Toronto 2011: Seth Rogen cancer comedy ‘50/50’ earns standing ovation


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“That was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen,” said Jonathan Levine, the director of the new movie “50/50,” after receiving a standing ovation from the audience at the Toronto International Film Festival. Granted, moviegoers at the fest are traditionally kind, but there seemed to be an extra amount of good will in the room for the Joseph Gordon-Levitt/Seth Rogen cancer buddy comedy when it made its world premiere here Monday.

Levine, best known for ‘The Wackness,’ has made a movie based on screenwriter Will Reiser’s experience battling cancer at the age of 25. Reiser is a comedy writer who was living with Rogen and working on Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Ali G” show six years ago when he was diagnosed with the disease.


Much of the script comes from Reiser and Rogen’s real-life encounters, including a scene Rogen says was almost taken exactly from their lives: when Rogen’s character gets squeamish while changing the dressing on his friend Adam’s (Gordon-Levitt) incision. As Rogen put it during the press conference earlier in the day, “That was exactly how I reacted. I almost threw up on you.”

The audience seemed to roll along easily with Levine’s adept handling of the comedic and dramatic elements of the story. A couple of young guys stood up in the audience at the end of the screening to thank the filmmakers; both of them were battling cancer.

Gordon-Levitt, who had flown into town just hours earlier, fresh off a night shoot on Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises,” didn’t seem much the worse for wear. In fact, the crowd seemed to energize him. And considering he had the toughest part to play as the cancer patient, he handled the part rather effectively. “Will was there everyday. That was a huge thing. I hate to use the word ‘easy,’ but he made it easy.”

As for Rogen, who also served as a producer on the movie, “50/50,” which opens on Sept. 30, has been a wild ride. “Little Will got sick. Now he’s fine. And we made a movie about it. That’s crazy.”


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Will Reiser and writing what you know: getting cancer

--Nicole Sperling