To accentuate the contrast between the scary and the funny, director Paul Feig made the decision to shoot the movie like a brightly-lit comedy. "Thrilling things happen in the daylight rather than in darkly lit rooms." He adds, "in the suburbs, there's not a lot of hiding among the white walls and bright windows."
Anna Kendrick thinks that many women will be able to relate to Stephanie and Emily's friendship because "Stephanie also wants validation from Emily." Kendrick says, "She's willing to put up with a lot of abuse because it's preferable to her loneliness."
One of the reasons that Blake Lively wanted Emily to wear suits was because she wanted to differentiate Emily from the character she played on "Gossip Girl." Both characters are women in fashion from the Upper East Side. "I wanted it to be a very different look and vibe," she says.
Jessica Sharzer, the movie's screenwriter, found the character of Emily enjoyable to write because she's "so fashionable and slick, but it's also a façade. Intriguingly, both Emily and Stephanie have dark pasts, but they hide them in very different ways..."
Blake Lively wanted to create an iconic look for her character. She drew inspiration from Paul Feig's style in real life - "the buttoned up, three piece suit, bow tie, pocket square, cuff link wearing version."
Paul Feig convinced Anna Kendrick to take on the complicated role of Stephanie. He "especially loves her when she plays people who are sweet and helpful and candid --- and that is Stephanie." And he trusted that Kendrick would make sure that Stephanie had a backbone.
Director of photography John Schwartzman was inspired by the "brightly lit, poppy colors" of David Lynch's "Blue Velvet." He says, "The idea was to not try to hide things in the shadows on this movie. Let's put it all out there in plain sight and let the audience figure out all the information."
In an interview, Anna Kendrick recalled the scene where Stephanie goes to Emily's house as being particularly fun to film. She says, "we found a way to kind of flirt with each other that was really fun, even though the things we're saying don't necessarily have that element."
According to a recent article, some of Emily's costume pieces, like the dickie and the French cuffs that she removes in this scene, were custom made. Both the dickie and the cuffs were created by Anto of Beverly Hills.
Jessica Sharzer, who has written for "American Horror Story" and the "Dirty Dancing" TV movie, was brought in to adapt "A Simple Favor" into a screenplay. "The book always has its tongue firmly planted in its cheek and that's what I most wanted to capture."
In order to help the audience feel as though they were really following Stephanie's vlogs, director of photography John Schwartzman chose to re-film the vlog scenes as they played back on a very high-resolution monitor. The technique allowed him to incorporate the detailed texture of the pixels on screen.
The theme that screenwriter Jessica Sharzer was most interested in exploring was how society often forces women to choose one role to play in life, then penalizes them for breaking out of that role. "I like that this story looks at how different women decide between career and children."
In a recent interview, Anna Kendrick shared that Paul Feig had her improvise names for different "gross-sounding" martinis. Afterward, she looked up all the flavors to see if any were real, and many were. Her conclusion: "At a certain point, it's not a martini any more. It is disturbing to know how many flavors of vodka exist in the world. When you're at key lime pie, you've gone too far."
Costume designer Renee Ehrlich Kalfus researched real mommy vloggers on Instagram for inspiration in creating Stephanie's look. The sweater that she wears with the pom poms was inspired by one vlog that was very "This is how you DIY kitty cats on your collar," as Kalfus puts it. (Stephanie actually does wear cats on her collar earlier in the film when she gets in touch with Sean in London.)
Many differences appear from the film's source novel: In the novel, Sean works on Wall Street, while in the film, he's an English professor; Emily and Sean are wealthy; Stephanie is a blogger as opposed to a vlogger.
Henry Golding and Paul Feig were inspired by Cary Grant when creating the character of Sean, though Golding does not think he could have done it without Lively and Kendrick. "Anna and Blake are forces to be reckoned with."
Screenwriter Jessica Sharzer wanted to keep the action revolving around the character of Stephanie. Sharzer finds Stephanie endearing because "she tries so hard, yet she knows she's mocked by other mothers. Her vlog followers are really her only friends, but they're her surrogate friends."
Jessie Henderson enjoyed all the dimensions that Anna Kendrick brought to the character of Stephanie. "She has all these amazing micro-expressions that can say so much. She's so warm that you gravitate towards her, but she carefully reveals Stephanie's inner cracks in a way that is at once nuanced and thrilling."
