SETH RO­GEN

TAKES A CA­REER U-TURN, PRO­DUC­ING AND STAR­RING IN 50/50

NOW Magazine - TIFF - - FRONT PAGE - By nor­man wil­ner

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.)

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