Hollywood comes to Macmillan
Screen writer and cancer survivor Will Reiser and Superbad star Seth Rogen talk exclusively to Macmillan about how cancer affected their relationship and inspired their new film, 50/50. Danielle Lawler reports.
When Hollywood actor Seth Rogen discovered his friend Will Reiser had been diagnosed with cancer at just 27, neither of them felt prepared to deal with the life- changing news.
Will, now in remission six years after having the tumour removed, admits he reacted like a typical man and struggled to open up about what was happening.
But it was his coping mechanism of laughing at his terrifying situation, and then writing everything down, which helped him deal with his illness.
In their film 50/50, they've created a heart-warming and humorous take on some of the real issues that a twenty-something male goes through when fighting cancer. Issues that are often too uncomfortable to discuss.
Will hopes the film will help others in a similar situation face their fears and realise they're not on their own - there are organisations like Macmillan to go to for support.
Here Will talks about his experience of living with cancer.
'Humour was the thing that saved me through it all'
'When you tell somebody you have cancer you realise that there's a tight knit network that connects us.
'Cancer can be unexpectedly humanising. Everybody feels the same thing when they’re sick: they feel completely alone and abandoned by their body and they don’t know how to relate to the people around them.
'When I was finally diagnosed I was told the tumour was big and it was not in a good place. It became this unknown entity living in my body and I didn’t quite know what it was. I didn’t know what the outcome was going to be.
'The doctor told me I would be in hospital for a week. I didn’t realise it would be a week of the most excruciating pain I had ever experienced.
'When I was actually sick I couldn’t talk to anyone so I wrote a movie about it instead'
'That was how I dealt with it.
'Unintentionally, I was thinking more about the movie than anything but it was the best form of cathartsis as it allowed me to say all the things I didn’t know how to when I was sick. It was really therapeutic.
'We didn’t know what that movie would be. It was just an idea of a young guy with cancer and how his friend couldn’t really deal with it. His friend wants to exploit his friend's cancer - to do all the things he never could.
'As comedy writers we always look to our own lives for material. And there were so many absurd ridiculous things that were going on in my life that it just felt like there was this wealth of material we could use.
'I felt like everyone around me freaked out'
'People were constantly coming up to me with the cure for cancer, saying ‘I know this guy...' I became a spectacle, so I tried to make as much fun of that as possible.
'We joked that everyone’s impression of cancer is based on movies they've seen. All the movies are morbid and sad. They are misanthropes and they die in the end. And that wasn’t my experience.
'In fact I learnt very quickly that if I just mentioned cancer or being sick, instantly a girl would open her heart to me. Suddenly getting a date was the easiest thing in the world.
'Making the movie brought Seth and I closer'
'Had I not got cancer I don’t think Seth's wife would have got the opportunity to see how compassionate he is.
'He really did change the dressing on my back, and those are my real CAT scans and MRI scans in the film.
'Six years ago when I was sick, and probably every year before I was sick, I was a neurotic mess. I worried about everything, I complained, I was over sensitive and insecure. I was funny though.
'I kind of like that, during the process of getting better and moving through it, I kind of let go of a lot of that.
'The reaction to the film has been overwhelmingly positive.
'It seems like everyone has experienced cancer at some level'
'If people can leave a movie theatre and have a conversation they weren’t able to have prior to seeing the movie, it’s pretty gratifying.
'I like the idea that this movie allows people to talk about their experiences with cancer and not be afraid of that. I think it’s okay for us to laugh at illness and how absurd it is, and it’s also okay to cry.
'I wanted to share that.'
50/50 is out in cinemas on November 25.
Seth Rogen and Will Reiser will be supporting Macmillan’s Cancertalk Week in January and have shot some exclusive footage for us. Cancertalk Week (23-29 January) encourages people to talk about cancer.
Macmillan can help you with those difficult conversations. Call free on 0808 808 00 00 or find out more about how we can help.