Nicky and Miles are portrayed by newcomers Ian Ho and Joshua Satine, respectively. Director Paul Feig was impressed with their skills. "They're both such great actors that they became their characters."
Blake Lively first met Anna Kendrick through friends. It was just after the critically-acclaimed film "Rocket Science" had premiered. Kendrick earned an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
Renee Ehrlich Kalfus served as the costume designer on the film. She made sure that the clothing reflected each character's journey, often allowing the characters to use their clothing as a kind of armor they could hide behind.
Jessica Sharzer, who adapted the book into the screenplay, was grateful when she learned that Paul Feig would be directing. "You can see in Paul's work that he has a real talent for tapping into what makes women funny, but never in a mean or two-dimensional way."
Jefferson Sage, the production designer, has worked with Paul Feig since the beginning of their careers. He comments that "the two houses gave us two very distinct visual stories about who those characters are and where they come from." Emily's house is all cool greys and whites, while Stephanie's is colorful, modest, and charming.
On screen, the martini Emily drinks calls for gin as the main ingredient. Off screen, Blake Lively's husband, Ryan Reynolds, has an ownership stake in Aviation Gin, a craft distillery in Portland, Oregon.
Dennis Nylon's offices were constructed entirely from scratch in a warehouse. Paul Feig feels that the set's design reflects what is happening to Stephanie at the time. "The open floor plan makes it so visually exciting as Stephanie is sneaking around in there. She is exposed to the world."
The director of photography, John Schwartzman, previously worked on major motion pictures like "The Rock," "Jurassic World," and "Pearl Harbor." Schwartzman went to film school with Feig, but this is the first time they have worked on a film together.
Bashir Salahuddin other credits include playing Keith Bang, the referee (and Cherry Bang's husband), on the series "GLOW." He's also written for "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" and "The Last O.G." featuring Tracy Morgan and Tiffany Haddish.
Paul Feig made sure that all the actors could explore the film's intersection of thriller and comedy. Creative partner Jessie Henderson says, "Paul creates a set that is safe for creativity, so you see people stretch beyond what they're already good at. We had such a talented cast and crew on this film and Paul pushed them to do even more than what you may have seen from them before."
This is Paul Feig's first film to be shot in Univisium 2.00:1. John Schwartzman used the aspect ratio for Jurassic World (2015) & The Book of Henry (2017), both directed by Colin Trevorrow, and Blake Lively also starred in a film shot in Univisium 2.00:1 called Café Society (2016).
Like Blake Lively's character in "A Simple Favor," Paul Feig is also from Michigan. According to a recent article, Feig grew up living next door to a family with eight children - six of them girls - and he was friends with all of them.
The ending of the film and some of its plot points heavily differ from the source novel: Emily plans to use the $2,000,000 life insurance policy to frame Sean for insurance fraud and escape to Europe; the novel also ends with Stephanie being unintentionally complicit in Emily's scheme and becomes arrested, while Emily makes a clean escape; Emily is only a twin in the novel, while in the film, she's a triplet; in the novel, Emily is aware that her twin wants to commit suicide and lets her, whereas in the film, she drowns her; in the novel, Sean is aware of Emily's plan to vanish.
The movie originally was going to end with an elaborately choreographed and staged flash mob with Sean (Henry Golding) as the main dancer, ending in Sean proposing to Stephanie. Golding, who is not a professionally trained dancer, practiced the routine intensively, and the other dancers also included most of the rest of the movie's supporting cast, who also had widely diverse levels of dance experience (ranging from Broadway veteran Andrew Rannells to the child actors who played Nicky Nelson and Miles Smothers). Even Jean Smart, who played Emily's reclusive alcoholic mother, Margaret McLanden, participated in the dance number. However, preview audiences reacted negatively to the dance number and proposal on the grounds that they liked Stephanie's newfound confidence and independence and didn't want to see her end up with Sean at all; so the scene was cut from the finished film (though it is viewable as an extra on the Blu-ray/DVD).
In a recent interview, Blake Lively recalled the difficulty in filming the big scene at the end of the movie. "That was tricky," she says, "because we, on the day, had to make the plot twists make sense."