As follow-ups to one of the three biggest movies of all time go, making a Shakespeare movie in your back garden with your friends must go down in history as one of the more unlikely ones. But that's exactly what "The Avengers" director Joss Whedon did, using the time between the Marvel pic wrapping and the start of post-production to direct a low-budget black-and-white version of "Much Ado About Nothing" starring Whedonverse graduates like Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg, Fran Kranz and Sean Maher among the cast.
The film premiered at TIFF this week to good reviews (including our own), and Whedon's been north of the border on the press rounds as a result. But as you might imagine, questions have revolved less around iambic pentameter, and more around the future of the Marvel franchise, to which Whedon recently committed through to "The Avengers 2" in 2015.
Although he'll have some kind of shepherding role, he's not going to be looking continuously over the shoulders of Shane Black ("Iron Man 3"), Alan Taylor ("Thor: The Dark World"), The Russo Brothers ("Captain America: The Winter Soldier"), Edgar Wright ("Ant-Man") and co. "Very talented people are writing and directing these movies," Whedon told 24 Hours, "and what I don't want to be is the guy they dread, who's going to come in and say 'Oh, well I have the power to change this.' I'm not that."
For example, one of the last Marvel movies pre-"Avengers 2" is likely to be "Guardians of the Galaxy," an out-there space adventure that recently hired writer-director James Gunn to steer its ship. And Whedon says he believes it's Gunn, not himself, who'll be key to the film's success. "James is what makes me think it will work," Whedon told MTV. "I myself was sort of like, 'Well, I liked Rocket Raccoon (a member of the Guardians, an anthropomorphic raccoon) as a kid, but I'm not sure how that plays.' And then they said, 'Well, we're thinking about using James Gunn.' And I said, 'Oh, then no, you're fine.' He is so off the wall, and so crazy, but so smart, such a craftsman and he builds from his heart. He loves the raccoon. Needs the raccoon."
Gunn, who co-wrote "Scooby Doo" before getting attention for his own films like "Slither," seems to have Whedon's confidence, based on his previous work. "This is the guy who wrote 'The Specials.' People don't understand how influential that movie was about heroes, about taking heroes and making them mundane. And 'Super.' " And as for his new job, it sounds like Gunn has a very specific version in mind, and we're probably looking at the weirdest Marvel movie yet. "He has a very twisted take on it, but it all comes from a real love for the material. It's going to be hard for the humans to keep up," said Whedon. "I know he's going to come from left field and I'm going to go, 'What?' And then, 'Of course, why didn't I think of that?' And then I'm going to beat him!"
As for Whedon's next directorial effort, he's not giving away the goods at this point, but expect something a little more complex and darker than the first film. "The creation of the team is not the happy ending," he said to 24 Hours. "It is the beginning of something that is complex and difficult, and now I get to dig a little deeper. And maybe, while I'm digging, just twist that knife. And that's exciting for me." "Guardians of the Galaxy" hits theaters on August 1st, 2014, while "The Avengers 2" is set to follow on May 1st, 2015.