Thus far in MTV News’ Fall Movie Preview, we’ve looked at comedies about drug-buying babysitters , people who hang out with puppets and stoners shooting Santa Claus in the face. Unconventional topics for big-screen laughs, all.
“50/50” sees those flick’s giggles-from-unexpected-places efforts, and raises ’em one: This is a comedy about having cancer, surviving it and figuring out a way to laugh about the whole thing. Based on the experiences of Will Reiser (who penned the script), “50/50” stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Kyle, a young man suddenly diagnosed with the disease. Seth Rogen plays his best friend, the guy trying to cheer him up and get him laid and distract him from the very real possibility of an untimely death.
Rogen and Reiser recently called up MTV News to talk about the film’s real-life inspirations, the challenges of marketing a comedy about cancer, and how Reiser’s disease once gained them early access to “Batman Begins.”
MTV: So we’re looking at “50/50” as part of our Fall Movie Preview. Where does your cancer comedy fit in with the likes of “Breaking Dawn” and “Sherlock Holmes” and “Mission Impossible”?
Seth Rogen: I think it’s funnier than all those movies. It is about something somewhat serious, but I really think it’s as funny as any of our movies. That’s what is really interesting about it to me. We’d always talk about how it’s not a creative challenge to take something depressing and make something depressing out of it. To us, it was much more interesting to take something that’s inherently depressing and try to make something really, really funny out of it. To me, the movies that are about something you generally don’t want to watch but you keep watching for decades to come, the only reason you do that is because they’re funny. A movie like “Dr. Strangelove,” no one wants a movie about f—ing nuclear war, but if it’s funny, you keep watching it. Tonally, that’s what we were trying to do.
Will Reiser: Yeah, challenging that idea of what’s acceptable. People are really afraid to laugh at illness in general.
MTV: Did the pragmatists in both of you worry about marketing a movie like this?
Rogen: I think it’s challenging, but I know people like the movie, and if the movie was in any way disappointing, we would really have a challenge. But because it’s a satisfying movie and ultimately not depressing and our trailers have been good; it’s no bigger challenge than some of the other movies we’ve done. At the time, a weed action movie was not easy to market.
MTV: How true to life is this film for you?
Reiser: It’s definitely fiction. I took from my own experience and created something that’s a work of fiction. I can relate to the character and I really tried to draw on my own experiences. And the other characters, like my mother in the movie — that’s not my mother — but there are elements of my mother and there are elements there in our relationship that are things we really went through. A lot of the alienation and isolation and the absurdity you feel when you’re sick, that all speaks to my experience. At the time, Seth and I would laugh about it. When you’re that young, you don’t sit around and talk about your emotions. We’re comedy writers. We would joke about it.
Rogen: It was never, “What happens when you die?” It was, “Are you too old to get a Make-A-Wish? We should at least go for it. Worst comes to worse, we hang out with Led Zeppelin for a day.”
Reiser: It’s dark humor, but that’s who we are and that’s how we came up with the idea for the movie. We were at a party one night and we came up with this idea for a buddy comedy.
Rogen: The first version was an R-rated version of “The Bucket List.”
MTV: What about the element of encouraging Kyle to use his illness to benefit his sex life. Is that true to life?
Rogen: I don’t think it was as specific as, “You can use this to get laid.” But I did aggressively push Will to always look on the bright side and make something good out of it. Maybe we can get a free drink, maybe we can go on a trip somewhere.
Reiser: I remember in 2005 I had just had this horrible back surgery and I could barely walk, and Seth and I were waiting on line to see this huge action movie — I think it was “Batman Begins” — and Seth walked to the front and said, “My friend has cancer, can we skip the line?”
Rogen: And it worked! So yes, I may or may not have used Will’s cancer to get into “Batman Begins” for free.
From “Abduction” to “Muppets, “Moneyball” to “Breaking Dawn,” the MTV Movies team is delving into the hottest upcoming flicks in our 2011 Fall Movie Preview. Check back daily for exclusive clips, photos and interviews with the films’ biggest stars.
Check out everything we’ve got on “50/50.”
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