Joss Whedon Knows You Don’t Mess With Shakespeare

Joss Whedon tried something a little new with his take of William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.” Instead of going on a planned trip to Italy after wrapping “The Avengers,” he decided to bring together some of his closest friends to film an adaptation of the classic comedy. They finished shooting the movie in 12 days last year, and Whedon finally debuted it at the Toronto International Film Festival this week where it met with rave reviews.

MTV News had the chance to catch up with Whedon while he was promoting the movie and ask him about his experience directing a project written by the Bard. Since Whedon is so well known for his own unique writing style, we assumed he would have had some difficult working with a script he didn’t pen. It turns out that’s not entirely the case.

“When you’re writing the words, you’re looking for something from the audience. You’re looking for a reaction. And you’re doing the same thing when you’re directing, you’re doing the same thing when you’re directing; you’re just trying to connect. To have somebody else write the words is fine.”

Whedon cites his experiences on television shows like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Firefly” as good preparation for tackling Shakespeare. After all, he didn’t write every script used for his shows, despite the fact they took place in his world.

“I’ve run television shows where I had a staff of amazing writers writing the words and was very pleased to have them interpreting the world that I created. I don’t need to do it myself,” he said. “I chose a really good writer for this one, but taking those words is half the jobs. The visual is half the job. Directing the actors and all that.”

With that being said, the “Avengers” director did say that there were challenges in adapting “Much Ado About Nothing” and not being able to tell the movie with his own words. As we’ve read in reviews about the project, that just meant he had to find other avenues — like the visual style and his actors — through which to put his specific Joss Whedon stamp.

“Ceding the control and saying, ’It’s your world, not mine. I just have to interpret it. You’re not coming to me, I’m coming to you,’ it makes you stretch as a director,” he said. “Some of the things from Elizabethan times and from his plays, which made perfect sense for the dramatic needs of that theater or that audience that don’t make sense now, you’ve got to figure it out. You can’t just go, ’Well I’ll just change it.’ You can’t. You have to make it work. And suddenly, when you try to do that, you find layers in it that you would not have found if you were the person who had written it.”

Lionsgate/Roadside recently picked up “Much Ado About Nothing” at TIFF. No word yet on when we can expect to see it in theaters, but hopefully it will happen before the end of the year.

Are you intrigued to see what Whedon’s take on Shakespeare will be? Tell us in the comments section below or on Twitter.