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50/50

No Ordinary Joe
50/50 boasts an extraordinary cast that includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Adam Lerner and Seth Rogen as his best friend Kyle, as well as Academy Award® winner Anjelica Huston, Academy Award® nominee Anna Kendrick and Bryce Dallas Howard as the women in Adam's life. "I'm so in love with the cast,” says Nathan Kahane. "We have multi-dimensional actors in every role.”

Will Reiser envisioned the character of Adam Lerner as a perfectionist who is stunned to be confronted by something he can't control. "Cancer pulls everything apart and dismantles the life you've constructed around you,” he says. "There is nothing you can do but just let go and stop trying to control everything.”

Adam has settled for a life that is safe, but not fulfilling. "He is living a solid B-minus life,” says Ben Karlin. "But he doesn't know it's a B-minus. The heart and the soul of the story is that he has to re-examine his life at an age when most people aren't remotely thinking about that.”

Gordon-Levitt joined the cast in the role of Adam Lerner just a week before filming began. "We had to move fast or the movie might not have happened,” says director Jonathan Levine. "Joe, Seth, Evan and I met at my place and we talked through everything. I thought we got along, but I was definitely on pins and needles the next morning, waiting to hear what Joe had to say. I was so excited when he decided to do it.”

Because Levine's vision was predicated on letting the actors drive the process, the actor cast as Adam would be a defining element in the film. "Casting Joe meant changing a lot of stuff,” Levine says. "He had his own take on the character. Fortunately, Seth and Evan are very actor friendly, so we all jumped on board with what he wanted to do.”

Gordon-Levitt found the director to be an inspiring collaborator. "Jonathan is so graceful and humble,” he says. "He was always open to suggestions, which works really well with the whole Seth Rogen posse. Of course, he also had a really solid vision of what he wanted the movie to be, but he was open to the collaborative spirit that Seth brings to his movies.”

Screenwriter Reiser is grateful to the actor for the enormous impact he had in developing the character. "The Adam I knew on paper was a completely different person,” he says. "Joe took the pages I wrote and added another 50 percent to the character. He found things I didn't even know were there. Joe brought a texture to Adam that I cannot take credit for writing.”

Ben Karlin says, "For a young actor, Joe is unbelievably self-assured and experienced. The thing he brings to the role more than anything is a quiet confidence and trust in the material. He's brought the character to life in ways that we never imagined.”

Initially, Gordon-Levitt wondered what could be funny about a young man with cancer. "My first instinct was: ‘What are you talking about? There's nothing funny about that.' But the truth is, Will found a lot that is actually funny about it.”

Without much time to prepare, the actor spoke with Reiser at length, as well as a number of other people who had been diagnosed with cancer. "The first thing you notice is everyone's situation is different,” he says. "Then you begin to see that it's tragic, but when you actually talk to people that have been through it, there is always some humor to it. It might seem a little bold to speak about what's funny about someone who has got cancer next to the spine, but on the other hand it's the most humane thing you can do. It's a cliché, but laughter is good for you.”

The characters are central to the movie's humor and humanity, he adds. "While it's a comedy, the people are fully fleshed-out human beings. They feel like real people. Adam, for example, is the last human being on Earth who would be able to handle this. Adam is the kind of person who dwells on the nightmare that he might be diagnosed with a terminal disease, so it is perfect irony that this is the guy it happens to.”

Gordon-Levitt's performance is both funny and heartbreaking, according to Rogen. "Joe's a very thoughtful actor, he says. "He works all day while he's on set, not just when he's filming. I'm not one of those actors at all, because I'm usually doing another job while I'm filming. He really puts a lot of effort into creating a person distinctly different from himself.”

The actor hopes that audiences will connect with the humor in the film first and foremost. "I hope they laugh their asses off,” he says. "Maybe next time someone in the audience is faced with something so dire, they will put on their Seth Rogen hat and find something to laugh about in their situation. I think that's really healthy.”

While production was underway on 50/50, Forbes Magazine named Seth Rogen the "Hardest Working Man in Hollywood.” Since his big-screen breakthrough in The 40-Year Old Virgin in 2005, he has appeared in 10 movies that have grossed close to $100 million dollars or more at the box office. "There are not many people like Seth in the business,” says Ben Karlin. "He is someone who can do it all. He's an incredibly talented writer. He's an extremely strong performer, and he knows what it takes to make something work as a producer.”

Gordon-Levitt saw him working on the set all day, every day. "He and Evan and their buddies were always around, helping to make things better and funnier,” the actor says. "I loved their process.”

While Reiser drew from a wide array of inspirations for the characters and story, he says that the character of Kyle is pretty close to his friend, Seth Rogen. "But the character is also inspired by the way most of my friends, especially those close to my age, had no idea how to handle the situation.”

Rogen admits he can see himself in the character. "I guess Kyle is based on the dumbest version of me when Will was sick,” says Rogen. "My character cares, but doesn't know how to articulate it, so he tries to make light of it and have fun in the situation. At its core, I guess that's a good attitude. He's trying to look on the bright side and see what good can come out of it, but Kyle is rather insensitive about it. I was, too. I was telling Will to write a movie about it. ‘Let's do something fun with this,' which is pretty much what Kyle does in the movie.”

Goldberg sees one difference. "The Kyle character is kind of based on Seth, except the real Seth had no redemption at the end,” he laughs. "But then, when Will got sick, none of us really knew how to deal with it.”

Kyle sees Adam's cancer as an opportunity for Adam to do all of the things he has never been able to do. He wants Adam to seize the moment. He even insists that Adam's illness is the perfect pick-up line. Ironically, Rogen actually met his longtime girlfriend when Reiser was sick. "I played up the fact that my buddy was in an unfortunate situation and that made me look sympathetic.”

Reiser acknowledges that he also met girls when he was ill. "I learned very quickly that if I just mentioned cancer or being sick, instantly a girl would open her heart to me,” he says. "Suddenly, getting a date was the easiest thing in the world.”

But Gordon-Levitt says that underneath all the bad behavior, "Kyle is the quintessential best friend. On the one hand, he's got a great heart and is really supportive of his friend. On the other hand, he's sort of a jerk, as all of our friends are at times. Kyle thinks that what Adam really needs to do is use his newly found cancer as a sick gift to manipulate women.”

Rogen and G

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