‘Rough Night’ Director Lucia Aniello Wanted to Capture the Essence of Bachelorette Parties: “It’s Hard to Get Everyone on the Same Page”

Rough Night castAlice (Jillian Bell), Pippa (Kate McKinnon), Jess (Scarlett Johansson), Blair (Zoë Kravitz), and Frankie (Illana Grazer) in Columbia Pictures’ ROUGH NIGHT. (Credit: Barry Wetcher / Sony Pictures Entertainment)

Discomfort is intended for Rough Night viewers, and it has very little to do with the untimely, accidental death of a supposed stripper. According to director Lucia Aniello, who co-wrote the film (out Friday, June 16) with her partner, Paul W. Downs, the essence of the comedy is to examine what happens when decade-old friendships from college converge with vastly different adult lifestyles—a glaring point that oftentimes surfaces at bachelor and bachelorette parties. So much changes within 10 years. Aniello loosely based Scarlett Johansson’s latest character, Jess, on herself, though the scenarios—some intrinsic to bachelorette party reunions—were culled from friends and family members.

The result is a laugh-out-loud dark comedy about the growing pains that oftentimes develop in friendships as life progresses, and how to navigate these conflicts. Read Aniello’s full Q&A with The Knot below.

The Knot: So you said the characters were an amalgamation of people you knew. Please explain.
Lucia Aniello: Paul [who stars in the film as Jess’ fiance Peter] and I have been experiencing this in general. We’ve been working a lot these last few years and we’ve been having this experience of reunions from high school and from college. And we’ve been talking what that feels like when you get back together with people you used to spend all of your time with. To say, ‘Oh, I’m never going to have any other friends like you for the rest of my life.’

But you flash forward 10 years later and those friendships aren’t as close anymore. You don’t talk as often as should. And then we wanted to explore the idea of what it looks like when you get back together and what it looks like. Thing in the past come back up and secrets can be revealed and you learn things about their lives that you learn about. It can be a really fun, exciting, scary, emotional time and we really try to capture that.”

(L to R) Blair (Zo‘ Kravitz), Alice (Jillian Bell), Jess (Scarlett Johansson), Pippa (Kate McKinnon) and Frankie (Illana Grazer) anin Columbia PicturesÕ ROUGH NIGHT.

(L to R) Blair (Zo‘ Kravitz), Alice (Jillian Bell), Jess (Scarlett Johansson), Pippa (Kate McKinnon) and Frankie (Illana Grazer) anin Columbia PicturesÕ ROUGH NIGHT.

The Knot: The stars were perfectly cast for each role. Did you end up selecting them, like Scarlett Johansson, with the role of Jess in mind?
Aniello: Jess is the one who’s most loosely based on me, but we always thought of Scarlett first for it. We always thought, ‘She’s so funny on SNL. She’s great in Don Jon… and you always see how funny she is. We thought, ‘How is she not in a comedy?’ We always wanted somebody who’s capable of getting into those dramatic scenes. There are some serious moments too. To us, there isn’t really any actress alive who has the range she has. For us, it was always a dream to have her be in it, so that the fact she actually liked the script and was down to do it with us was really special.

The Knot: What was it like working with Ilana [Glazer] on an actual studio set along with this other dynamic group of women?
Aniello: I’ve worked with her on Broad City and Time Traveling Bong. This was in some ways the exact same. We have the same rapport. We have the same shorthand just because we’ve been working together for so long, but you know. With Ilana, it doesn’t just feel like it’s a colleague or a friend. It really feels like somebody i have a real genuine spiritual connection with. It’s almost like making work with family rather than a comedienne you like working with. We really have exposed ourselves to each other in a major way. We really know each other in every way and it helps me as a director. I know what she’s capable of which is multitudes and to be able to help bring her brilliant comedic voice to even more people in a studio movie is exciting for me.

The Knot: There are a bunch of scenes that were actually reflective of what happens at bachelorette parties. How did you exactly pinpoint those moments? Were they experiences that you’ve personally [encountered] on bachelorettes or were they stories through friends?
Aniello: [Laughs] Paul’s bachelor party was actually based on a real bachelor party he had gone on. He went wine tasting in Napa with his friends. That was extremely real. As for the bachelorette party thing… for whatever reason, I haven’t been on too many bachelorettes, which is kind of surprising because I was in a sorority and I have a lot of very close girlfriends, but it was more specifics of spending a lot of time talking to your friends who’ve been going to bachelorette parties.

I feel like once you hit 30, you’re right in the heart of like, ‘Ugh.’ You’ve done ‘em. You’ve gone to ‘em. You have a lot of friends who’ve planned them. We’ve had a lot of friends who’ve gone through them. So you know we spent a lot of time talking to people who’ve been through them. There are the people who want to plan and the other ones who want to get wasted. And it’s hard to get everybody on the same page. You’re at one of those parts where you don’t know how far the party’s going to go. This is a movie where the party goes a little too far.

