Jonathan Levine On Reality Of ’50/50′ & Challenging Audiences

Although it’s still summertime and we’re in the midst of crazy blockbuster madness, there is a special movie coming down the pike that people should start paying attention to now: “50/50,” a dramedy inspired by real life events that features the wonderful acting talents of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Anjelica Huston and Bryce Dallas Howard.

In addition to having the privilege of catching an advanced screening of the film, MTV News was lucky enough to chat with director Jonathan Levine (who you should know from his excellent work on “The Wackness” – queue it up in Netflix stat, if you haven’t seen it) about this special story and the film’s recently-released one sheet.

“It takes a pair to beat the odds,” reads the tagline above Gordon-Levitt shaving his head in front of a mirror, with Rogen wearing a quizzical/uncomfortable expression in the background.

“To me it’s a story that’s very reflective of life, with all of its ups and downs,” Levine said. “When we’ve showed this movie to audiences, we’ve been lucky enough to have people kind of universally really like it, but the one thing people have said to us is, ’Don’t sell us on something this is not, don’t tell us this is something it’s not going to be.’ And the one sheet, we’re just kinda like ’Alright, well f— it, we’ll show them how intense it is, how funny it can be.’ [Gordon-Levitt shaving his head] is the one image that we felt could do justice to the kind of complex and sophisticated tone of the film.”

In case you’re wondering, Gordon-Levitt did actually shave his head for that scene, by the way.

“To me [this] is a film about a guy who is living a life that he thinks is great, gets sick and learns to make changes in his life and to re-prioritize his life,” Levine said, when pressed to summarize the film as succinctly as possible. “To me it’s very much in that coming of age mode. This is someone who goes through something very intense and learns about himself and his life in the process and I think everyone can identify with that … and certainly everyone can identify with having a loved one in their life who’s suffered from cancer. I’ve had a couple family members who are cancer survivors and it’s messy. And often that messiness can be very, very funny, and from my perspective that was the grounding principal of the movie.”

“No matter what, whatever the joke was or whatever we were going for, it would always be grounded in reality,” Levine continued. “And I think that was the brilliance in [writer] Will [Reiser]’s script is that he distilled the reality of his experience and found the humor in it.”

Don’t let the word ’cancer’ think you’ve seen this story unfold onscreen before, this is a different kind of movie. Moving, realistic, yes. Melodramatic tear-jerker, no.

“50/50″ opens September 30, 2011.

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