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Much Ado About Whedon

Amy Acker on Much Ado About Nothing, Joss Whedon and acting with friends

Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker in Much Ado About Nothing
Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker in Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing. Photo by Elsa Guillet-Chapuis
Amy Acker
Dallas native and Joss Whedon regular Amy Acker. Amy Acker/Facebook

Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing was one of 22 films that made its Dallas debut at the USA Film Festival, which continues through April 28 at Angelika Film Center Dallas. Star Amy Acker, a Lake Highlands and SMU grad, made a return trip to her hometown in support of the film, at the April 26 screening.

Below, a short review of the film followed by insights from Acker, a familiar face in the Whedonverse.

Much Ado About Nothing mini-review

Hardly anyone would’ve guessed that writer/director Joss Whedon’s follow-up to the massive The Avengers would’ve been an ultra-indie Shakespearean adaptation he filmed at his own home. But that’s what he’s done, making Shakespeare’s classic comedy Much Ado About Nothing with the help of many of the actors who’ve populated his previous TV shows and movies.

Whedon created his own hybrid, setting the story in modern times but using the traditional language. Anyone not used to the rhythms of the prose may find it takes a while to get used to the characters’ fast-paced interactions.

But the structure of the film is such that you often don’t need to understand every line in order to enjoy the proceedings. The skills of actors like Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Clark Gregg, Fran Kranz and Nathan Fillion ensure that the proper emotions come through no matter what.

Much Ado About Nothing is likely to please both Shakespeare purists and Whedon fans alike, making for an experience that’s rich on a number of levels.

Amy Acker interview

Joss Whedon choosing to do a low-budget Shakespeare adaptation may seem to be out of left field, but according to Acker, it's far from it. Acker says that Whedon often has get-togethers at his house, assigning guests roles in one of Shakespeare's plays and staging readings in his backyard.

Consequently, it was no surprise when Acker received the invitation to do the movie. Aside from those impromptu backyard readings, the last time Acker did a live performance of Shakespeare was when she played Hero in Much Ado About Nothing in 1999 at American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wisconsin.

One of the striking aspects of the film is that it was shot in black and white. Acker says that the reasons for that were twofold. First, Whedon wanted to do a noir version of the play, and black and white seemed to fit with that theme. But because everyone used their own clothes as costumes, there were many clashing colors, and black and white made it easier to make everything cohesive.

When it came to the dialogue, Acker says getting used to it was easier than you might think. 

"This is one of the easier plays, because it’s all in prose," Acker says. "There’s not the meter and all of that you can get more caught up in other plays. It feels very conversational."

Much of the film has the feel of a big party — which is not entirely unexpected, given that much of the cast had spent a lot of time together.

"Everybody there just really admired and liked each other, so it was a perfect environment to do something where it didn’t really matter what happened with it," Acker says. "When I watch the movie, I feel like you can tell we were all having a really good time and that we all loved being around each other.”

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