I can’t believe it’s already been three years since Amy Schumer made her movie debut. Now Schumer’s new movie is the directorial debut of Hollywood writing team Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein.
The duo wrote rom-coms Never Been Kissed, He’s Just Not That Into You, Valentine’s Day and How To Be Single, as well as the straight rom-drama The Vow. They met at USC in the ‘90s.
After a number of hit movies, studios began sending them screenplays to direct, but Silverstein and Kohn decided to write their own. Schumer plays Renee Bennett, a woman who signs up for SoulCycle to get in shape.
When Renee falls off the bike and hits her head, she wakes up believing she’s been transformed into a thin girl. She’s a fan of movies like Big, so she considers it plausible.
Everyone else sees the same old Renee, but her newfound confidence transforms the way she approaches the world. Silverstein and Kohn spoke with Monsters and Critics by phone about I Feel Pretty, which opens Friday
Monsters and Critics: Did SoulCycle’s legal department have very specific rules for what kind of injury could happen on their equipment?
Marc Silverstein: They did not.
Abby Kohn: They were very nice.
MS: They had nothing. Isn’t that weird? I was nervous about it but they were like great, excited. They just liked the message of the movie and I’m an avid SoulCycler so they know I’ll treat it kindly and I think they were like fine.
AK: Yeah, they were great. How many did we shoot in, three? Three SoulCycles. They were very accommodating.
M&C: So three different SoulCycles are in the movie?
MS: Yeah, there’s New York for the exterior and two in Boston for the interiors. Seamless, right?
M&C: Is I Feel Pretty like one of those ‘80s magical comedies only if the magic never actually happened?
MS: Literally, that’s exactly what we said to each other when we came up with this idea.
AK: Exactly right.
MS: It’s like Big without the magic. We went, not scene by scene, but we thought of those movies and were like, “What do those movies have? Well, there’s the scene where the person who’s changed goes to their friends or their parents and they’re like, it’s me! How do I prove it to you?”
So we’re like, that’ll be funny. In our movie she does that and her friends look at her like she’s crazy.
AK: We did definitely try to play with some of those tropes but have fun with them since like you said, there was no actual magic.
M&C: Did you have to carefully write ways for people not to directly say, “Hey, there’s nothing different about you?”
MS: Yes. That’s the tightrope that we were riding.
AK: I think we really like that. As writers, it’s fun to give yourself parameters. I think that’s how you find funny scenes. Having Mason be on the toilet was a way to have him not see her but also gave us a fun scene.
MS: And the only people were Mason, who we had on the toilet, and the friends who we had to very carefully write that scene when she reveals herself so that they’re trying to be encouraging of their friend who started to work out and feels like she looks way better now.
We had to sell that scene and that’s what the friends believe. Then when she goes to work, no one knows what she used to look like, or what she thinks she used to look like. So we were fine in those scenes.
M&C: When she’s working at Le Claire, did you have the opposite challenge where people are implying she doesn’t fit in but she’s taking it as compliments? So did you have to avoid people saying, “Hey, you don’t belong here?”
MS: Which people wouldn’t do. I feel like that was sort of the fun of the comedy of the movie which is just playing her extreme overconfidence. That’s always funny to watch someone in a way that no one would really act.
No one would walk in a room and say those things about themselves or assume that people felt certain ways about them. But I think she’s so good at really selling that cockiness, it’s really fun to watch.
M&C: Were there more scenes that could have been in that montage of misunderstandings?
MS: No, those were the only ones we shot. Had we written any other ones?
AK: Not misunderstanding but her strutting by the building and seeing her reflection, that kind of stuff.
MS: There were a couple others but the misunderstanding ones, those were the only ones. And we had to have a construction worker scene because it feels like there’s always that in a movie.
M&C: Did you consider addressing why an otherwise sensible modern woman accepts that magic happened to her?
MS: No. Honestly, for us, we felt like the movie does the job of selling how desperate she is to feel that something’s going to change and that she really wants, desperately wants this to change her life. And then I think once the ball gets rolling and things start working out for her, it’s not going to stop.
