Interview: 50/50 star Joseph Gordon-Levitt!
If you haven't heard the story yet, James McAvoy was originally cast to star alongside Seth Rogen in 50/50 (then titled I'M WITH CANCER). McAvoy had to leave two weeks into filming because of complications his wife was having with a pregnancy and Rogen and crew were suddenly without a leading man. Enter: Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
I'll let him explain below exactly how he came to sub in for McAvoy but it's remarkable that he was able to do so and deliver a performance so strong, he's already being talked about as a Best Actor contender for the Oscars.
We talk a little bit about his online creative collaborative hitRECord in the beginning and then working with Seth and his crew on a movie that can't be considered a traditional comedy by any stretch of the imagination.
50/50 really is a fantastic movie and you should make sure to check it out, in theaters today!
Hey, how you doing?
Good man, how are you?
Congratulations on the big release of the hitRECord release today.
Oh thanks so much. Thank you. It's really, really exciting to me. I love it and I'm so proud of it and all the people who worked on it. I love acting very much but this is very different. This is a very different milestone for me.
Do you think that, as your career progresses, this will become a bigger part of it? Like doing hitRECord stuff but for feature-length movies?
I do think that's in the cards. It may take a while to figure out how to do something on such a grand scale but I think we'll figure it out.
You could almost do your own film festival…
Yeah, our live shows are awesome. It's not so much that we put together individuals work but more that everyone comes together and we work on things together and we present the stuff we made. And we make new stuff at the live shows and make new stuff based on performances, readings, or whatever. People record it and upload what they've recorded and then other people download that and edit it into new videos and things. It's really fun. We're doing a big live show in LA on October 10th and that'll be our biggest show yet. A 2,000 seat theater that'll be a big, gala event we're calling the "Fall Formal."
Now when you came on to 50/50, James McAvoy had already filmed a few weeks worth of work. Can you take us through the week or so when you get a call from Seth and a few days later you're on set filming?
The first thing was that I got a call from Seth…
Did you know Seth?
We had met. We have mutual friends and met in passing but had never gotten to really know each other. So he called and said, we're in this emergency situation and can you look at this right away and we think you'd be great for it. I read it that night and I really dug it and early the next morning, I flew up to Vancouver. Wait, no! Umm, how did it go?… Well, anyway, within a day I flew to Vancouver and hung out with Seth and [producer] Evan [Goldberg] and [Jonathan] Levine, the director and we just really hit it off. We became quick bros cause we all have similar outlooks on life or senses of humor or whatever you want to call it. It just felt like this would be like making movies with buddies. So let's do it. And we did it.
Normally that process can take--
Yeah with agents and schedules and everything, it seems almost serendipitous that it worked out the way it did.
I gotta say, I dug the brevity of that part of it. It's sort of a lot to do a role like this without much preparation and that was a little nerve-wracking at first but it really helped to have Will [Reiser] who wrote the script. He went through this and it's inspired by his story and he was there every day helping me out and giving me feedback and how he felt and what he was thinking. It all just came together.
Did you physically try to base your performance on Will at all?
No, it's not a literal biopic kinda thing. It's more just "how it felt" and what he was thinking about mores than how he talks and walks.
What did Seth, Evan, Jonathan and Will say to you as you were talking about the project that convinced you they had found the perfect balance of comedy and sadness?
To me it was always about being honest. Stuff like Lifetime Original Movies are concerned less about being honest and more about pandering to their audience and trying to make them cry. We didn't do that. We had a story, it was Will's story and we wanted to tell it honestly. The truth about situations like this is that even amongst horrible, trying circumstances, there are funny things that happen. We never reached for jokes. We didn't want to try and be funny. We just wanted it to feel real and sometimes shit's really funny.
This isn't your typical comedy so did you stick a little closer to the script or did you and Seth improv a lot of the jokes?
Well Will wrote a funny script but we were definitely making a lot of that up. That's Seth's style. You shoot it as written but then you start coming up with other stuff. That's another reason why the movie feels so real. A lot of that stuff we were just talking, doing it live.
Yeah, I heard when you did the head-shaving scene it was the very first day and that was just you guys riffing.
[Laughs] Yeah, as Seth points out, not a wise way to approach a head-shaving scene. If you don't get a good take, you're screwed.
When you're working on a film like this and you see it for the first time, does it make you emotional like it does for the audience? Or are you too close to the movie to get weepy over the ending?
I'm not bad at watching things that I've worked on. I've gotten better at it over the years. Especially when it's things that have actually turned out well. But this, yeah, it's beautiful. It definitely got me.
Have you seen it with an audience yet?
We watched it with an audience in Toronto. And man, it's a crowd-pleaser. The crowd fucking loved this movie. They laughed big, big laughs and they really get into it. It really goes back to the honesty thing. People can feel when they're being told the truth and respond and give themselves into it. There was a standing ovation, which was really, really sweet. It was especially sweet to see Will during that. Cause what an ordeal to go through all of that and turn it into something so positive that was making so many people feel good. He was really bowled over by it and that was the most moving part of the experience for me.
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