Interview: 50/50 Star Seth Rogen and Writer Will Reiser–Part Two: Making a Cancer Comedy

by | Sep 30th, 2011 | 10:30AM | Filed under: Interviews, Movies

Last week HollywoodChicago.com‘s Brian Tallerico and I sat down with actor Seth Rogen and writer Will Reiser to talk about their funny and moving new dramedy 50/50, which Reiser wrote based on his own experience battling life-threatening cancer when he was 25.

Rogen produced the film with his partner Evan Goldberg and he also co-stars alongside Inception‘s Joseph Gordon-Levitt (whose character Adam is partly based on Reiser) and Up in the Air‘s Anna Kendrick (as Adam’s inexperienced therapist). 50/50 was directed by Jonathan Levine (The Wackness).

It was the end of the day, and real-life friends Rogen and Reiser were counting down to “Martini Time,” but they were funny and forthright (and fast-talking), and the chat ran longer than most. So the interview is broken into two parts. The first part dealt mostly with the ideas and impetus behind the film. In this second part of the interview, Rogen and Reiser talk about their excellent co-stars Gordon-Levitt and Kendrick, director Levine, and their future filmmaking plans.

(Trust me, Part Two makes a lot more sense if you’ve read Part One here.)

Will, you wrote the script from your own experiences, and clearly the role of Kyle was written for Seth. But did you write with Joseph Gordon-Levitt or Anna Kendrick in mind?

Will Reiser: Nope, but when I saw Up In The Air I knew that Anna Kendrick was the perfect person. Her characters are always so real. She just has this ability to be incredibly serious and sincere, and yet she’s able to find the humor in that moment. I think she’s a remarkable actress.

And how different would the film be without Joseph Gordon-Levitt in it?

Seth Rogen: It’d be totally different if it was someone else. He’s largely responsible for developing the character, and the whole tone of the movie is taking a cue from Joe’s performance.

And he just could not have been more grounded and subtle–it’s such a non-showy performance, which is my favorite thing about it. What I see when I watch it is restraint–there are so many scenes where it would be much easier to do this big thing and he always makes the small choice.

Reiser: I can’t imagine the movie without Joe, he just carries the movie.

It helps avoid the danger with these two characters, Adam and Kyle, where a viewer might say, “these two people would never be friends in real life.”

Rogen: That’s the only thing I had to be conscious of when playing Kyle. I was never thinking, “Is this joke too offensive? Is this too much? Is this too obnoxious?” The only line I had to walk was I couldn’t push things so far that you don’t believe Joe’s character would be friends with my character.

Is Jonathan Levine a very collaborative director?

Rogen: Yeah. We always used Greg Mottola [Superbad, Paul] as the bar for the easiest, coolest, most mellow director you could ever possibly work with. And Levine is sidling up to Mottola status in our heads.

Reiser: He’s so open.

Rogen: They have a very similar demeanor on set and very similar approach. That’s why Evan and I like Levine so much–he reminded us of Mottola. He’s very confident and has a very strong vision, but at any second is willing to completely abandon it for something new and exciting.

Levine would have this whole thing completely planned out, and you’d say, “That’s what you’re planning on doing?” and he’d be like, “What this sucks? Should we not do it? Let’s not f**king do it!” And I like that attitude–I think it takes a lot of confidence to admit to being that insecure about something.

Reiser: He did such an incredible job just visually alone–he added his own little texture visually to the movie.

Rogen: Yeah that really helped–none of that was in the script. [Laughs]

Seth, you do multiple movies a year. Have you always had that kind of work ethic?

Rogen: From a very young age I wanted to have a job that essentially millions of people want and very few get to have. So I knew I should probably work harder than all those other people in order to up my chances of achieving it. Show biz is very competitive, and I’m not a competitive person, so my only recourse is work really hard.

And these are kind of risky movies, and any one of them can take years to get going. So I always have have a lot of things going at once that I’m trying to get started, because I never know which one might actually get off the ground.

Now that you’ve done something so personal, do you two plan to work together again?

Rogen: He’s writing another movie that Evan and I are producing, and Jon Levine’s gonna direct.

Reiser: It’s based on a vacation I took with my grandma when I was 14. We went to Jamaica, just she and I, and the travel agent accidentally booked us at a couple’s resort. So it was just my grandma and me, and she was in the very early stages of Alzheimer’s and I lost her in Kingston. So the movie’s about them and their relationship.

Rogen: [Joking... maybe] I play the grandma. Actually, I’m gonna play both characters.

50/50 opens in theaters everywhere today.

Read part one of my interview with Rogen and Reiser.

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More from the cast of 50/50 at redbox:

More inspiring dramedy from redbox:


One Response to “Interview: 50/50 Star Seth Rogen and Writer Will Reiser–Part Two: Making a Cancer Comedy”

  1. Fiirvoen
    Posted on September 30, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    Excellent interview! That was really fun to read!