The Night Before

The Improv

As you’d expect from its pedigree, The Night Before is heavy on jokes, with many of them changed at the last minute or even improvised on the spot. Actor Gordon-Levitt was quick to credit the writers with most of the funny: “[Exec producers / writers] Evan and Kyle [Hunter] and Ariel [Shaffir] are writing alt jokes and constantly feeding us with stuff, so it’s not like we just have to keep coming up with new one-liners. There are many comedy writers on set providing them for us.”

Levine explained the process as follows:

What generally happens is, when we’re doing a dialogue scene where we need a lot of jokes, it’ll be like Seth, Evan, Kyle and Ariel [on set]. […] Every producer has a yellow pad on his chair, and they just write alt jokes for me. I’ll get like 20 per scene and then I’ll throw out whichever ones I don’t like, and the ones I do like I’ll pass on to the actors.

In at least one instance, Levine revealed, that led to scenes that were almost entirely rewritten or improvised. “Yesterday we did it and the scene changed 100%, literally nothing that was on the script that was written,” he recalled. He praised the approach for giving the film a more “naturalistic” feel.

Weaver concurred. “We do take a lot of pride in trying to create an environment that is super, relatively casual and casual feeling, and gives people the opportunity to kind of improv, pitch ideas,” he said. “There’s no idea too silly and nothing is too precious to think about changing, and I think we were able to bring that to this movie.”

The Goal

While there are plenty of different ways to make a Christmas movie, The Night Before is aiming squarely for the feel-good approach. “A Christmas movie, its final goal is to make people happy. It’s incredibly liberating to just want to make people happy,” said Levine. “It can be bittersweet. It can be kind of sad sometimes, but it always ends up being happy.”

Under all the jokes, there’s a strong emotional core to the story. “In the broadest strokes, it’s about how you can get older with your friends,” said Levine. Added Gordon-Levitt, “It’s rooted in a sincerity that you would also find in 50/50.” Rogen similarly praised Levine for that honest feeling. “He’s willing to have an emotional earnestness that I think as people who explicitly grew up in comedy, we shy away from.”

Initially, Rogen admitted, he was reluctant to embrace the spirit. “I think at first we were shying away from [Christmas movies] a little bit and not fully embracing, like it’s a fucking Christmas movie,” said Rogen. But they eventually learned to lean into the tropes, and in the end, Mackie says, “We definitely went full Christmas.”

If all goes well, The Night Before will stand alongside its own influences as part of the annual holiday canon. “[Levine] thought we should do something that would get played every Christmas and that it’s a cool place to have a movie you made, because it perpetuates forever,” said Goldberg.

The Night Before

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