Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing Information

Much Ado About Nothing is a 2012 American independent romantic comedy film adapted for the screen, produced, and directed by Joss Whedon, from William Shakespeare's play of the same name. The film stars Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg, Reed Diamond, Fran Kranz, Sean Maher and Jillian Morgese.

The first feature film by Bellwether Pictures, Much Ado About Nothing premiered at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, and had its North American theatrical release on June 7, 2013.


The plot of the movie is largely unchanged from that of Shakespeare's original play. Differences include the modern-day setting, the switching of Conrade's gender, and expanding Ursula's role slightly by giving her some of Margaret's scenes. Whedon's film imagery advances an unusual interpretation of the text, that Beatrice and Benedick have been in love before the plot unfolds. This interpretation emphasizes four lines from Act II, scene i, where Beatrice, responding to the accusation that she has "lost the heart" of Benedick, answers,

<poem> "Indeed my lord, he lent it me awhile and I gave him use for it--a double heart for his single one. Marry, once before he won it of me with false dice; therefore your grace may well say I have lost it." </poem>

Whedon overlays these lines with images of Beatrice and Benedick as lovers, opening the way to seeing the pair as finding their way back to a lost love, rather than finding it for the first time. The scene demonstrates how film techniques can add nuanced interpretation to the text. The movie is filmed in black and white, which helps tie it to the screwball romantic comedies of the 1930s and 1940s, such as His Girl Friday and Bringing Up Baby.


  • Amy Acker as Beatrice, niece of Leonato.
  • Alexis Denisof as Benedick, of Padua; companion of Don Pedro.
  • Nathan Fillion as Dogberry, the constable in charge of Messina's night watch.
  • Clark Gregg as Leonato, governor of Messina; Hero's father.
  • Reed Diamond as Don Pedro, Prince of Aragon.
  • Fran Kranz as Claudio, of Florence; a count, companion of Don Pedro, friend to Benedick.
  • Sean Maher as Don John, "the Bastard Prince," brother of Don Pedro.
  • Jillian Morgese as Hero, Leonato's daughter.
  • Spencer Treat Clark as Borachio, follower of Don John.
  • Riki Lindhome as Conrade, lover of Don John (originally, follower of Don John, a male role).
  • Ashley Johnson as Margaret, waiting-gentlewoman attendant on Hero.
  • Emma Bates as Ursula, waiting-gentlewoman attendant on Hero.
  • Tom Lenk as Verges, the Headborough, Dogberry's partner
  • Nick Kocher as First watchman
  • Brian McElhaney as Second watchman
  • Joshua Zar as Leonato's aide
  • Paul M. Meston as Friar Francis, a priest.
  • Romy Rosemont as The Sexton, the district attorney at Borachio and Conrade's interrogation (originally, the judge of the trial of Borachio, a male role).
Anthony Head was originally intended for the role of Leonato, but was unavailable. Clark Gregg had worked with Whedon on The Avengers at the time, and stepped in to play the part.


Principal photography started mid-October 2011, and took place at Joss Whedon's residence, in Santa Monica, California. On the choice of location, he told Studio 360, "First of all, my wife built that house. And I knew from the moment I set foot in it that I would want to film something there. Because it's all in one place, that place informs the mood and the feeling and the look of the picture so much, and I was really already comfortable with that". Whedon and his wife, Kai Cole, produced the film through their studio Bellwether Pictures. It was filmed entirely in a black-and-white palette over a period of 12 days, in conjunction with cinematographer Jay Hunter. Whedon shot it while on a contractual vacation from the post-production of The Avengers. The cast and crew were informed to keep the project a secret until production was finished. They wrapped their last day of filming on October 23, 2011.

Whedon explained his initial interest in the project, saying:

He elaborated on that sentiment, and said "It's a very cynically romantic text about love, and how we behave, and how we're expected to behave. It's a party, but there's something darker there as well". Inspired by the exposing nature of film, Whedon decided to infuse a recurring motif of sexuality, "...because it's a visual medium. You can say it or you can show it. [...] There's an element to it, of debauchery, that was fun for a time but then it was just sort of dark". Whedon's idea to adapt the play for the screen originated from having "Shakespeare readings" at his house with several of his friends, years prior.

Whedon and his DP Jay Hunter took advantage of natural lighting in order to make it feel "very found", noting, "Our lighting package rose in the east and set in the west". Using mirrors, glass and windows to shoot through, he explains, "[It's] something I'd like to do all the time, but particularly in a movie that's all about lies, and manipulation and misunderstandings. The more you can warp the frame a little bit, the more it speaks towards what's going on". The film was shot hand-held, digitally with multiple cameras, often with a RED Epic, and used a Lensbaby Composer with Double Glass lens on a Canon 7D to differentiate certain scenes.


Whedon composed the score for the film and recruited Deborah Lurie to produce. He arranged music to "Sigh No More" and "Heavily", two songs that William Shakespeare had written into the play. These tracks were performed by Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon. Whedon described the experience of making his debut in scoring a film as "terrifying", going on to say that "when I'm terrified, I know I'm having fun". He acknowledged as well that hiring himself to do it resulted from monetary constraints. The soundtrack was released digitally on June 6, 2013.


