Luckiest Girl Alive Author Jessica Knoll on Movie, Her Rape


Warning: this interview consists of discussions of sexual assault in addition to gun violence that could be triggering for many who have skilled trauma.

A 12 months after releasing her New York Instances bestselling 2015 novel, “Luckiest Woman Alive,” writer Jessica Knoll was able to share a unique but tragically comparable story: her personal. In “Luckiest Woman Alive,” protagonist Ani has orchestrated a brand new life for herself as a glamorous journal editor. Her shiny facade hides a difficult previous, although: Ani — previously often known as TiffAni — had survived a vicious rape in highschool and, later, a faculty capturing orchestrated by a pal. A highly effective 2016 Lenny essay revealed that Ani’s journey wasn’t so dissimilar to her creator’s. Knoll, too, had been the sufferer of a gang rape as a teen. She detailed the traumatic assault — and heart-wrenching and disappointing response from these positioned to assist — in her Lenny piece.

“I believe the catharsis was in writing [the book]. I believe writing the essay and coming ahead in a public approach about it was the vindication. It felt like constructing blocks,” Knoll tells POPSUGAR now, because the movie model of “Luckiest Woman Alive” streams on Netflix.

Knoll — who, like Ani, attended a non-public highschool and labored as an editor at {a magazine} (Ani for the fictional The Ladies’s Journal, whereas Knoll had a tenure at Cosmopolitan) — additionally penned the script for the movie, which stars Mila Kunis as grownup Ani and “Merciless Summer time”‘s Chiara Aurelia as younger TiffAni. Loads has modified for Knoll, 38, because the novel’s launch. “I did not know who I used to be after I was writing the ebook,” she says. “I believe I now know who I’m, and [I’m] beginning to reside my life in a approach that I truly wish to. I am not simply dwelling my life in order that it appears good to different folks.”

That lesson, discovered by means of years of remedy, Knoll says, led her to a spot of preparation for seeing her story play out on display. Knoll tells POPSUGAR she thinks “that artwork is vital, when it comes to permitting folks to course of issues which are troublesome by means of artwork. I believe it permits folks to take that in and to spark a dialogue. And it ought to be reflective of what is going on on on the earth.”

Sadly, each tragedies central to “Luckiest Woman Alive”‘s plot occur too usually, which makes the movie’s launch and finish message all of the extra vital. Forward, Knoll opens up about sharing her personal sexual assault expertise, engaged on the movie, and what she’s discovered with time.

POPSUGAR: Why had been Chiara and Mila the right actors to painting Ani, in your opinion?

Jessica Knoll: We began with Mila; we began with grownup Ani. It was at all times a query of who was going to step into that position, after which from there it could inform the selection for younger TiffAni. Mila, curiously sufficient, was a reputation that — for all of the years it was at Lionsgate [before Netflix] — Mila’s title by no means got here up in dialog. After we received to Netflix, [producer] Scott Stuber was the primary one who stated Mila Kunis, and actually everybody simply went quiet. There was full consensus among the many group.

After which with Chiara, I believe over 1,500 ladies auditioned for the position, and our casting director narrowed it all the way down to 10. I knew who Chiara was as a result of I used to be watching the AMC present “Inform Me Your Secrets and techniques,” and she or he’s actually nice in that. And for me, it was instantaneous. She was already in my thoughts, and I actually noticed a whole lot of Mila in her.

PS: Did you will have conversations with each of them about the best way to painting these characters, who’re extensions of your individual life?

JK: Most likely a little bit bit extra with Chiara, and by no means about portraying the character. Chiara had, I believe, extra curiosity about components of my story that I hadn’t written about or gotten into that, privately, we’d speak about. I might be like, “You possibly can ask me something.” And it was additionally very fascinating speaking to her as once we had been filming it, she was 18, so she’s very near the age of the character. So we additionally had a whole lot of conversations in regards to the subject of consent, and the way these incidents get framed, and the way there’s nonetheless blame dealt out — even together with her era, the place they’ve extra training and have a sure articulation round consent that [mine] did not.

PS: When the ebook got here out, you hadn’t but publicly revealed that Ani’s expertise was drawn from your individual. Are you able to speak about attending to a spot that subsequent 12 months the place you had been prepared to speak about what occurred to you?

JK: I used to be so scarred by my highschool expertise of claiming, “I have been raped,” and having everybody from adults to my friends being like, “No, you were not. You performed a task in it, and cease utilizing that phrase.” We did not have the time period gaslighting again then, however it’s gaslighting. And so after I began writing the ebook and I knew that I used to be going to place that scene in there, that was going to be a part of her story. I believe my hope was that below the safety of fiction, I might perhaps get a way of how folks interpreted that occasion at present and in the event that they noticed it the best way I noticed it. After which in the event that they did, that I might, one, be validated — simply that non-public validation of like, “I am not loopy; I am not making issues up.” I imply, it is loopy. You are a sufferer of against the law, and you then’re advised there was no crime.

