You may not recognize her face, but you know her work. Harvard alumna Aline Brosh McKenna is a screenwriter whose credits include “The Devil Wears Prada,” “27 Dresses,” and “Morning Glory.” She also co-created the TV series “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” with actress Rachel Bloom and has her own production company, “Lean Machine.” Now, she’s making her feature film debut with “Your Place or Mine,” on Netflix Feb. 10.
The romantic comedy follows Debbie (Reese Witherspoon) and Peter (Ashton Kutcher) as they realize their feelings for each other after two decades of friendship that began with a one-night stand.
She’s an accountant who lives a practical life in Los Angeles with her 13-year-old son; he’s a brand consultant living the bachelor life in New York City. Different as they are, they both have dreams they’re not pursuing. When her babysitter (Rachel Bloom) cancels last minute as Debbie is preparing to fly to New York for an accounting program, Peter steps in to take care of her son in L.A. The two friends talk over the phone every day while across the country; a split screen shows their conversations as if they are side-by-side.
In a recent interview with the Globe, Brosh McKenna talked about using her friend’s bachelor pad as inspiration for the screenplay, writing and directing at Harvard, and the need for more women film directors.
Q. This film has a star-studded cast with Witherspoon and Kutcher. What makes them a good fit for the characters?
A. I like to find unknowns. No, they’re iconic, and there’s really something great in a romantic comedy to have iconic leads because the characters have been friends for 20 years, and we as the public have been checking in with Reese and Ashton for 20 years. So it feels like we also know them in a way. Of course, it’s a showbiz version of “know,” but we feel like we’ve grown up with them, too.
Q. What is it like releasing your first feature film as a director?
A. The closest thing to directing is definitely showrunning. Screenwriters are not really in charge of anyone or anything except for their own document. But a showrunner is very much a 360-view of an entire process. So that was a really good training ground for directing. I learned so much on “Crazy Ex,” 62 episodes, working with an incredible cast, my partner being an actor.
I started directing when I was 46. And I directed this movie when I was 53. Doing those new things a little later in life is fun, and it keeps you fresh to be learning.
Q. As a student, you wrote opinion pieces, like movie reviews, for The Harvard Crimson and directed plays. Did you always know you wanted to go into film?
A. I didn’t. We had an entertainment magazine in college, and that’s what I wrote for. And then I directed five plays, and I produced a couple of musical showcases. When I graduated, my roommate knew she wanted to be a writer. Her belief that it was possible made me think that it was possible.
Q. This film is loosely based on your own experience. Can you tell me more about that?
A. Well, it’s based on a buddy whose apartment I stayed in, and we never dated, but I stayed in his apartment when he was deep in his bachelor phase. So I got to see the shrink-wrapped silverware, and the glasses with the price tags on it. I left out the very moldy shower curtain — sorry, Ted — which I removed and bought him a new one.
Ted is in the movie. He plays the doorman. So that inspired it, staying in his bachelor pad and imagining what it would be like for him to stay in my house, which is cluttered with bric-a-brac and children.
Q. The film’s release date is very close to Valentine’s Day. How do you feel about the holiday?
A. If you’re going to stop and celebrate some aspect of your life or some relationship, I don’t see what the downside of that is … if it’s a nice day for you to go out and party and get chocolate hearts, great. And if you prefer to stay home and in your jimmy jams and watch a movie, it’s whatever you want to do.
But I will say Valentine’s Day often makes single people feel bad. I’m all for a Galentine’s Day or a friend’s Valentine’s Day. And when you make a comedy, you’re hoping that people will see it in groups.
Q. Recently, there have been more discussions surrounding the lack of women directors in film. What do you make of that?
A. Listen, we’ve got to change who’s making the decisions about who gets to direct these movies, which movies matter, which movies get awards attention. I think that young people are doing a better job of understanding that there needs to be diversity. My experience of show business is that young women are absolutely killing it, so I’m always hopeful that the future will be better.
Interview was edited and condensed.
Maddie Browning can be reached at email@example.com.