“It’s a crazy funny comedy about five best friends who had sort of lost each other and themselves along the way, and it takes an insane event to catalyze their coming back together,” said producer Matt Tolmach.
Dealing with a dead body may seem like the central plot point in Rough Night, Sony’s raunchy R-rated comedy about a bachelorette party gone wrong hitting theaters this weekend, but as the five college friends try to figure out how to cover up the accidental murder of the stripper they hired, some deep, emotional revelations come forward.
Amidst all of the drugs, sex and phallic party favors onscreen, the Scarlett Johansson-starrer is ultimately a movie about friendship.
“It’s about friendships and growing apart from your friends and a crazy night that happens, and to me the craziest nights are always the most memorable ones,” writer Paul Downs, who also plays Johansson’s character’s fiance, told The Hollywood Reporter at Rough Night‘s world premiere in New York on Monday.
Producer Matt Tolmach also stressed the role the relationships among the main characters play in the film.
“It’s a crazy funny comedy about five best friends who had sort of lost each other and themselves along the way, and it takes an insane event to catalyze their coming back together,” he told THR. “So you need something in the middle of it that kind of shakes them out of their current life.”
Jillian Bell, who plays the aggressively wild college best friend of Johansson’s bride-to-be Jess, said that the script, which she claimed she couldn’t put down, had everything she wanted.
“Every page was funnier than the last, and there was a lot of heart to it and a lot of darkness,” she told a group of reporters, joking, “I love comedy and death together as a combo.”
Meanwhile, Johansson said she found the script “so streamlined.”
“It was really funny. It made me laugh out loud,” she added. “I was like, ‘I’ve got to meet these crazy people.'”
Those “crazy people” are Downs and his romantic and creative partner Lucia Aniello, who wrote the script on spec with Aniello making her feature directorial debut on the film. The pair met as part of the Upright Citizens Brigade in New York and work together on Comedy Central’s Broad City along with Ilana Glazer, who is also part of the Rough Night ensemble.
Downs said that background with Glazer and knowing co-star Kate McKinnon — as well as the “fast” friendships that were formed with the other castmembers — made the film relationships believable.
“We’ve known Ilana forever. We’ve known Kate for almost 10 years. And the other women in the film became fast friends with us and with each other, and because of that I think you can really feel it onscreen,” said Downs. “There’s a chemistry we have on Broad City because we’ve all been friends from UCB time until now, and I really think with this movie, you can’t fake it, you just feel it.”
Downs and Aniello’s strong improv background helped them both in the writing of the film and on set, Aniello said, particularly in a memorable scene involving McKinnon’s character and a jet ski.
“We use improv as we’re writing,” she said. “Also on the day sometimes things would happen, like, for example, that moment where Kate McKinnon flies off the jet ski, her stunt double took a really gnarly tumble, so we had to rewrite the scene afterwards in the moment because we knew that you had to acknowledge the fact that she really really hurt herself, which wasn’t originally what we talked about in the scene. So being able to have confidence and being able to figure out what’s going on in the moment and knowing we still had a lot of latitude with the scene comes from a background in improv, for sure.”
Aniello and Downs’ experience on Broad City and their Paulilu videos gave Tolmach assurance that Aniello could helm her first movie.
“You know when someone has a clarity of vision and tone and has done the brilliant work that she’s done that they’ll be able to do that,” said Tolmach. “They have a lot of fans, so actors were really drawn to this script and drawn to the prospect of working with her, so we really had sort of our pick of who we wanted. In many ways, she wrote the script for who ended up in the movie, and having been around and been part of a lot of movies, [you often think], ‘We’ll see what happens — you never get everybody you want.’ And we did. And that’s a testament to Lucia and the script that she and Paul wrote.”
Aniello has a detail-oriented take on what was the most challenging part of directing her first movie: “Being confident enough to move onto the next setup when I knew I wanted more takes but knowing that I had it in the can,” she said of the most nerve-wracking part. “That’s something where you don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot where you have to shoot later in the day, so just balancing that stuff out and being able to move on, those were the moments where I was putting the most pressure on myself.”
Veteran actress Demi Moore, who plays half of an oversexed couple that tries to lure Zoe Kravitz’s character into a threesome, was drawn to the film by the quality of the script and caliber of people she’d be working with — and the fact that the part was different than ones she’d played before.
“It was a really smart, really creative, interesting script, with great people,” she said. “And the character was very different. I haven’t had a chance to really do something that’s comedic and thought, ‘Why not?’ And it was even better than I could’ve expected.”