Joss Whedon, Amy Acker, and Alexis Denisof Q&A

Joss Whedon, Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof's Q&A, following our preview screening of Much Ado About Nothing...

On Tuesday night, Den of Geek hosted a preview screening of Joss Whedon’s new film, Much Ado About Nothing.

After the film, stars Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof dropped by for a Q&A. And then Joss Whedon turned up. It was all a bit surreal, but – to a degree – we all managed to compose ourselves and get some supposedly sensible questions out of our mouths. Here’s how the Q&A went…

Mr Whedon, your house – where you shot Much Ado About Nothing – looks like a health and safety nightmare! So many people fell over in the film. My question is, how tolerant are your neighbours?

Joss Whedon: Uh, they called the police! And one of them started demoing the house next door before we started shooting…

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Alexis Denisof: Which was only to annoy you, I think!

JW: It was a good house.

What was the biggest challenge you faced on this project?

JW: Sound!

[laughter]

JW: My neighbours are all dog owners and avid leaf blowers. And that was it. We had a great crew and obviously the cast was dialled in amazingly, so apart from sound, I had very little stress. Oh – I also had to adapt the script. I just cut a bunch of stuff.

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Joss, you have legions of fans who have huge expectations for every new project you do. How do you cope with the pressure?

JW: Drugs. And I don’t mean, like, prescribed. Just like a huge bag of weed. No, you know what? It feels like love, not pressure. They always express a willingness to go where I’m going, and I might go “Ah, sorry, I missed” but they’ll give me the benefit of the doubt and that’s a great feeling.

What were your favourite scenes to shoot?

AD: I love the “oh, that I were a man” scene. What Amy does with that, and just what that scene is, to me it distils everything I love about the play, too. It’s a really tricky one: it’s a love scene but it’s a revenge tragedy and she finds her way through it fantastically, so that’s one of them.

And then I like some of the scenes where weird shit happens. Like there’s one scene where I’m wrestling around with Fran [Kranz] and it’s early on and I’m teasing him and one of us knocked that little musical ballerina. And we knew Joss had said “there’s not many takes, get your lines right”, so when that happened I remember this telepathic conversation between Fran and I that went “oh fuck, we knocked that thing” and then the other one said “yeah, okay, we’d better stop” so we stopped and watched it and listened to it, and when it was done, then we said “shall we keep going?” and the other one said “yeah”. And that, also, sums up the movie for me!

Amy Acker: Every time I watch it I have a new favourite. Acting-wise, any of the scenes with Alexis. But recently, I feel like someone’s performance pops every time I watch it, and last time was a big Reed Diamond kick.

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Shakespeare is so epic – on the theatre stage, it’s amazing. How difficult is it to get that on film?

JW: Well, this is a pretty intimate story, that’s the thing. And these guys have done a great deal of Shakespeare but also a great deal of film acting so they know they don’t have to chuck it to the cheap seats. They can do an intimate version because I have a camera right here.

AD: I would just add that technically, this play is in prose, it’s not in iambic pentameter or rhyming couplets, I think that the playwright is telling you “yeah, go ahead, make it yours.” I mean, he probably said it in iambic pentameter when he said “make it yours.” I think that freed us up. But Joss, Joss will write in iambic pentameter if you give him a chance.

And you know we did these readings at Joss’ house over the years, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you guys about that, so I think those kind of made their way into the fun of filming. It just reminded us that – my taste is that Shakespeare doesn’t need to be presented. If you just live it and let people come to the language, it’s there. As soon as I feel someone telling me “this is beautiful”, personally, I like that less. So I think, you know, we just tried to relax. But – I don’t know. You guys, what did you think? You’re fucking English!

[laughter]

AD: I think we blew it!

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Speaking of Shakespeare, is there a particular Shakespeare role you’d love to play – and then Joss, can you do it?

AA: I keep saying the same two: Helena and Viola.

AD: Um, God, there’s a lot I love, I mean…

JW: Oh just say Hamlet!

AD: I’m going to go with Richard III.

