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Everything You Need to Know about Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing

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SXSW.com

Most filmmakers would opt for a vacation after wrapping a big budget blockbuster, but not Joss Whedon. After he finished 2012’s The Avengers, the director decided to turn his attention to a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Shot in black and white over the course of 12 days at Whedon’s home—and using the original text, which Whedon adapted into a screenplay—Much Ado features Whedon regulars Amy Acker (Angel, Dollhouse), Alexis Denisof (Angel), Fran Kranz (Dollhouse, The Cabin in the Woods), Clark Gregg (The Avengers), Tom Lenk (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), and Nathan Fillion (Buffy, Firefly). After Much Ado screened at SXSW this week, Whedon and his cast sat down for a panel to discuss the challenges, joys, and collaborative process of making the film.

Shooting Much Ado, Whedon said, was therapeutic because he was with people he loves, “doing work not just that I love, but doing it in that sort of compressed, we only have this much time, kind of hot house. You walked away every day [with an] enormous sense of accomplishment. As opposed to The Avengers, where you’re shooting one-tenth of a second of an explosion over the course of a week. [Much Ado] felt enough like theater to give you that high all the time, yet it felt like we were creating something truly cinematic. You don’t usually get both.”

Although Much Ado has been done before, Whedon saw the play differently than many others who have turned it into a film. “It’s a very cynically romantic text about love—how we behave in love and how much we’re manipulated, and that was an in I hadn’t seen in any of the productions,” he said. “It’s always very joyful and fun, but there’s something darker at the heart of it as well. And to have those two things to play with at once began to fascinate me.”

Only a few of the actors had ever performed Shakespeare professionally, so there was a big learning curve there. Fillion, who signed up right away and then tried to chicken out, summed it up as “intimidating. Frightening. I peed a little.” (To which Gregg, who officially joined just a day before shooting began, responded, “I peed a lot.”) The key, Fillion said, was knowing that Shakespeare “is flowery, and a little like Yoda. Lock that in, and you’re golden.”

But Denisof said that when Whedon calls, you really don’t ever say no. “You always say yes, and then worry about it afterward,” Denisof said. “Honestly, there wasn’t that much time to worry about it, because he said ‘Oh by the way, we’re doing it in a couple of weeks.’ From then on, it was just starting to work on it.” Whedon would often put the actors in groups to work through scenes, or the actors would work on their own. 

Though Whedon did use Shakespeare’s text, he put his own spin on it. For one, the film takes place in the present day. For another, it’s pretty sexy. In Whedon’s interpretation, Beatrice (Acker) and Benedick (Denisof) have been lovers before—a choice the actors made with Whedon. “It felt right,” he said. The director didn’t storyboard to make up for the Bard’s sparse stage directions, but he did map out the action very specifically. “Apparently you can’t just throw Amy Acker down the stairs, you have to have a pad there. I don’t get that rule!” Whedon joked. “A lot of it came from the actors, [too]. You need both. You need a lot of what’s mapped out, especially when you’re working at that kind of speed, but you also want to give them the room, because everyone here is so inventive, and they understood their characters better than I ever could, that’s just how it works.”

Much Ado About Nothing will hit theaters June 21, 2013.

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Art
Get Crazy With the Official Bob Ross Coloring Book
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If you watched Bob Ross's classic series The Joy of Painting for hours on end but didn’t come away a terribly capable artist, you can still enjoy replicating the amazing public television personality’s work. You can now pretend you’re painting along with the late, great PBS star using a brand-new adult coloring book based on his art.

The Bob Ross Coloring Book (Universe) is the first authorized coloring book based on Ross’s artistic archive. Ross, who would have turned 75 later this year, was all about giving his fans the confidence to pursue art even without extensive training. “There’s an artist hidden at the bottom of every single one of us,” the gentle genius said. So what better way to honor his memory than to relax with his coloring book?

Here’s a sneak peek of some of the Ross landscapes you can recreate, all while flipping through some of his best quotes and timeless tidbits of wisdom.

An black-and-white outline of a Bob ross painting of a mountain valley

A black-and-white outline of a Bob Ross painting shows a house nestled among trees.

A black-and-white outline of a Bob Ross painting shows a farm scene.

And remember, even if you color outside the lines, it’s still a work of art. As Ross said, “We don’t make mistakes. We just have happy accidents.”

You can find The Bob Ross Coloring Book for about $14 on Amazon. Oh, and if you need even more Ross in your life, there’s now a Bob Ross wall calendar, too.

All images courtesy of Rizzoli.

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entertainment
8 Movies That Almost Starred Keanu Reeves
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Kevin Winter/Getty Images

He may not have the natural ease of Al Pacino, the classical training of Anthony Hopkins, the timeless cool of Jack Nicholson, or the raw versatility of Gary Oldman, but Keanu Reeves has been around long enough to have worked alongside each of those actors. Yet instead of Oscar nods, the actor whose first name means “cool breeze over the mountains” in Hawaiian has a handful of Razzie nominations.

