In the comedy All Nighter, one guy has to spend the night looking for his ex-girlfriend with her intimidating father. Not an easy task, as it turns out.

Martin (Emile Hirsch), a struggling bluegrass musician, is heartbroken over his breakup with girlfriend Ginnie (Analeigh Tipton), and much to his chagrin, he ends up having to help her dad, Mr. Gallo (J.K. Simmons), try to find her when she goes MIA. Throughout the long evening, the two meet a cast of colorful characters in Ginnie’s life, along with getting to know each other.

All Nighter could have veered off into madcap escapades but keeps things grounded, especially between Martin and Gallo. At a recent press day, Hirsch, Tipton and director Gavin Weisen talk about making the film and working with Simmons.

Q: What was your take on the story?

Analeigh Tipton: I thought it was, I was really excited about, well, one, the script. It’s always nice when you laugh out loud when you read something and it’s also really enjoyable to read. Especially comedic material that feels elevated and that you can also see how it can come to life. And when you can see even life beyond it, I think is the most exciting not because it needs it, but because it’s so good that there’s so many ways that things can be done and said. I was especially interested because honestly I’ve never done a film like this, where I feel like my character is a big part of the film.

But the days that I had to be on set were not that many. So I thought it was kind of a really great opportunity to have not so much pressure on a role that was also really interesting throughout the movie. You start to know her as the other characters do through their adventures and kind of see how to balance that. Obviously the cast that was involved and everybody that was on board seemed pretty great.

Emile Hirsch: For me, this was a really exciting opportunity to kind of get into a little bit of comedy. It’s not an out-and-out Hangover type comedy. Gavin, what was that Scorsese movie where there’s the on night thing?

Gavin Weisen: After Hours.

Hirsch: Yeah. After Hours. Gavin was talking about After Hours a lot, and I was like “All right, so I’m not going like full funny, I can have a little bit of throwing my dramatic BS every now and then.” So I was excited about that, and I really like the idea of playing off of having this kind of buddy movie element and then certainly when J.K got involved I couldn’t believe it. I was like, “This is amazing, we won the lottery, Gavin, what the hell are we doing here?” And this was like two or three weeks after J.K. won the Oscar that we were shooting it. So it was a really special time in his career right then and there to be working with us.

So there was a lot of excitement. And to get to shoot it right in L.A. was fun for me being a real local from here, and getting to kind of see all the neighborhoods that I’ve always been interested in going to. All the hipsters and West Hollywood, and there’s all these weird little underbellies of L.A., but they’re not necessarily like the main tourist attractions that people think of. But it’ll be a nice window into the city. This is sort of like the anti-La La Land in a way. That’s gonna be my new catch-all phrase for the movie, I think.

Q: Was there much improvisation?

Hirsch: J.K. and I, to be honest, we actually stuck pretty closely to the script, because we kind of wanted to just nail, because we were shooting running and gunning it, we didn’t have a whole lot of time the way we shot, there were so many different locations and a limited number of days. So we kind of cued pretty closely to the script. But then a guy like Taran Killam comes on set and you can’t nail that guy down to a script to save your life.

It was fun to work with so many different comedic actors. Actors in general, but actors that were really good with comedy. ‘Cause there were a lot of them. And there’s a lot of different parts, and you know, that was fun for me, not being of that world. Having that more dramatic kind of movies that I’ve done for the most part and kind of getting to like put my toe in that world was a lot of fun for me. Because the people that know me well, they think that I’m actually a little bit more like this character and not so much like the characters that I play in movies. So it was sort of fun in a way.

Q: Emile, did you learn how to play the banjo for your character?

Hirsch: I had a guitar teacher. Or a banjo teacher who was a guitarist in a band. He’s one of these dudes that’s like “The music is the soul of our bloodline”. And so he was so devoted to teaching me the banjo, he would come over to my place every single day and just hammer it into me. And I actually learned the riffs to the songs that I needed to play in the movie. So, yeah. I mean, the banjo was a lot harder than I think it would be because it’s all separate fingers when you pick and stuff. My banjo teacher was such a maniac, I was writing all these songs. Coming up with the melodies, singing a cappella into my phone and then I would send him the songs and then him and his band would hear it, make all the music, and then I would come in and record it. So we made like 10 or 12 songs just for fun.

