning of something that is complex and difficult, and now I get to dig a little deeper. And maybe, while I'm digging, just twist that knife. And that's exciting for me."

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