Joss Whedon caught, well, pretty much everybody by surprise yesterday when word began to break about Much Ado About Nothing, a new film based on Shakespeare's play that Whedon apparently shot on the down-low. In this age of information overload, it's kind of astonishing that it stayed under the radar, especially given the listed cast that included former Whedonites Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion, and erstwhile Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Clark Gregg.

At first, some people -- us included -- wondered if it might be some kind of prank. Now, however, a full press release has been added to the official website,, and it spills a few more precious beans. Much Ado was shot in a mere 12 days on location in Santa Monica, California, which helps explain how Whedon and company kept it under wraps. Based on the description in the release, it sounds like this might be in the vein of Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet, mixing the Bard's original dialogue into a modern setting. The release also clues us in to who's playing who: Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof will be attracting oppositely as the unlikely couple of Beatrice and Benedick. That should bring a little squeal of delight from anybody still scarred by the end of Fred and Wesley's relationship on Angel. Nathan Fillion will play Dogberry, Clark Gregg is Leonato, Dollhouse's Fran Kranz is Claudio, and Moneyball's Reed Diamond is Don Pedro.

Just as interesting as the movie announcement itself is the revelation that Much Ado About Nothing is "the first feature from Bellwether, a micro-studio created by Joss Whedon and Kai Cole for the production of small, independent narratives for all media." Whedon already demonstrated just how effectively he can work outside the Hollywood system with the smash hit Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, and this sounds like he's seriously committed to exploring non-traditional ways of getting stories out there. The old model of distribution and production is becoming increasingly untenable as technology advances, and it's exciting to see a huge name like Whedon putting down stakes in the new frontier.

We'll keep you posted on further Much Ado About Nothing as we hear it. In the mean time, you can read the full text of the press release below.

Santa Monica, CA (October 24th, 2011)

Bellwether Pictures proudly announces the completion of principal photography on MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, a modern version of Shakespeare’s classic comedy adapted and directed by Joss Whedon (Marvel’s upcoming THE AVENGERS, “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog”). Filmed in just 12 days entirely on location in exotic Santa Monica, the film features a stellar cast of beloved (or soon to be beloved) actors -- some of them veterans of Shakespearean theater, some completely new to the form. But all dedicated to the idea that this story bears retelling, that this dialogue is as fresh and intoxicating as any being written, and that the joy of working on a passion project surrounded by dear friends, admired colleagues and an atmosphere of unabashed rapture far outweighs their hilariously miniature paychecks.

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING is the first feature from Bellwether, a micro-studio created by Joss Whedon and Kai Cole for the production of small, independent narratives for all media, embracing a DIY ethos and newer technologies for, in this particular case, a somewhat older story.

Shot in glorious black and white by Jay Hunter (PAPER HEART, “Dollhouse”), the film stars Amy Acker (CABIN IN THE WOODS, “Alias”) and Alexis Denisof (“How I Met Your Mother”, “Angel”) as Beatrice and Benedick, the world’s least likely lovers headed for their inevitable tumble into love. As Joss Whedon puts it: “The text is to me a deconstruction of the idea of love, which is ironic, since the entire production is a love letter -- to the text, to the cast, even to the house it’s shot in.” The supporting cast includes Nathan Fillion (“Castle”, WAITRESS) as Dogberry, Clark Gregg (AVENGERS, IRON MAN) as Leonato, Fran Kranz (CABIN IN THE WOODS, “Dollhouse”) as Claudio and Reed Diamond (“Franklin & Bash”, MONEYBALL) as Don Pedro.

The film was produced by Whedon, line-produced by Nathan Kelly and M. Elizabeth Hughes, and co-produced by Kai Cole and Danny Kaminsky. The super-impressive cast is listed below. Full tech credits (for the extraordinary crew) will be up shortly. The film should be completed by early spring and headed for the festival circuit, because it is fancy.
[email protected]

The Players:

Amy Acker - Beatrice
Alexis Denisof - Benedick
Nathan Fillion - Dogberry
Clark Gregg - Leonato
Reed Diamond - Don Pedro
Fran Kranz - Claudio
Sean Maher - Don John
Spencer Treat Clark - Borachio
Riki Lindhome - Conrade
Ashley Johnson - Margaret
Emma Bates - Ursula
Tom Lenk - Verges
Nick Kocher - First Watchman
Brian McElhaney - Second Watchman
Joshua Zar - Leonato’s aide
Paul M. Meston - Friar Francis
Romy Rosemont - The Sexton
And introducing Jillian Morgese as Hero

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