Seth Rogen Aiming to Get Funny, Tender Again in ‘I’m With Cancer’

These days, Judd Apatow and friends are exploring deeper, more meaningful issues than most Hollywood comedies dare -– and they’re doing it at the top of the box-office. One of the film’s stars, Seth Rogen, is in the process of re-defining his career. Superhero flick “The Green Hornet” starts shooting soon and the comedy/drama “I’m With Cancer” will come after that.

So when we had the chance to catch up with the funnyman recently, we had to ask whether he spent his time on the “Funny People” set taking notes on how to successfully balance those tender issues of life, death and laughter.

“It’s funny, actually,” Rogen answered. “’I’m with Cancer’ existed as a script before ‘Funny People,’ but they were written around the same time.”

Apatow’s “People” tells the tale of George Simmons, a veteran comedian making peace with those he’s hurt -– and himself -– after he is diagnosed with a terminal disease. Meanwhile, “I’m With Cancer” is the autobiographical story of Will Reiser, a 25 year old comedy producer (“Da Ali G Show,” “Best Week Ever”) who finds out he has the disease. Rogen plans to produce with his longtime collaborator Evan Goldberg, and he will also play a supporting role in the flick.

“’I’m with Cancer’ is a very personal story, about what happened to our friend for the most part,” Rogen explained of any tonal similarities to “Funny People.” “So we didn’t really need much added insight into that. I was there with [Reiser] as he experienced a lot of it.”

Rogen admitted, however, that it has been fascinating to watch Apatow make, market and release a comedy with such a heartrending topic at its core. “It was interesting see how you could play it,” he explained. “But they are, oddly, very different. Even though, even in my head, they’re kind of about similar things.”

“I’m With Cancer” is very much fueled by Reiser’s voice –- and his struggle -– which Rogen said will ultimately make it feel quite different than Apatow’s new film.

“[Reiser] wrote the screenplay; he was definitely there with himself as he experienced all of it,” Rogen said of his friend’s story, which he hopes to start shooting sometime next year. “So I would say they’re pretty different movies.”

In your mind, what’s the best film you’ve ever seen that balances the extremes of comedy and drama?