(L-R) Writer WILL REISER and SETH ROGEN on the set of 50/50
ATLANTA -- Receiving a diagnosis of cancer in your mid-20s may seem like a nightmare for most people, but it is Will Reiser's life story who found out about his fate while working on "Da Ali G Show" with his buddy Seth Rogen. The two got through the journey together as any young guys would -- with humor.
"I was lonely," Reiser said. "When I was 25, I had no clue how to express my feelings whatsoever. The only way I was able to cope with the ordeal was by making jokes. I never told Seth, 'This is really scary and I'm having a really hard time.'"
"We assumed that was the case," Rogen said, who also produced and starred in the film. "We didn't need to hear him say that, but we didn't ask him either. We never sat him down to say, 'Let's talk about it.'"
While going through chemotherapy and dealing with his ever-changing life, Reiser decided to write a semi-biographical film called "50/50" about his experience with a little help from his friends.
"When I was sick, we discussed the idea of this type of movie -- a comedy that was real and felt true to the experience," Reiser said. "Rogen and Evan Goldberg (who also worked on "Da Ali G Show") really urged me to write about it."
Reiser's first draft was "a little more comedic" than the friends anticipated, so "they pushed me to go a little further into the (writing) process of fleshing out some of the more dramatic stuff."
A large portion of the movie is fiction, but Reiser's true story came through in different ways.
"A lot of what the (fictional) doctor says, the diagnostic stuff, the surgery ... that's all from my reports," Reiser said.
Even his actual MRI films are examined when Adam Lerner (Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character loosely based on Reiser) visits the doctor to talk about the malignant tumor on his spine.
The doctor in the movie was written about the physicians who didn't have the "best bedside manner."
"I had some doctors who were really nice and personable who made me feel really comfortable and I had some who made me feel like I was a car -- who made me feel like I was just going in for a tune-up," Reiser said. "It's totally alienating, humiliating and dehumanizing, for sure."
Besides letting others know about his experience, Reiser had other reasons to write the script.
"We realized there was no movie that accurately portrayed what it was like to be young and go through something like this," Reiser said. "Most cancer movies are really over dramatic, they're not realistic, the character is a curmudgeon who has some big epiphany in the end and dies. That's a Hollywood cancer movie."
Rogen jokingly added, "As much as we wish that's Will's story, it didn't work out that way."
Reiser is cancer free to this day.