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50/50

Behind The Scenes
Set in Seattle, 50/50 was shot entirely on location in and around Vancouver, British Columbia. Both Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg grew up in Vancouver, which has become a feature filmmaking hub, but neither had ever had an opportunity to work there before. "It was awesome,” says Rogen. "I hadn't spent such a long stretch there since I was in high school. I'd like to make every movie there from now on.”

Goldberg says that he and Rogen have attempted to shoot several projects in their hometown, without success. "When we were kids, they made tons of movies there, so we always figured when we did it, we'd do it there. We wrote Superbad to be set in Vancouver, but it was changed to the U.S. Pineapple Express was originally extremely Vancouver-specific. When it was made, we were told to just take out all the ‘Canadian crap.' This was the one time we figured it was not going to happen, but Mandate saw that Vancouver made way more sense as a location than anywhere else. So, we finally got to shoot there and it was the best thing ever.”

Production designer Annie Spitz had worked with Levine on his previous film, The Wackness. The director and production designer began the pre-production process with a visit to Seattle where they checked out the city's public radio station and a cancer clinic, as well as local bars and coffee shops, so they could replicate the right look and feel in Vancouver.

"Jonathan wanted a very realistic look,” Spitz says. "One of the first things that we did was visit the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Clinic and get a tour of the place. We wanted to make sure that everything in the movie replicated the details accurately. We were hoping to shoot at a real cancer clinic, but it's very tough to get into a hospital location. We learned that there are very specific chairs that people sit in when they receive chemotherapy. So we looked all over for them and we couldn't find any to rent in Vancouver. We ended up flying them up from Los Angeles for our set.”

The filmmakers found Adam's house in a residential neighborhood in Burnaby, just outside Vancouver. "When I first saw it I knew that was the one,” says Spitz. "When you're shooting in a house, you want a layout that's as open as possible, so there are many places to put the camera and really high ceilings, because that's the way they hide the lights. There was a cedar wall in the bedroom that I wanted to feature a lot. It read very specifically ‘Northwest.' In fact, if we had selected another house, I would have put a cedar wall in.”

Joseph Gordon-Levitt brought his own ideas for Adam's home. "Some of the best things about the house were based on Joe's input,” the designer continues. "He wanted Adam to be very neat, a guy who is into cleaning, plants and baseball. It's always fun when we get to collaborate with the actor.”

Adam's girlfriend, Rachael, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, is a visual artist and some of her paintings are prominently displayed in Adam's house. The filmmakers asked some of their artist friends to submit concepts for paintings. "There was cash prize for the best one,” says Spitz. "The producers picked their favorites and those became Rachael's work in the movie.”

During filming, the behind-the-scenes action on the set of 50/50 rivaled what went on in front of the camera. In the video village, where monitors allowed the filmmakers to evaluate playback almost instantly, producers Rogen, Goldberg and Karlin were frequently present, as well as associate producers James Weaver, Kyle Hunter and Ariel Shaffir, writer and executive producer Will Reiser, Mandate executive Nicole Brown and line producer Shawn Williamson. "It was extremely collaborative,” says Reiser. "Seth and Evan are two of my best friends and we'd worked together before, so it was completely natural to do it this way.”

Reiser was a permanent fixture during production. "It is unusual to have a writer on board for the entire run,” notes Karlin, "But it was a sign of respect for Will. And anyway, everybody liked hanging out together. We're all very social, and we're close enough in age and sensibility that it's not difficult to be in the same room with these people. It was a lot of fun.”

Rather than being overwhelmed by the enormous amount of input he received, director Jonathan Levine found the process reassuring. "We had all these brilliant people watching the monitor and making sure that nothing slipped through the cracks,” he says. "As a director, you have a hundred different things on your mind. At any given time, you can focus on probably ten of them, but you're concerned about forgetting about another 90. It ‘s really incredible to have such a strong support system.”

50/50 marks Reiser's first screenplay and writing it has changed his worldview almost as much as having cancer did. "Before I got sick and wrote this script, cancer was not part of my life,” he says. "Now, I've made friends because of cancer. A world opened up in which people are constantly sharing their stories with me. They tell me how this movie connects with them and how touched they were by it because of their own experiences. That's the ultimate compliment to me and I don't think that hearing anything else would make me feel like I'd done my job as well.”

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