In the upcoming film 50/50 (due in theaters this weekend), Seth Rogen is essentially playing himself. As the best friend of a guy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, it wasn’t that difficult to tap into his character’s frame of mind since the film is based on a real-life event that involved the film’s writer, Will Reiser, and his best friend, Seth Rogen. But becoming the person you used to be while sprinkling your performance with some overly dramatized elements that didn’t actually happen is definitely a difficult task, and Rogen really does nail it. He’s a lot of fun to watch and a big reason why 50/50 is one of the most buzzed-about movies of the fall season. Movies.com sat down with Rogen to talk about his role in the film, as well some of his comedic inspirations growing up and the real-life incident that eventually lead to this movie being made.
Movies.com: I was watching one of your stand-up routines from when you were younger where you worked in a lot of growing-up-Jewish humor that was really funny. Curious to know who or what inspired your comic sensibilities growing up.
Seth Rogen: I feel like my friends, honestly. My parents were always fans of comedy and the comedy movies I grew up watching – you know Ghostbusters and Billy Crystal movies and stuff. That, and they loved all those SNL guys. But when I think, like, who are the funniest people I know – I think of my friends. My friends in Vancouver who sell insurance and work in restaurants and stuff like that. To me, those are the funniest guys I know. When I’m around them they make me laugh harder than any comedian I know. But yeah, honestly, the group of guys I hung out with were my main comedic inspiration.
Movies.com: 50/50 is such a personal story for Will Reiser, but it’s also a personal story for you too since you were his best friend at the time. So was it weird to kind of play yourself in the film?
SR: It was! It was weird to be playing “myself” in the film, especially because my character was such an asshole. [laughs] It really made me analyze how I behaved during that time. Yeah, I think it’s an exaggerated version of what I was like, but I didn’t even realize until we started talking about the movie and writing it that, you know, it really was my approach to be aggressively … up about the whole thing, and try to make jokes about it and make light about it – to constantly not except the gravity of it. I think until we were really making the movie that I really did realize that.
Movies.com: We certain elements of it in the film, but in real life what other ways did you and your friends rally around Will when you found out he had cancer?
SR: I don’t know, honestly. I think what’s interesting about the movie – and what happened in real life, too – is that no one was really that emotionally up front with it. Part of my whole character’s arc is that he really cares about his friend, but he just doesn’t know how to express it. He doesn’t know how to tell him that he’s actually worried about him. And I think that is very representative of what we all went through. I don’t think there was any time where we all actually had a serious conversation about it. I never put my hand on Will’s shoulder and looked him in the eye and went, ‘Are you okay man, do you need to talk?’ We always would just joke about it, ya know?
Movies.com: It’s funny because you’re already working on another of Will’s real-life stories to adapt, so are you just planning on slowly adapting the guy’s entire life?
SR: [laughs] Yeah, exactly! It’s like Hunter S. Thompson. He’s the Jewish Hunter S. Thompson.
Movies.com: Other than Will’s cancer story, do you have any personal stories from growing up that you’d love to turn into a movie?
SR: Superbad kind of represented our high school experience pretty thoroughly, and in more ways than I’d like to admit Pineapple Express represented a portion of my life as well. [laughs] I think a lot of our movies, maybe somewhat more abstractly, are very personal. The movie we’re writing right now – The Apocalypse movie – is also oddly personal I would say.
Movies.com: How is it going with that movie. That’s Jay and Seth vs. the Apocalypse, right?
SR: Yes! It’s now much more than just Jay and Seth – there’s many other people versus the apocalypse now. We’re trying to make it in February, which is when we’re aiming to film it, and me and Evan [Goldberg] are gonna direct it, and I think it’s gonna be crazy.
Movies.com: Moving back to 50/50, what’s your favorite part of this movie? I know you lived a lot of the story, but what accomplishment here are you most proud of?
SR: To me it feels very representative of people our age. More than being a movie about a young guy that gets cancer, I think it really feels like a movie about people in their late 20s. And there’s not a lot of movies about people in their late 20s, and what’s that kinda like. When you have a job and you’ve had a girlfriend for a long time, and you have an odd relationship with your parents … and you’ve had these friends for a really long time, but your interests and sensibilities have diverged over the years. That’s what I really like about the movie. On top of what it accomplishes with telling Will’s story and being a funny cancer movie, it really feels like me and my group of friends – how we interact with each other; the references we use, or the things we talk about. I like how that’s represented in the movie.
Movies.com: It’s also the first Seth Rogen movie that’s gonna make some people cry, I think.
SR: [laughs] It might be! Instead of them crying out of shame …