Joss Whedon, “Much Ado About Nothing” Director, on Passion Projects, “S.H.I.E.L.D.” Hype, and “Guardians of the Galaxy”
Joss Whedon is a pleased guy.
And no wonder: After the mega-success of “The Avengers,” he now holds the title of superstar director, and his new (much, much smaller) passion project, “Much Ado About Nothing,” is getting bounty of like at the box office.
On June 7, the same day that “Much Ado” was released in a small number of theaters, Moviefone got the chance to chat with a joyful Whedon about the intimate process of producing and filming the Shakespeare play, how his approach to “The Avengers 2” will be uncommon, and why he “giggled like a schoolgirl” when James Gunn was mentioned for “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
Moviefone: You filmed “Much Ado About Nothing” between principle photography and post-production on “The Avengers.” Why not just take a vacation?
Joss Whedon: My wife. We were vacant to go to Venice for our 20th [anniversary] and, right before I finished production, we were in New York, and she said, “Yeah, you need to make a movie of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ instead.” And I was like, “I don’t reckon I can adapt then cast and prep the play in a month.” And she said, “Yes, you can.” She knew better than I did that the vacation I looked-for wasn’t traveling around and pointing at things; it was making something, you know, very pure and very sudden, with the people that I like.
And I talked about and around “Much Ado” for so many years, and because we had started Bellwether, our micro-budget studio, she had everything in place. She had the crew, she understood the low-budget filmmaking that we’d been interested in doing in a way that I didn’t. She was like, “It’s go time. All you need to do is show up and we can figure this out.” And I’ve never taken a better vacation.
Do you reckon that effective on “Much Ado” between principle photograpy and post-production made “The Avengers” a better movie?
Yes, it really did. We were in post-production about half-way through “Avengers.” We really had to deliver every release shot with The Hulk in it a month before we finished filming. So, there was never a point when I wasn’t in post. And then, you know, for that month, I was in honestly hard post on the thing, but it was the commencement of that process. And I really was at the worst part of making a movie, which is the part early in editing where you’re just cutting out the thing you like, and then thinking, “Oh, this is an anonymous film. I’m a hack, and it means nothing.” Then I came back from “Much Ado” vacant “Oh yeah. No, that’s right. That’s the point. You take yourself out of it, and then you realize that you’re all over it.”
You shot this movie in your own home in Santa Monica. Do you have any doubts or regrets about filming there? You’ve said you were a small creeped out by it.
A bigwig said, “It’s like the fans are walking through your household.” And I was like, “Ahhh, it’s weird when you say it like that!” But, you know, Kai designed the household. She has designed the last three houses we’ve lived in, and we had a household in Cape Cod for a while, where she’s from, and it was on a household tour. And, you know, it’s not like people are vacant through your sock drawer as they walk through and admire it. I was very proud of her work. With this household, I knew I was vacant to film it from the moment it was done. It was just a question of what. “Much Ado,” apart from being a text I like and starring Amy [Acker] and Alexis [Denisof], who are the stars of my sphere, it does all take place in one household.
If you could go back and choose someone else’s household, like a friend’s, to film it in, whose would it be?
There’s no household that I’ve ever seen that I like as well as this one, and particularly for this text. Because it’s intimately grand, it’s practically haphazard, the flow is extraordinary, it’s both open and yet somehow concealing; everything connects. For a movie that’s about perception and misunderstanding and everybody watching everybody else and not really considering them, you could not question for a better space. Sorry, all my friends.
Is there anything in works for the same time period for “Avengers 2”?
There is not right now. I enter upon “Avengers 2” with a uncommon mindset than I did the first one. I feel like I know so well what it is that I want to accomplish, and like “Much Ado,” I now have a real sense of the troop I’m effective with and the strictures and the opportunities. My small passion, sidebar project comes out May 1, 2015.
Are there things you learned from making “The Avengers” that you’re taking into the second one? Things you’d do differently?
