Interview: Screenwriter Will Reiser discusses true story behind ’50/50′

I think it’s safe to say that in the case of Will Reiser, his encounter with cancer has resulted in the very best possible outcome.

After all, Reiser survived and has recovered fully, a major landmark for any cancer patient, but he went beyond that.  Working with his friends Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, he’s turned his experience into a project that began life as a script called “I’m With Cancer” and which finally reaches theaters this week as “50/50.”

I’m sure there are some screenwriters who would deny it if asked but who, in their heart of hearts, hear this story and think, “Boy, that guy’s lucky he got cancer.”  That’s crazy, of course.  Reiser is a very fortunate young man on many fronts.  First, he’s fortunate that he had friends who stood by him in a very difficult time, and he’s fortunate that he had an outlet to express the ideas and emotions that must have been part of his surprisingly youthful struggle with the disease.

I had a chance to sit down with Reiser during the Toronto Film Festival this year, and right away, I was struck by how much he’s not playing the sympathy card in these conversations.  Indeed, it feels like he’s done with the topic now, and he’s looking forward to writing other things and celebrating instead of constantly looking back. 

I think “50/50” was an important film for him to make, and for many people who produce art, we do it to put our feelings and ideas about something into a shape we can get our hands around.  It helps us make sense of the world, and especially something as senseless as cancer.  It was great finally meet him, and I sincerely hope this is the last time he deals with this subject during his life.

“50/50” opens everywhere this Friday.