While critical acclaim has mostly eluded Reeves during his 30-plus years in Hollywood, his movies have made nearly $2 billion at the box office. Whether because of his own choosiness or the decisions of studio powers-that-be, that tally could be much, much higher. To celebrate The Chosen One’s 53rd birthday, here are eight movies that almost starred Keanu Reeves.

1. X-MEN (2000)

In Hollywood’s version of the X-Men universe, Hugh Jackman is the definitive Wolverine. But Jackman himself was a last-minute replacement (for Dougray Scott) and other, bigger (in 2000) names were considered for the hirsute superhero—including Reeves. Ultimately, it was the studio that decided to go in a different direction, much to Reeves’ disappointment. “I always wanted to play Wolverine,” the actor told Moviefone in 2014. “But I didn't get that. And they have a great Wolverine now. I always wanted to play The Dark Knight. But I didn't get that one. They've had some great Batmans. So now I'm just enjoying them as an audience.”

2. PLATOON (1986)

For an action star, Reeves isn’t a huge fan of violence, which is why he passed on playing the lead in Oliver Stone’s Oscar-winning Vietnam classic. “Keanu turned it down because of the violence,” Stone told Entertainment Weekly in 2011. “He didn’t want to do violence.”

3. THE FLY II (1989)

Few people would likely mistake Reeves for the son of Jeff Goldblum, but producers were anxious to see him play the next generation of Goldblum’s insectile role in the sequel to The Fly. But Reeves wasn’t having any of it. Why? Simple: “I didn't like the script,” he told Movieline in 1990.

4. SPEED 2: CRUISE CONTROL (1997)

Speaking of sequels (and bad scripts): Reeves was ready to reprise his role as Jack Traven in Jan de Bont’s second go at the series … then he read it. “When I was offered Speed 2, Jan came to Chicago and so did Sandra, and they said, ‘You’ve got to do this,’” Reeves recalled to The Telegraph. “And I said, 'I read the script and I can’t. It’s called Speed, and it’s on a cruise ship.” (He's got a point.)

Even when the studio dangled a $12 million paycheck in front of him, Reeves said no. “I told [William Mechanic, then-head of Fox], ‘If I do this film, I will not come back up. You guys will send me to the bottom of the ocean and I will not make it back up again.’ I really felt like I was fighting for my life.”

5. HEAT (1995)

Reeves’ refusal to cave on Speed 2 didn’t sit well in Hollywood circles. And it didn't help that he also passed on playing Chris Shiherlis (Val Kilmer’s role) in Michael Mann’s Heat in order to spend a month playing Hamlet at Canada’s Manitoba Theatre Centre. From that point on, Reeves told The Telegraph that it’s been a struggle for him to book any studio movies. “That’s a good old Hollywood story! That was a whole, 'Hey, kid, this is what happens in Hollywood: I said no to the number two and I never worked with the studio again!’”

6. BOWFINGER (1999)

By the time Frank Oz’s Bowfinger rolled around, Eddie Murphy was pretty much the go-to guy for any dual role part, but the movie wasn’t always intended to play that way. Steve Martin, who both starred in and wrote the movie, had actually penned the part of Kit Ramsey for Reeves (whom he had worked with a decade earlier in Parenthood).

“When Steve gave me the script for Bowfinger, it wasn't written for Eddie Murphy,” producer Brian Grazer explained. “It was written for a white action star. It was written for Keanu Reeves, literally. I said, 'Why does it have to be an action star?' He said, 'That's the joke.' I said: 'What if it were Eddie Murphy, and Eddie Murphy played two characters? That could be really funny.' He said: 'You know, that'd be great—that'd be brilliant. Let's do that.' He processed it in about a minute, and he made a creative sea change.”

7. WATCHMEN (2009)

A year before Zack Snyder’s Watchmen hit theaters, Reeves confirmed to MTV what many had speculated: that he had turned down the chance to play Dr. Manhattan in the highly anticipated adaptation. But it wasn’t because of lack of interest on Reeves’ part; it just “didn't work out.” Still, he made it as far as a set visit: “They were shooting in Vancouver while we were filming so I went over to the set to say, 'hi.' They showed me some stuff and it looks amazing! I can’t wait. It’s going to be so killer, man!”

8. TROPIC THUNDER (2008)

By the time Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder made its way into theaters in the summer of 2008, the meta-comedy had been more than a decade in the making. So it’s understandable that the final product veered from Stiller’s original plan for the film, which included Reeves playing the role of Tugg Speedman (Stiller’s eventual part). Initially, Stiller had planned to cast himself as smarmy agent Rick Peck (Matthew McConaughey picked up the slack).

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