By now, everyone is well aware of the next upcoming superhero film from Marvel, The Avengers, with the ridiculously awesome trailer landing earlier this month. Joss Whedon landing the directing gig was a welcome surprise to all of his many, many fans, and it’s been good to see Marvel finding slightly unlikely candidates to take the director’s chair in their recent films with excellent results.

Word now comes, courtesy of THR, that Whedon has managed to finish filming an entirely different project in complete secrecy, and it sounds absolutely awesome.

With Kenneth Branagh taking the director’s chair for this year’s Thor, it seems somewhat fitting that Whedon has just finished his own adaptation of William Shakespeare’s play, Much Ado About Nothing, which Branagh himself directed and adapted back in 1993. Albeit, it seems like an unlikely choice for Whedon to do, given all of his brilliant past credits – Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Serenity, Dollhouse (the one I still need to see), not to mention his Oscar-nominated turn as co-writer of Toy Story.

Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing has already got its own site online, teasing an image of a snorkelling Fran Kranz (Dollhouse) in black and white, holding a martini that’s in colour. And to top it all off, above the image is a list of the cast, and it’s awesome. Whedon fans, get ready for a mind explosion.

Amy Acker (Angel) and Alexis Denisof (Angel) will be leading a cast that also includes Kranz (Dollhouse), Sean Maher (Firefly), Ashley Johnson (Dollhouse), Tom Lenk (Buffy), Clark Gregg (Iron Man), and of course, the one and only, Nathan Fillion (Firefly) – who I delayed until the end not because his part will be small but for dramatic effect, because he’s so damn cool.

According to the film’s press release, which you can read in full here, Whedon’s take on Shakespeare’s play was filmed in just twelve days in Santa Monica, California, in his own home, and was self-financed through Whedon’s and his wife Kai Cole’s micro-studio, Bellwether.

“[T]he 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.”

The mention of the “hilariously miniature paychecks” is brilliant.

“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.””

If you’re a Whedon fan, then I highly recommend heading on over to EW to read their interviews with Whedon himself, with Sean Maher, and with Amy Acker about the production of the film. Each gets a page, so it’s too long to reprint here, but it’s excellent stuff. They’ve also shared three great images from the set, to go with the first image of Kranz in the water, which I’ve embedded below.

The film should be ready by the start of next year, and Whedon is planning on taking it on the festival circuit in spring,

“because it is fancy.”

Excellent! I literally can’t wait. Given that Sundance is coming to the UK next April, I will be very, very quietly optimistic – for fear that anyone should hear my hopes – that Whedon’s take on the Shakespearean play will be coming to our shores for the festival. That really would be perfect.

Without further ado, here are the new images to enjoy. As usual with the first, click to enlarge.