And I believe lots of people have that have. So firstly, I simply needed the expertise of lastly being advised, “You are not loopy. That’s what occurred to you.” After which from there, I felt assured that, “Oh, I can truly come ahead and declare this as my very own, and I haven’t got to fret that I’ll get damage a second time round, as a result of readers are exhibiting me that they see this incident for what it’s.”

PS: What was it like watching the scene vs. writing it? Was viewing the film model harder or extra painful for you?

JK: I did not assume it could be as a result of I wrote the scene in each the ebook and within the script, however I additionally did not go to set the day that they filmed it as a result of I did not wish to make the actors who had been in that scene really feel uncomfortable, as a result of they’re between the ages of 18 and 22, and I am 38. Once I was that age, somebody ready of energy would intimidate me a lot. It is already arduous sufficient to should do these scenes, so I did not wish to add to that strain. So then after I watched the dailies later, I used to be like, “I am actually glad I wasn’t there.”

It was actually arduous to observe, and it was unhappy for me in the best way the place I used to be like, “Oh, that is that factor that they are saying that you simply do the place you normalize what occurred to you, even to have the ability to reside with it.” You are like, “Nicely, I am positive it wasn’t, like, that violent, or perhaps they had been just a bit bit confused.” After which whenever you actually watch it — like that scene within the hallway, the place all of them see her and so they’re laughing — seeing that really occur, it is similar to, “Wow!” It is an actual type of coordinated effort. That is very disturbing.

PS: There’s additionally a faculty capturing on the coronary heart of the story, and it is sadly one thing that’s nonetheless a frequent actuality in America. What care did you and the filmmaking crew put into portraying that and the way the scholars react to that within the film?

JK: [Nonprofit gun-violence prevention organization] Sandy Hook Promise was our media advisor on it. They had been studying variations of the script and giving us suggestions. For the sexual assault scene, there was an intimacy coordinator on set always who truly helped to coordinate the precise choreography of the assault. However then on prime of that, there was the psychological well being help, which was there for anybody who wanted it round any of the traumas depicted. And that was not only for the actors, however for anybody concerned within the manufacturing.

[Most of the actors] are a lot nearer to a era the place they’ve mates who’ve survived college shootings. They needed to do college capturing drills of their excessive faculties. Highschool for lots of people is aggravating sufficient. All the explanations that it was aggravating for [my] era and all of the generations that got here earlier than it. So as to add this on prime of it, it is unconscionable. It makes me so indignant. It simply makes me so indignant that we have not performed something, actually, to assist these youngsters. And it’s a material of a whole lot of People’ lives. There ought to be tales round this.

PS: How have you ever modified because you wrote the ebook, and the way did these adjustments manifest within the screenplay?
JK: I believe I am much less blindly indignant at everybody and every part on a regular basis. The loopy factor is, that did not occur for some time after the ebook got here out and after the essay got here out. I used to be fairly caught in a really indignant and victimized place for a very long time.

In some unspecified time in the future, in most likely 2020, issues began to click on for me. Once I must open the ebook and browse sure passages — as a result of we had been attempting to recollect how she stated it within the ebook and perhaps poach one thing and put it within the script — I do not acknowledge that particular person. It makes me unhappy, one, how a lot I hated myself and the best way I talked about myself. There have been a number of instances in that ebook the place she calls herself a bit of sh*t, and that is me speaking to myself, and I am like, “I simply cannot consider I actually felt that approach.” And on the similar time, I assumed everybody else was horrible and that everybody damage me. I could not see goodness in anybody, not to mention in myself. I am utterly out on the opposite aspect of that now, the place I simply really feel like I’ve a whole lot of empathy and compassion for folks I by no means thought I might’ve had empathy and compassion for. I perceive that every one folks have totally different experiences in life that inform how they’re and the way they act. I am simply extra comfy, and I do know who I’m.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 29: Jessica Knoll, Chiara Aurelia, Mila Kunis and Finn Wittrock attend the premiere of Netflix's

PS: Did this result in altering the ending from the ebook? Are you able to speak about that call and why it is totally different within the movie?

JK: The spirit of the ending has at all times been about reclaiming your voice and reclaiming your outdated id and never being ashamed of who you might be. We nonetheless have that within the film, however what I believe that we’ve that additionally makes it perhaps extra cinematic and larger is that it turns into about greater than her. And that was one thing that occurred for me in writing the essay and simply the type of connectivity that that position introduced me with so many different ladies and realizing, “Oh my God, it is so loopy that we have all sat round for thus a few years and stored this to ourselves and self-blamed,” nonetheless it manifested in our unhealthy coping mechanisms.

And a whole lot of that might begin to be alleviated or handled in a wholesome approach, if we’d simply really feel like we’re secure sufficient to speak about it. Folks wish to really feel secure. They wish to really feel like, “If I’ll speak about it, I’ll be supported.” And that was an expertise that I received after the ebook got here out. So we needed to discover a strategy to put that into the film, too.

“Luckiest Woman Alive” is streaming on Netflix now.

This interview was edited and condensed for readability.

When you or somebody you already know wish to communicate with somebody who’s skilled to help sexual assault survivors, please name the Nationwide Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

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