There are a couple of things having to do with leadership that I feel like it’s about time I’ve learned. Honestly, “Much Ado” unlocked something very pure in me that I’d cut myself off from, of just enjoying every moment of the process. There are fewer moments of the process than there are for something like “Avengers,” but I give everything I have, as much as I can, to my work. And yet, somehow, I feel like I place of protection’t quite been able to let go and just go, “Okay, I’m on a location scout. That’s excellent. It’s fine.” Everything that wasn’t prose or directing used to make me insane. And there’s a ton of “rush up and wait,” especially on a production like that. And I felt guilt, and I felt weird and very miserable about all of those moments, and now, I sort of have this understanding of “No, you know what? You need sleep. You need winter. You need the things in between. And you have to honor them and delight in them because, well, this is what you do.”
So I just feel much more serene about the experience. Now, that doesn’t mean I won’t be a frightening mess who yells at people, but I’ll be yelling at them from like. I’ll be yelling at them about the right thing.
Last year, before “Avengers” came out, we questioned you what non-Avengers character you’d make a movie about, if you could. You said Kitty Pryde. Has that changed?
Kitty Pryde is still a heroine I adore, with a power that would be very filmic. Obviously, legally, it’s not in the household. But if I were King of the Forest, it’s still Kitty Pryde. Now, I recently said Batman. But I don’t see why they can’t team up — because I’m the King of the Forest now, so they can team up… with Scott Pilgrim. The three of them will fight crime. Batman will always be like, “Why does he always get exchange when he wins a fight?! I never get exchange!”
Of course, there’s a lot of buzz about “Guardians of the Galaxy” right now, and you’re still caught up with Marvel as an advisor. Have you given any recent information to Marvel, or any information to director James Gunn?
I’ve talked to them about the report from the commencement, and the uncommon drafts. One of the questions they questioned me was “What do you reckon of James Gunn?” And I giggled like a school girl because I was like, “Oh, this movie is vacant to work.” It’s weird, because I feel like maybe there are people who do — and maybe you could — but people question, “Did you talk to Kenneth Branagh about adapting Shakespeare?” Of course not! [joking] “Hi, sir. I’m making one, too. Just like you! What should I do?”
It feels intrusive and, also, you sort of feel like, “No, I’ve got this.” James is very assured. We had a splendid talk after we had both done our first movies, where — it was probably some time a year after or less — and we learned that both us could not write. We realized the director in us had killed the writer. Because, for the first time ever, all the compromise, all the throwing out of the stuff you like, was done by you. And then to go back to the blank page and know that you’re not even safe from yourself had crippled us for a while. And then we got past it, and that was a splendid bonding thing.
When it comes to this, for me, my only piece of information has been: I want to hear more of James. Let’s pull out the formula. Give me more James. Make it weirder. The only way to achieve that “Star Wars” vibe is not to chase it — is to try to be an original universe and have all the fun and do all the stuff. And James is… he’s perfect for that because even I said, “A raccoon?” And James’s thing was, “Here’s the deal. It’s about the raccoon. This is why I like it: because of the raccoon and the tree.” And I’m like, “Okay, that’s the guy you need.”
Let’s talk about another Marvel project getting a lot of buzz: “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Are you nervous about managing fans’ expectations?
There’s always the struggle between spectacle and a TV budget. What attracted me to “S.H.I.E.L.D.” were the gadgets. But after the gadgets was humanity: The thought that there is an underside, a darker side, a more human context. Phil Coulson always represented the everyman, the schlemiel in the world of the fabulous or the mighty, gods and billionaires and legends. And that’s what the show is for, it’s for those people who, as remarkable as they may be, are not the supers, are not A-list.
What are the rest of us worth when there are people that are so extraordinary? That’s a human report. We hired actors that I am so excited to welcome into our universe, and they’re extraordinary, and they’re vacant to bring so much to it. That’s what I’m giving people every week; those actors, their tales, and the tales that they run into. I know that we all share the same sensibility in terms of what makes it Marvel, what makes it that universe. I never worry about what the fanboys reckon because the fanboy is thinking it up.
Anything you can tease about “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”?
I can show you a small ankle.
Last question. Are you vacant to Comic-Con?
I’m not attentive of that event. What is it?
It’s just a group of about 15 fans or so that gathers in San Diego every year.
Maybe I’ll check it out.
“Much Ado About Nothing” is in limited release now.