Why Much Ado About Nothing, opposed to any of the other Shakespeare plays?
A lot of reasons, Amy and Alexis being the first two: they’ve read at the house and they are delightful. It’s a text where I thought well it would be fun to make, because I’ve always loved the comedy of it, but when I finally really looked at it I said ‘oh, I actually think this is about something’. These two stories, more than just the two, they’re dealing with the same romantically cynical idea, you know, everything we do in love is manipulation; that to me became really interesting. Then finally it’s all in one house, which really helps with the location budget.
How does the environment differ making a more intimate film compared to a big budget production like The Avengers?
It’s quite different. Ultimately what you’re looking for on the set is that camaraderie, where everybody’s pulling in the same direction. When you’re doing Avengers – and this is something that I’m hoping to rectify – you didn’t really have the same, everybody working on a huge movie, coming off another huge movie (with people much bigger than you are), and going off to do another huge movie with someone much bigger than you are; and their just sort of jobbing. When we did Buffy, people would come up and go ‘oh, this is my favourite script’, they understood why they were doing everything. When we were shooting Avengers, a crew came up to me on the Helicarrier and said to me ‘are we in space?’…and I realised oh they haven’t been allowed to read the film, because Marvel is so secret. Also cause there’s so many people and you’ve got to spend so much time blowing stuff up and this that and the other. With this film, I’m at my house, with my best friends, and every day we’re completing at least one – if not more – really thick, meaty delightful scenes. So we go away every day going ‘God we just accomplished all this as opposed to ‘we shot a tenth of that explosion and tomorrow…’. It’s a very different feeling. Ultimately, you try and get to the same thing. The camaraderie on set, of the Avengers themselves, was absolutely terrific. The only problem of them was that they would not. Stop. Talking. They were having so much fun…’guys we have to shoot a film…will you please shut up’…That didn’t happen on Much Ado because we had 20 minutes to make the film.
How easy was it to get everybody on board with it? Obviously with Shakespeare the dialect’s very difficult to try and translate to screen.
Well a lot of them were classically trained, Alexis and Amy and Reed had theatre experience; and those who weren’t, I just had confidence in, Particularly Nathan, who had no confidence in himself – which is an amazing thing to say about Nathan Fillion – he was very worried about it, and he tried to duck out of it, I was like ‘I’ll trim the part I’ll take you out of that one scene where you don’t talk, but I don’t care how busy you are on Castle you’re gonna do this’. He closes the book on Dogberry, I can’t imagine a better version. But for some people it was a little bit new, and tricky; for some who hadn’t it came very naturally. Sean had also never done any Shakespeare and you would never know from the film. He’d also never played a bad guy, I was like whaat, you’re far too pretty not to have played a bad guy.
I believe you got him just by a quick email: ‘A handsome villain, what sayeth you?’ or something, is that true?
That sounds like me. Actually I was a bit more devious than that. I threw myself a coming home party, because I’d been in Albuquerque, suffering. Kai, at the end of the Avengers shoot had said ‘look I think you need to take our vacation and shoot Much Ado’, and I was like ‘I don’t…I can’t…that sounds hard’. She was like no that’s what you need. So I actually walked away from the rubble of the New York street next to a book store and got myself a copy, and was sort of thumbing through it, one of the extras was lingering, I said ‘oh I’m gonna make a film’, he said ‘oh, I just thought you were being pretentious’, walking about with that in my back pocket. So I had this party and I was like ‘so how you been, what are you doing, for the next three weeks, say between these dates?’ Because I had to get all my ducks in a row before I could say can you do this. So there was a lot of being sly.
Did everyone fit the way you wanted, did you have certain actors for certain characters paired up?
You know, yeah I got pretty much everyone I wanted to. I had this idea of Claudio as a jock, as a warrior, and not as a huge wet. I forgot that Fran, when he played the nerd on Dollhouse or the stoner on Cabin, that we had to layer tons of clothing on him to hide the fact that he’s incredibly buff. And he’s got such a gentle face and demeanour, you would never think of him as this kind of guy, but I couldn’t have been happier, I think he was absolutely the right guy for it. His commitment, to being a dick, was so great. And Clark I wanted for Leonato, he had fallen out and Tony Head was gonna do it, then he fell out, then Bradley Whitford fell out, everyone’s schedule kept not working. Then finally I called Clark again and said ‘so is that thing that you were doing still happening, in this month?’…he was like ‘you’re fucking kidding right?’ Those were his exact words. He said ‘don’t you start shooting in three days?’ I was like ‘you can come over now!’ So yeah, I really got exactly who I wanted, even down to the first and second watchmen who I had never met but was just a fan of.
If the Glasgow Film Festival managed to dig Shakespeare up and bring him along to the screening tonight, how do you think he’d respond to the film? What would you ask him?
(Does zombie impression) ‘Braaaiins! Braaaiiins!’ Um, ‘you’re not a woman are you?’ I think he’d be alright with it, I think he’d go: ‘well, you seem to be having a lot of sex, well done you’.