TORONTO: Joss Whedon’s blockbuster comic book smash “The Avengers” would seem to have little in common with William Shakespeare.
The writer and director, however – previously known for creating the cult television hit “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” – calls the legendary playwright a major influence, visible in much of his work from the banter of his superheroes to the structure of his stories.
Such is his admiration, that in the wake of delivering “The Avengers” – the biggest movie hit of 2012 – Whedon has adapted “Much Ado About Nothing,” a low-budget black-and-white labor of love devoted to the Bard that just debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival.
“I find myself aping his rhythms and occasionally stealing his phrases, without even realizing it most of the time,” Whedon told Reuters Monday.
“Shakespeare’s not afraid to go from high drama to low comedy in a heartbeat, and to ping-pong back and forth between them in a scene, which is something else that I took from him in my own work.”
Shot over 12 days in Whedon’s own house in Santa Monica, California, during a break from his work on “The Avengers,” “Much Ado About Nothing” features performers from Whedon’s past television series including “Buffy,” “Angel” and “Firefly.”
The movie originated from readings of Shakespeare Whedon and spouse Kai Cole would host at their home while his television shows were still in production.
It was Cole, the film’s producer, who encouraged Whedon to use his time off from “The Avengers” to do a smaller digital project shot in black-and-white.
“There was times when I was, like, ‘This is a terrible idea. I’ve gone mad,’ but it’s always been the way with me ... apparently that’s what I do for fun,” he said. “I have a condition called workaholism that is very deadly, and useful.”
While the film sticks closely to the text, the characters wear modern clothes, drive cars and talk on mobile phones. Scenes are shot in a child’s bedroom and a swimming pool, lending the project a do-it-yourself quality.
“People who are [Shakespeare fans] are going to see a pretty specific and occasionally radical take on it,” Whedon said. “But I hope everybody will realize it comes from a great love of a great text.”
The movie’s sight gags generated laughter at its debut screening in Toronto. An early review in Variety called it “an inspired example of Shakespeare-on-a-shoestring.”
“It really is the classic romantic comedy,” he said. “It’s the romantic comedy off of which all modern romantic comedy is built. So there is an in for people. I do not expect it to make $1.5 billion.”
Whedon, 48, has agreed to write and direct an “Avengers” sequel for Walt Disney Co., expected to appear in May 2015.
The New York-born founder of his own production company, he might also direct the pilot for a television series based on Marvel’s S.H.I.E.L.D. espionage agency.
Other projects being developed include a sequel to Internet musical “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” and a web series called “Wastelanders.”