JW: She didn’t ask “who are you most like?”

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[laughter]

AD: I’ve been gassing on about Hamlet a little bit, but I do have a taste for villains, so Richard III would be a lot of fun too.

Alexis, would Alyson [Hannigan] get involved next time?

AD: Very unlikely! We got her to one reading and she stormed off. I mean, God love her, it’s just not for everybody, let’s put it that way.

Joss, you’ve just done the most famous superhero team in the universe, the most famous playwright in the universe, what’s next?

JW: Uh, a lot. I’m doing the Marvel movies, Avengers 2 and the SHIELD TV show, and trying to promote this… they can tell you, I’m crabby and confused right now.

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AD: He’s booked up.

Do you like setting yourself a hard challenge like that?

JW: Yeah, I mean, making this movie, there was an element of terror. And then it was like “well, we did it. We did it! I’m not afraid any more! I think I’ll write the music!” The terror is where the best stuff comes from.

AD: When he told me he was writing the music, from the time that he suggested the idea, that was when I got excited. I’m not kidding. When Joss hears music, that’s a good sign.

JW: Well, when you guys kiss…

[laughter]

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When you were adapting the script, was there an element of pragmatism to it, or was there a condensed version of the story you wanted to tell?

JW: The thing I love about this story is that it’s very condensed. I tend to tell stories that have a lot of momentum, it’s not like “and then months later…” I like things where the momentum of one action rolls into the next one so everything is the sum of that. And the fact that it’s all in one place – it’s why I love spaceship movies, too.

In almost every instance, the creative choice and the pragmatic choice jibed perfectly. The party scene goes on forever, and we couldn’t shoot nights – we shot two nights, at all, or our neighbours really would have gotten pissed, and not just that evil one. And it occurred to me, well, any good party means the sun has risen and you’re in the kitchen. And so, having that fuelled exactly the place and temperament I wanted to describe, but it also saved our lives.

That, and Reed Diamond, Mr One Take.

Whenever I read Shakespeare at school, I never really found the comedies funny. I was wondering what clicked for you, that you realised they’re funny – or maybe you always thought they were?

JW: Good productions. I saw Much Ado at the Regent’s Park open air theatre when I was 17, I saw it three times. It was like “Shakespeare is grand and I think he’s important and I get some of it” and then I saw this and it was like “this is the lowest comedy I’ve ever seen.” I was stunned by how much he would just go there.

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Is that where the sex scene opener came from?

JW: No! That production was completely different.

[laughter]

AD: Plagiarist!

No, I just meant the bawdy element…

JW: No, the one I saw was terribly civilised. But if you look at it, they’re fucking!

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[laughter]

AD: It’s a romp-com.

JW: There’s some stuff going on there. Let’s just say I shot a European version.

Having heard about your Shakespeare readings for many years, it felt – as well as being a great adaptation of the film – it felt like we were being let into a very private part of what you’ve had with your cast over the years. Alexis and Amy, a decade ago you guys were playing a very different couple…

AD: You didn’t have to say “a decade”!

[laughter]

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JW: One tenth of a century ago.

After… an unspecified period of time not playing a couple, how was it returning to a very closely intimate role together?

AA: I don’t think that we ever thought, until well into the process, “it’s Fred and Wesley”, as much as we did after people have said “it’s Fred and Wesley!” It was more the chance to act with him and have the three of us do something together.

AD: For me, it’s like, if these three – I’m including myself here – if these three are working on it, it’s my favourite day at work. But it’s true, at some point we did think, ooh, wait, Angel fans might get a kick out of this. But [Joss] probably saw that from the beginning.

JW: It came to me, like, months later, “Say…!”

Finally, on behalf of everyone in the room, I’d just like to point out that you’re filming Avengers 2 in London, and if you need some extras, just look around.

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JW: I wish I could say you were the first person to tell me that!

Joss Whedon, Amy Acker, and Alexis Denisof, thank you very much!

Much Ado About Nothing is out in UK cinemas on Friday 14 June.

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