Weisen: They’re really great songs. It was so much fun to see him go through that, and like, come alive creatively to a type of music which was bluegrass, and an instrument which was the banjo, that he had never learned before. It was cool. He was becoming the character.

Q: Gavin, are you into bluegrass?

Weisen: I am, casually, and I always have been. I loved it, and I loved it as sort of this anachronistic thing that this character makes his whole life about. That really nobody outside of a small subculture gives a crap about. It’s his entire existence. I always though that was a very funny idea. To love the music and to also know how ultimately irrelevant it is to mainstream popular culture. I lived in Brooklyn 15 or 17 years ago and used to go to my local bar that had Monday night bluegrass band. It wasn’t Saturday night or Friday night or Thursday night, it was literally Monday night bluegrass band. But it was my absolute favorite night of the week. And the 20 to 30 people that would come would have the best time ever, and the musicians were brilliant. But they were not trying to become pop stars.

Q: How did you find the balance between the comedy and the drama aspect of this movie?

Weisen: Not to oversimplify it, but I think it’s the most necessary reversal of expectations. And in both cases it’s like, Adam Sandler is an incredible dramatic actor when he works with an interesting filmmaker on a drama. Punch Drunk Love with Paul Thomas Anderson is one of my favorite things that he’s ever done, and he couldn’t be a more broadly comedic performer. But it was fascinating to see him in a drama. Similarly, Emile is, I think, one of the best dramatic actors we have, but to see him – he loves when I talk about him – to see him be, and I had seen enough of his work to know that he could be very funny. Even if it’s only been a few movies out of the many that he’s made, obviously the potential is there. But to ground the character in someone with the dramatic chops to make him feel real and to make you emotionally engage with him is, that’s the sweet spot.

Q: Have you ever had a boyfriend/girlfriend you had to introduce to your parents that you were a little shaky about?

Tipton: Most of them. [Laughs] No, I think I’ve grown. My dad… He’s quite the intellectual, which makes him difficult in that way, I would say. My family really loves to do sarcastic, dry kind of banter. It’s holding down someone. And being like “It’s okay, they’re really being sarcastic. I hope.” But for the most part my parents are pretty accepting.

Hirsch: Oh, man, if only I could just sit here and give you my whole personal inventory. Man, some seriously awkward times were had. I mean, it’s one of those things where I don’t know… Even like in-laws that you really get along with, there’s always this tension. We were talking about this earlier, me and Analeigh, was that there’s like, with the in-law types, you know that your partner, when they get mad with you or when they’re upset with you, calls their parents and complains.

You know when they get along well with you, they’re not calling up their parents and saying the good stuff. So you know for the most part, the parents have pretty much only heard bad shit, you know? They may have seen good stuff when you guys are all hanging out having dinner and everything seems chill. But the calls that they’re getting are usually the bad calls. So you know when you meet them that all of the little personal drama, they know it all. Like they know everything, usually. It depends on the dynamic, but for the most part, you know that all the complaints, everything. So you sorta know that you’re outgunned a little bit.

Tipton: This is eye-opening to me. Apparently I’m quite an optimist when it comes to that, because now it’s just, I’ve been scarred and any parent that I meet I will assume they may have heard some bad things.

Q: What was the dynamic like between you and J.K. Simmons?

Hirsch: I just have so much respect for him. I was so excited that he chose to select this film as the first movie that he did right after winning the Academy Award. We were all kind of just honored to be getting to work with a dude like that doing that right now. And I just tried to be as prepared as possible so that I was able to kind of meet or get as close to his level as I could. And wanted to just stay … I was super happy to be there every day, and really happy to be a part of the film. So I just wanted to be as ready to go as I could for him. I didn’t want to disappoint him, ever. I wanted him to feel good about doing the movie and to feel good about working with all the actors and the whole experience that he had. J.K. is so humble. Because he considers himself like a journeyman actor. He’s like “I’m a character actor”. But he’s not, he’s a movie star. But he has that, he carries himself in a way that, you know, there’s a lot of people that they get a little success right away and then they think they walk on water or something like that.