'Rough Night's' Comedy Couple on Tackling "Men-Only" Genre

Comedy’s New Dynamic Duo -Rough Night  -Still 1- H 2017
Macall Polley/Sony Pictures Entertainment

Lucia Aniello is the first woman in a generation to direct an R-rated comedy, and she and co-writer Paul Downs now are working on a mob comedy about "what it means to be a quote-unquote man."

It has been nearly 20 years since a woman directed an R-rated studio comedy: Tamra Davis' 1998 Half Baked for Universal (Betty Thomas' Private Parts for Paramount came out in 1997). But Lucia Aniello, whose raunchy Rough Night opens June 16, is determined to boldly delve into genres that have been largely off-limits to female helmers: She and boyfriend Paul Downs penned Rough Night together (they're also co-head writers on Comedy Central's Broad City) and are fast at work on a follow-up, a mob story. "Basically, The Godfather but a comedy version," says Aniello, 34, who sources say was recently courted to direct Captain Marvel. "It's all about what it means to be a quote-unquote man."

Downs, 35, who plays Scarlett Johansson's love interest in Rough Night as well, offers more details on the new project, which Aniello plans to direct. "A really ill-equipped son wants to take over the family business to keep the peace, but he's the vice principal at an all-girls school and doesn't even know how to hold a gun," he says.

If Michael Corleone plus punchlines sounds audacious, these two have the kind of confidence that comes with getting their first spec script to Johansson and landing a studio deal soon thereafter. "We met with Scarlett, had lunch at the Carlyle in New York, and that afternoon we decided to make a movie," says Downs, a New Jersey native and Duke alum who met Aniello, an Italy-born, Massachusetts-reared Columbia grad, when they were members of the NYC arm of sketch group Upright Citizens Brigade.

Though they live under the same roof in L.A.'s Los Feliz ("no kids, no pets, just a few dying plants," says Aniello), they write separate drafts and combine them into one master document. But they're on the same page. "Weirdly, we have the same jokes," she notes. "For better or worse," interjects Downs, who's accustomed to being one of few men on the Rough Night set and in the Broad City writers room. He feels out of place only when Sex and the City storylines come up, he says. "All the girls are like, 'Come on. Don't you know that one? You're such a Miranda.' "

This story first appeared in the June 14 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.