TAKES A CAREER U-TURN, PRODUCING AND STARRING IN 50/50
50/50 directed by Jonathan Levine, written by Will Reiser, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick and Bryce Dallas Howard. An eOne Entertainment release. 99 minutes. Monday (September 12), 6 pm, Ryerson; Tuesday (September 13), 2 pm, AMC 7. seth rogen has always looked to his own life for material – first as a teenage stand-up, then as a screenwriter, mining his friendship with writing partner Evan Goldberg for Superbad. It was easy. But 50/50 is different.
His new film, getting its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, cuts closer than usual. It’s a fictionalized version of the experience of Rogen’s good friend writer Will Reiser after he was diagnosed with a cancerous tumour on his spine. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the Reiser character, Adam; Rogen plays Adam’s best friend, Kyle, who is, essentially, Seth Rogen.
Rogen, who also produced the film with Goldberg, says helping Reiser turn his story into a screenplay was strangely therapeutic.
“It took inviting other people into the process, like getting a director and actors and stuff, to really understand what had happened,” he says from Los Angeles, his thoughts frequently punctuated by that distinctive nervous giggle. “To understand what Will went through – to understand why he did the things he did and why I did some of the things I did.
“It just took a while for us to be able to be honest with ourselves about what had happened. Once we realized that was the key, it was kinda easy. ‘Let’s just try to be as honest as possible about what actually happened or would have happened in this situation.’”
The trick was to be honest about Reiser’s cancer odyssey – and still be funny. It’s one thing to write an irreverent scene about trying to pick up girls after a round of chemo; it’s another to make it play that way on film.
“There’s a big margin for error on a movie like this,” he admits. “A bad cancer comedy’s like the worst fuckin’ thing on earth, and we were all very aware of that. I’m just so impressed by how everyone [on the production] got it.”
Staying true to the project meant working on a smaller scale than Rogen and Goldberg had done in a while. Their movies have ballooned over the years, from the modestbudgeted Superbad through the more ambitious Pineapple Express to would-be blockbuster The Green Hornet. (Yeah, we’ll get to that.)