The 50/50 gang is riding high after their triumphant premiere at the Toronto Film Festival last week. “We had a two-and-a-half minute standing ovation,” says first-time screenwriter Will Reiser. “That was pretty much the greatest night of my life.”
The buddy comedy, which stars Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, was inspired by Reiser’s own devastating cancer diagnosis when he was just 25 years old. After a risky, but successful, back surgery, Reiser was encouraged by his best pal Rogen — who produced the movie with Evan Goldberg — to mine both the comedy and terrifying confusion that went along with being young, dumb, and struck low by a frightening diagnosis. “How do people in their mid-20s deal with a crisis they’ve never confronted before?” says Reiser. “There’s humor that can come from every single person because no one knows the right way to react.”
The friends, along with 50/50 director Jonathan Levine, worked so well on the Sept. 30 film that they’ve decided to keep the band together. Reiser is writing a new script called Jamaica that they sold to Mandate over the summer. “It’s loosely based on a vacation I took with my grandmother when I was 14,” he says. “The travel agent screwed up and booked us at a couples’ resort. I was 14, at the height of puberty in Jamaica with my Grandmother. The first day we were there I realized, nobody knew this in my family because she had hid it, but she was suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s. And I subsequently lost her.” Lost her, as in… “I just lost her,” says Reiser. “In the murder capitol of tourists!” says Rogen.
The movie isn’t slated for release until 2014, which feels like an unfortunately long time to find out the fate of Reiser’s Grandma. “She gets murdered by gang members,” jokes Rogen. “It’s a comedy!” promises Reiser.
For more on Seth Rogen and Will Reiser’s friendship and new buddy comedy 50/50, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands September 23.