M&C: Her confidence does change a lot how we perceive her. Do you actually light her differently to enhance the change?
MS: We didn’t light her differently but truthfully, what we did was a make under. In the beginning, in the first act she wears more makeup than the second act, the middle of the movie.
The idea behind that was just the more confidence she has…
AK: The less she thinks she needs to wear fake eyelashes or whatever. She actually becomes more natural.
MS: It’s a more natural look and it’s more of her confidence showing through. She’s not trying as hard as he is in the beginning.
M&C: Did you consider any other fashion related jobs besides a makeup company?
MS: We did kick around different fashiony things but it felt like makeup was the way to go.
AK: So on scene to everything we’re talking about.
MS: That has been the thing since the first draft.
M&C: Aside from the magic, were you addressing the way the world is unfair to women? Like, use these products, follow these tutorials that don’t actually work in three minutes.
AK: Absolutely. I think Amy’s little speech to Michelle’s character about how the people at the fancy makeup counters are really a deterrent, is my experience.
It is really intimidating to walk in. These women are beautiful and made up and you really feel unworthy of going to by your pressed powder. I think those beauty things are real.
MS: We wanted to be subtle about it and not make that pervasive images of women in makeup the obvious thing that we’re seeing, but there’s faces all over the office. It’s all an undercurrent of the societal pressures that are put on people to look a certain way.
AK: Or to make you feel unworthy if you don’t.
M&C: If you had used the West Side Story song I Feel Pretty in the movie, would that have been like wearing the T-shirt of the band you’re going to see in concert?
MS: Truthfully, we thought about it a lot. I think we ended up clearing the song because of the title, so we could’ve used it. But there were specific parameters to how we could use the song.
AK: There were.
MS: You couldn’t change it. So it had to be a straight version of the song.
AK: Couldn’t change a lyric.
MS: And I think you needed to have all the lyrics in the song. It just felt like we couldn’t find a place for the entire song to work with all the lyrics.
AK: I think our idea at the beginning was if there was a way to have someone cover that song and maybe rewrite it in a modern way and make it fun. It did not seem to fit as is, although I’m a huge West Side Story fan.
M&C: Have you been involved with the marketing adding a word after I Feel Pretty, so it can be I Feel Pretty Brave, I Feel Pretty Confident, etc.?
MS: We’ve been involved with the marketing but that definitely came from the STX marketing department and we loved the idea to begin with. There’s other characters in the movie who have their own insecurities that are not looks based at all.
They’re intelligence based, they’re masculinity based.
AK: Status or money based.
MS: The movie really on a bigger, broader level is about all the insecurities that we all have that are holding us back and trying to get over those. I think that marketing really taps into the broader idea of what the movie’s trying to say.
M&C: What do you think might have been an argument you lost if someone else had directed I Feel Pretty?
AK: That’s a really good one.
MS: I think there would’ve been probably, depending on the director, may have been, “We should probably shoot some sort of version of what she sees when she looks in the mirror.”
AK: I was going to say the same thing. I was going to the same exact place.
MS: We were adamant as writers and then the directors of the movie that that not be the case. Who knows, we might have lost that. Thankfully we didn’t.
M&C: In the nine years since He’s Just Not That Into You, there are so many more dating problems, especially dating apps. Would you have something to say in that context?
MS: We are actually writing a movie about that now so we’ll see. The problem with it is it’s a moving target.
By the time you write it and make it, who knows if it’s even going to be accurate to what’s happening in the world, but it’s our intention. It’s a wild, wild world out that.
M&C: I was good at approaching women and it was still hard. Now they don’t even want to be approached because they’re on their phones.
AK: I know. We were just talking about that last night. I am married and other people at the table were as well. We feel fortunate that we got married before the new era of not ever talking or meeting people. It seems harder that way.
M&C: Every time I talk about The Vow, I always add “and how.”
AK: I love it!
M&C: Have you kept up with the real couple that was based on and where they are toady?
MS: I have not at all.
AK: I have not, no. On that one, there was quite a bit of invention. It was based on a true story but they let us embellish.
MS: I don’t know what happened to them.