She’s not known for her comedy talent but Scarlett Johansson couldn’t wait to dive into Lucia Aniello’s risque Rough Night. She and the other cast talk about the girls’ own movie
It is a roller-coaster of death, crime, politics and stomach-churning gags, but the real message behind upcoming R-rated comedy Rough Night is the value of friendship.
Lucia Aniello’s female-led movie sees Scarlett Johansson flex her rarely-used comedic muscles as she plays bride-to-be Jess Thayer, who embarks with her girlfriends on a doomed bachelorette weekend in Miami.
She is joined by Kate McKinnon as free-spirited Australian uni mate Pippa, Jillian Bell as well-meaning but overbearing Alice, Ilana Glazer as loud-mouthed activist with a privileged background Frankie, and Zoe Kravitz as Blair, the seemingly perfect one whose apparent wealth of materialistic gifts covers a sea of emotional turmoil.
But their wild beach-side antics take a twisted turn when they accidentally kill a stripper (Ryan Cooper) and they are plunged into a journey of discovery that brings their drastically different personalities closer.
“We often can take for granted the people that know us the best,” says Johansson, whose part is worlds away from her recent role as a human robot in this year’s big-screen remake of graphic novel Ghost In The Shell.
“This movie is a sort of cautionary tale about taking that for granted - and also it’s a celebration of that kind of deep friendship.”
Directed, co-written and co-produced by Aniello, the film has an edge that can only be achieved by a woman, the debut filmmaker insists.
“I think it’s obvious that there’s been a dearth of stories told from the perspective of women, especially in the comedy world,” she says.
“Nothing against the R-rated comedies directed by men - but it does feel like the authenticity of a woman’s point of view can only make the female characters feel that much more authentic.”
But while it marks a breakthrough first major movie for Aniello, it is also the first R-rated comedy of its scale to be directed by any woman in almost two decades.
It’s an ongoing problem that Bafta-winning Johansson, 32, believes is up to the voice of global audiences to solve.
She says: “The conversation starts within the general public and I think the industry follows. Unfortunately, they don’t often lead by example.
“The audience has to be vocal and demand what they want to see, and that they want diversity and that they want stories that reflect the zeitgeist and they want an environment that reflects the zeitgeist.”
McKinnon, 33, believes we are already on the way, as she explains: “As more films that put women in lead roles, have women driving the action, show women having their own story arc that leads them to do something that they want to do, become successful, then it becomes not a big deal anymore.”
Bell, 33, adds: “I think people need to support it too. It’s so awesome what just happened with (the success of) Wonder Woman (starring Gal Gadot). It’s so cool and the more people see these movies, the more the studio gets the note that it works.”
Rough Night is the brain child of both Aniello and her partner in love, work and life, Paul W Downs. The talented pair began dating after meeting in an improv comedy class and their ideas soon began to blossom.
In Aniello’s words: “We started making videos on the side, putting them online - and nobody saw them but each one got slightly - barely - better.
“We still didn’t know where it was going, but it was a satisfying process to make things together.”
Their relationship led to the development of their production company Paulilu and the creation of hit TV show Broad City.
But describing why this film marks an especially personal career milestone, Aniello continues: “It’s based on so many relationships that I have had, the feelings that I have with certain people from my past.
“Its job first and foremost is to be funny, but it was also important to me that it explored friendships and I absolutely hope that it makes the audience think a little bit more about the people in their lives”
Rough Night is released in cinemas on Friday