The new comedy I Feel Pretty seems tailor-made for its star Amy Schumer, who has built a comedy empire out of finding humor in body positivity. In the movie, Schumer plays Renee, an employee at a giant beauty company who slips off her SoulCycle exercise bike one day, hits her head, and suddenly sees herself as runway model-beautiful. Co-writers and co-directors Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein — who have co-written a number of movies over the years including How to Be Single and He’s Just Not That Into You — spoke to us about high-concept comedy, finding comedy in the fashion industry, and what it’s like directing a movie together.
I Feel Pretty lends itself so well to Amy Schumer’s brand of humor, and I wanted to ask: Did you guys come up with the idea first and approach her, or did she approach you?
Abby Kohn: Yeah! The script was fully written. Before we approached her, she read it.
Marc Silverstein: And she reacted the same way you did, and said, “This is perfect for my sense of humor, let’s do it!” It was kind of just a perfect marriage. We were super lucky that she was available and into it and totally bought into the idea. And then we had a really good, fun collaborating relationship.
You guys are co-writers mainly. What is it like co-directing a movie together as well as co-writing it?
Silverstein: Luckily, the co-writing helps the co-directing, because you’ve already done a large portion of the work. We already know what the scenes should sound like and look like, because we come up with them together.
Kohn: Over 20 years of working together and understanding our shared tone, that just laid a really good groundwork for our creative collaboration. But definitely, directing posed some new challenges that we don’t have just collaborating as writers. Usually, it’s just Marc and I duking it out creatively in the script, but there’s other creative choices in the mix, and time pressures. There were certainly a couple bumps in the road, but never really creatively.
Silverstein: No, just logistically. Because you can’t work independently. We did this together. We did everything together.
What makes you guys so good at collaborating with each other? You’ve made so many things together over a long time. What is it about both of you that clicks?
Silverstein: I think there’s two sides to it. There’s the creative side to it, which is our shared sensibility, or the voice we created that’s ours as writers is very specific and good, and it’s something that we understand fully at this point in our careers—that we can write as each other. And then I’m kind of lazy, and Abby’s very productive, so that’s good.
Kohn: I would say yes.
Silverstein: And I’m sort of even-keeled, and Abby can be sort of emotional, so it levels out that way.
Kohn: Yes, yes.
Silverstein: I think we definitely complement each other and keep each other on track.
How did you come up with the idea for I Feel Pretty? A woman falls on her head and then thinks she’s supermodel gorgeous — where did that come from?
Silverstein: It’s an idea Abby came up with. We’re always looking at high concepts and looking at things that could be funny. And we love movies like Big and Tootsie.
Kohn: From the very beginning, when I pitched it to Marc, I was like, “But the thing is, we never see it, we never see what she sees! That’s the whole thing.” Not only do we not see what she sees in the mirror, when people look at her she’s always her. How could we have fun with the tropes of the switcheroo movie when nothing has changed? We started to see how you could really play with those tropes throughout the movie, make it really funny, but also bake into that concept something that we really want to say.
Silverstein: And it was also fun to give yourself a challenge. How do you write a woman in the world who thinks something has happened to her, but nothing has happened to her, but keep it believable?