Whedon’s version of Shakespeare’s comedic play is set in modern-day Los Angeles and stars actors from his TV and movie projects
If you had 12 days off from your responsibilities writing and directing a mega-blockbuster film that would go on to gross $1.5 billion, what would you do to relax? I know—why not have a bunch of friends come over to your house and make another movie in that short period of time? Piece of cake, right? And instead of a story about superheroes, why not use the original text of one of the greatest plays ever written—one that was first performed in 1598!
I admit that I was a little skeptical going in to see Joss Whedon’s film version of William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.” Placing the Bard’s words in a modern-day setting can be tricky indeed, but by the end of this enjoyable film, I thought it was one of the most fun, accessible, and exhilarating versions of Shakespeare ever put on celluloid. The story of sparring lovers Beatrice and Benedick (Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof) offers a dark, sexy, and occasionally absurd view of the intricate game that is love that somehow seems as fitting today as it was over 500 years ago. The writer/director clearly had a ball directing the talented cast of actors from his stock company of players and the results should please Whedon fanatics and Shakespeare purists alike. In addition to the entrancing Acker and Denisof, the cast features Whedon alumni including Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg, Reed Diamond, Fran Kranz, and Sean Maher, as well as a few new faces such as Jillian Morgese as Beatrice’s young cousin, Hero. I talked to the talented Amy Acker in Los Angeles.
MSN Movies: I can’t even imagine how you all managed to pull this off in just 12 days! Were you a little terrified going in?
Amy Acker: You know, I don’t think anyone expected at first that this was going to be what it became. We had been doing these Shakespeare readings over at Joss’s house for years. You’d go over in your flip-flops and jeans and tank top and have a glass of wine or a beer and read Shakespeare. It was all so fun and casual. So when he said he wanted to make a movie of these readings, that he’d love to share them with people, I didn’t really have it in my head that it was going to be this big film!
You thought it was just something he was going to make for his friends?
Yeah! I thought Joss was just going to whip out his iPhone. “Okay, everybody—action!” But then he told us that everyone needed to be ready to go with the whole play. So we just had three weeks to learn all of our lines and figure out what we were saying! At least we had the benefit of the set already being built since it was filmed at Joss’s house!
I know you and Alexis had some experience with Shakespeare but I imagine plenty of people in the cast did not. Was that a huge challenge?
You know, there were a lot of people who were terrified. I know Nathan was trying to get out of it!
It’s one thing to do a reading with friends with no one watching—
Exactly. But when the time came I felt like everyone knew what they were saying. Despite any fears we had, Joss made everyone feel comfortable and made it all work.
I would imagine that one of the challenges was that, unlike many other acting gigs you all may have had, you really couldn’t fudge the words here at all.
No, but it’s the same thing when you’re doing one of Joss’s scripts! He’s such a great writer so you don’t want to say something other than what he’s written! And that’s certainly how it feels with Shakespeare. You want to say it exactly the way it’s written because it’s so beautiful and it brings you to the emotional place you need to get to by having these great words to chew on and give to other actors.
It’s cool to think how this film is really going to bring Shakespeare to some brand new audiences.
I know! At every screening we’ve been to so far, at least one person has stood up and said that they’re a teacher and they can’t wait to show it in class to their students. That’s very exciting.
When you’re stepping into an amazing part like this, are you thinking of the list of some of the greatest actresses in the history of the theater who have played Beatrice before you?
Oh God, I’m glad I didn’t talk to you before we did the film! (Laughs.) I’m a huge fan of this play and I hope to see it a million more times and to see other people’s interpretations, but I think we had a specific story that we wanted to tell and luckily, having this bond with Joss and Alexis was already great starting place.
Had you played Beatrice before?
And, yes, it will probably be in 3D
But she will appear in the third film
Here's to you, Leonardo DiCaprio
Joe Dante's werewolf movie gets the special edition treatment
The same year that "An American Werewolf in London" opened up the possibilities of the werewolf horror with a mix of black comedy and horrific transformations, Joe Dante went a different direction with "The Howling" (Shout Factory). Working on lower budget, Dante discarded the usual lone wolf route to frame the drama in terms of the wolf pack. His wolves weren't mad dogs on the rampage, but a primal force balancing survival with primal urges.
Dee Wallace, just a year before making "E.T.," stars as an investigative TV reporter recovering from a brush with a serial killer in a retreat called "The Colony," a mix of new age commune, primal therapy, and red meat culture. It also happens to be the hub of a werewolf pack that quickly adds her husband (Christopher Stone) to their ranks, transforming the easy-going vegetarian into an aggressive, meat-eating hunter in the process.
It's more clever than compelling, to be fair, an interesting take with inventive effects (thanks to Rob Bottin), impressive moments of horror, an undercurrent of dark humor, and an earthy, feral sensibility. John Sayles (who previously wrote "Piranha" for Dante) came with Dante from the Corman movie factory and contributes a clever script (adapted from a novel by Gary Brandner) with some character nice touches in the supporting roles (many of them played by his B-movie heroes and genre character actors, from Kevin McCarthy and John Carradine to Roger Corman and Forrest J. Ackerman) and a modicum of wit in the dialogue.
It's a real film buff feast but Dante also uses the opportunity to stretch himself.
Laurence Fishburne and Bill Paxton star in this thrilling story of survival
Years ago, winter came and never went away. Beneath the surface of an ice-covered world, survivors in Colony Seven struggle to keep their fragile society from collapsing as food dwindles and temperatures drop. Already plagued by illness and internal conflict, the colonists suspect the worst when they lose contact with the only other known settlement. A small group decide to go on a dangerous expedition to discover what happened and what they find is worse than they could have ever imagined. Now the fight for survival really begins.
See more exclusive photos from "The Colony" opening in theaters August 23 after the break.