Rough Night bachelor party

Hasan Minaj, Bo Turnham, Paul Downs, Eric Andrem and Patrick Carlyle in Columbia Pictures’ Rough Night. (Credit: Macall Polay / Sony Pictures Entertainment)

The Knot: Of course, it was accidental. Some of the scenes were dark. At the same time, I found myself laughing throughout. How did you reconcile those two aspects?
Aniello: I really didn’t want the girls to be flippant about what had happened. I wanted the stakes of what happened to feel very real. But also, I didn’t want it to be a depressing movie. I tried to do my best to find the light in the darkness and the dark in the lightness. Because moments that feel grounded and real… when there are real stakes, it helps the audience feel like they’re in the movie. To make them feel like they understand the point of view of our characters.

I was blessed with having such brilliant actors with such comedic talent and timing. You can’t stop them from being funny for too long. It definitely was a very careful balance. It felt dramatic and important but also, fun. You can just genuinely enjoy and laugh at.

The Knot: What were some of the highlights from filming?

Aniello: I’ll be quick with these:

  1. Most of us stayed in a motel in the Hamptons so we shot a lot of nights and late nights. On the weekends, we wanted to rest up and get our energy levels back and the only problem was every weekend, this hotel became a day club… of hardcore pounding EDM music that was so loud that your bed was shaking. So the weekends were a bit insane. So we all tried to scatter and take naps at friends of friends house so that was insane. That was one thing I’ll never forget.
  2. There’s this scene where Ryan [Cooper] plays Jay the guy who dies. He and Kate [McKinnon] are having a bit of an intimate moment on the sand when Ty and Demi come down. There were these little sand crabs infesting the beach at night. And they kept biting his back and I felt so horrible. I had to keep rolling and keep shooting and Ryan would get in the ocean and get dragged around. He was so down and so game. As much as he was playing the dead guy, he really imbued a lot of soul into the process. Which I’ll forever be grateful.
  3. You know the scene where they take the burner phone from the older couple? That’s my real life grandma. But I have to honest that I didn’t just give her the part. I made her audition twice. There was a lot of actresses in the running, but she genuine. I swear to you no exaggeration, she actually was the funniest and best person who came in. she was so natural and great and I feel like I discovered a new star.
  4. Ty [Hunter] and Demi [Moore] I also have to say had the most incredible chemistry. You know that scene with Zoe. Her character Blair. [Editor’s note: the characters had a threesome.] They were all so down. The choreography was just so tricky. They honestly made it the most fun. I was grinning from ear to ear on the set. The transition was ridiculous. She’s in her own world, but she’s back to earth. Isn’t Zoe so funny? She has such incredible range. That’s one of the things I’m most excited about is showing people who haven’t been in hardcore comedies that they can seriously rumble with the funniest comedians alive. It’s really exciting for me to show women being capable of drama. Scarlett, Zoe, Demi. I have a lot of pride in their performances because it just shows women contain just multitudes and they really can. I’m excited to show that off.
(L to R) Blair (Zo‘ Kravitz), Frankie (Illana Grazer), Jess (Scarlett Johansson), Pippa (Kate McKinnon) and Alice (Jillian Bell) in Columbia PicturesÕ ROUGH NIGHT.

(L to R) Blair (Zo‘ Kravitz), Frankie (Illana Grazer), Jess (Scarlett Johansson), Pippa (Kate McKinnon) and Alice (Jillian Bell) in Columbia PicturesÕ ROUGH NIGHT.

The Knot: You’re taking a topic that affects so many women… who’ve looked back to college and thought, ‘Wow, I’m so far removed from it.’ It was almost personal watching this movie
Aniello: Cool. That’s great. That’s what I wanted to hit. That idea that there’s those friends from your past that you might not put in as much effort anymore, but when it comes time to hide a dead body, you know they would have your back.

The Knot: That’s a great way to put it. What is your ideal bachelorette party?
Aniello: My ideal bachelorette party is being in a beautiful place surrounded by nature with  my friends. I have to be honest. I’m not really into gender-specific bachelor or bachelorette parties. I have really close friends who are both men and women. So I want to have my favorite people with me… Just hanging out, talking late. A fire place is good, a hot tub is good and having massages the next day. And some really good breakfast burritos with good music. Honestly just holding hands.

The Knot: Shots, no shots?
Aniello: I’ll drink but I’m not a shots person. I’m kind of like, Jillian’s character that’s like, ‘Let’s do shots!’ And then when it comes time, throws up. Jillian Bell is a brilliant, brilliant woman that I feel so lucky to have gotten to work with her.

Rough Night, directed by Aniello and starring Scarlett Johansson, Zoë Kravitz, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell and Ilana Glazer, is out nationwide on Friday, June 16.

About the Author

Esther Lee
Esther Lee
Esther is the Senior News Editor at The Knot. A self-proclaimed pop culture enthusiast, she appreciates a good celebrity interview just as much as she adores Nancy Meyers movies. You can find her kicking off her mornings with barre and a green juice, traveling and exploring new cultures, and rapidly scrolling her feed for the latest and greatest news. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @theestherlee.