Earlier today we revealed news of an elusive new project from the modern-day god of fanboys & fangirls everywhere, Joss Whedon. The above image sent shock waves of speculation across the blogosphere. Was this an actual film that Whedon somehow managed to shoot in the midst of making the big budget action extravaganza The Avengers? Or was this just another prank from the winsome Nathan Fillion? Well, Whedon himself has since deigned to comment, sending a press release to Deadline. So, here’s what we now know about Much Ado About Nothing:

This black-and-white adaptation of William Shakespeare’s classic comedy was shot in 12 days “entirely on location in exotic Santa Monica,” and produced by Bellwether Films, a small production company co-founded by Whedon and his wife Kai Cole to produce stories in various forms of media “embracing a DIY ethos and newer technologies for, in this particular case, a somewhat older story.” Whedon’s approach to his adaptation includes a contemporary stylization as well as a cast that features a number of performers who’ve appeared in previous Whedon works, like Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof, who — as I surmised this morning — play the warring would-be lovers Beatrice and Benedick. Firefly‘s Fillion is the bumbling constable Dogberry, which delights me to no end as Fillion has a sharp ability with comedy in general, and playing confident oafs in particular. Clark Gregg portrays Leonato, father of Hero, while Fran Kranz (pictured above) and Reed Diamond of Dollhouse play Claudio and Prince Don Pedro respectively. Other cast members include: Sean Maher, Ashley Johnson, Brian McElhaney, Jillian Morgese, Nick Kocher, Paul M. Meston, Emma Bates, Tom Lenk, Romy Rosemont, Spencer Treat Clark, Riki Lindhome, and Joshua Zar.

Shot for a micro-budget, Whedon stresses that this “love letter, to the text, to the cast, even to the house it’s shot in,” was a true labor of love, saying, “all [involved are] 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.”

Personally, I’m confident in Whedon’s ability to turn out compelling projects with a shoe-string budget and a short production schedule. Just look at the web series Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog. That superhero saga had action sequences, catchy musical numbers, quirky costumes and delectable performances, yet it was shot in only 6 days for $200,000. It became so wildly popular new accolades had to be invented to properly praise it! Combine Whedon’s skill set with Shakespeare’s witty text and some truly extraordinary cast members, and Much Ado should really be something special.

But unlike Dr. Horrible, this Whedon effort is not destined for web release. At least not right away. Once the film’s complete, Whedon aims to enter it on the coming year’s festival circuit, “because it is fancy.” Whether a theatrical release or a web-centered release will follow remains to be seen. But in the mean time, those hungering for a bit of Whedon-styled wonder have The Avengers to look forward.

The Avengers hits theaters May 4, 2012.

What’s you favorite Whedon effort? Are you eager to see Much Ado About Nothing?

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