Much Ado About Nothing had its world premiere at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival. The film's North American distribution rights were acquired by Lionsgate, in association with Roadside Attractions, for a joint theatrical release. It was later reported that the film would have a limited theatrical release on June 7, 2013. Kaleidoscope Film Distribution obtained worldwide sales and UK distribution rights. European premieres were held at the 2013 Jameson Dublin International Film Festival, the 2013 Glasgow Film Festival, the 2013 Istanbul Film Festival, the 2013 Bradford International Film Festival, the 2013 Belfast Film Festival and the 2013 Filmfest München. The film premiered in the United States at the 2013 South by Southwest Film Festival, which was followed by the 2013 Wisconsin Film Festival, the 2013 San Francisco International Film Festival, the 2013 Independent Film Festival of Boston and the 2013 Seattle International Film Festival. In April 2013, Much Ado About Nothing was officially given a PG-13 rating by the MPAA for American cinemas. It got a 12A certificate in the UK from the British Board of Film Classification. Sharmill Films distributed the film to Australian theaters. It was shown at the New Zealand International Film Festival in July 2013. The limited release in New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco was expanded on June 14, 2013, the same day as when the film was released theatrically in the United Kingdom. On June 21, 2013, it began a release in 200-300 screens nationwide in North America.

Box office performance

North America
In limited release and playing in only five theaters in New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco, it grossed $71,000 on its first day. At the end of its opening weekend, it had grossed $183,400. The $15,027 it made at the Lincoln Film Center Society Theater broke the venue's house record. With the expansion into 18 additional theaters in the second week of its limited release, the film garnered an amount of $162,580.

The first weekend of wide release in the U.S. grossed $762,350 from 206 theaters, which accumulated a total amount of $1,234,781 since release. It earned $590,000 after the second week. The fourth week held an overall aggregate of $263,700.

Outside North America
The film's opening weekend in the United Kingdom grossed $101,237 from having been screened at 64 locations. The box office numbers for Australia's opening weekend amounted to $78,196.

Critical reaction

Much Ado About Nothing has received generally positive reviews from critics, earning an 83% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes with an average rating of 7.5/10, based on an aggregation of 145 reviews. It offers the consensus: "Lighthearted to a fault, Much Ado About Nothings giddy energy and intimate charm make for an entertaining romantic comedy"?and a Shakespearean adaptation that's hard to resist". On Metacritic, the film has achieved an average score of 78/100 based on 37 reviews, signifying "generally favorable reviews".

John DeFore of The Hollywood Reporter gave a positive review of the film, remarking, "...more than most adaptations, this is a film true to Shakespeare's practice of employing all means at hand to keep the crowd entertained". Tom Clift of Moviedex complimented the director's use of subtle visual humor, while Lou Lumenick of the New York Post commented that "this is the funniest Shakespeare film I can recall seeing". The Guardian scored the film four out of five stars, calling it "...the first great contemporary Shakespeare since Baz Luhrmann's [[Romeo + Juliet|Romeo and Juliet]]". Christopher Schobert of IndieWire wrote, "The result is an utter joy, Whedon's most emotionally resonant and fully realized feature film to date. And I say that as one who is not a devoted member of the Whedon army". Sheila O'Malley of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film four out of four stars, noting that "Much Ado About Nothing is one of the best films of the year". BBC Radio 5 Live's Mark Kermode said of the film, "One of the things that it manages to do is, firstly, make all the dialogue and the language completely comprehensible". He proceeded to note that "it makes sense to its audience. I think that the comedy is funny, and I don't say that lightly. [...] And finally, I think in terms of the way in which it deals with that gender politics issue is really well done. [...] It's a very hard trick to pull off, and he did it in two weeks!" Helen O'Hara of Empire believed that, while keeping a sense of noir to compensate the romance, it was "in balancing these competing elements and characters that this version really shines". The Village Voices Chris Packham said that the director "approaches the story with a tremendous amount of joy". Associated Press reviewer Jake Coyle wrote that "moviegoers will likely have few better options this summer for a good romantic comedy". A. O. Scott of The New York Times called it "the liveliest and most purely delightful movie I have seen so far this year", concluding to laud the film for its "sly, robust eroticism". Andrew O'Hehir of Salon wrote, "[It] possesses that Whedon-esque nerdy energy, fizzing with humor, eroticism, booze and more than a hint of danger". Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times thought the film was "good-humored and unpretentious in equal measure", going on to praise its visual performance. IGN gave it a 7.5 out of 10, noting that "everyone should see this movie". Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal gave high encomium to Kranz's performance, expressing that the actor "portrays Claudio with affecting passion", and says of the film, "The joyous spirit of the play has been preserved in this modest, homegrown production". Rolling Stone journalist Peter Travers wrote that the film was "an irresistible blend of mirth and malice". Justin Chang of Variety sensed that the black-and-white evoked a "timeless romanticism", which was additionally enhanced by the "lightly applied score". The Daily Mails Chris Tookey said that the film was "the first five-star movie of the summer". Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly"?despite commending it for being "both daring and delightfully daffy""?admits, "The film isn't as fast and funny as it could be".


Year Award Recipient Result Reference
2013 13th Belfast Film Festival Audience Award Joss Whedon
2013 IFF Boston Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature Much Ado About Nothing

Home media

Much Ado About Nothing will be available on Blu-ray Disc and DVD on October 8, 2013. The film's Blu-ray Disc features 1080p video, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround, an UltraViolet digital copy, a music video for "Sigh No More" (one of the songs from the soundtrack), two audio commentaries, and two featurettes.

See also

  • List of black-and-white films produced since 1970

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