April 16, 2014

Oscars: “50/50″ writer Will Reiser on his NBR win, the Indie Spirit Awards, and the power of Anjelica Huston – AWARDS ALLEY


By Sean O’Connell
Hollywoodnews.com: Will Reiser is having one of those hard-to-imagine weeks.

It started with the Film Independent Spirit Awards nominations, which recognized Reiser’s comedy “50/50” in three key categories, including Best Feature and Best First Screenplay for Reiser, himself. It’s ending with a National Board of Review recognition in the Best Original Screenplay category. Read the tea leaves and you’ll see that Reiser has better than a “50/50” chance of seeing his name in the five nominees for Best Original Screenplay when the Academy Awards announce their selections early next year.

“To be listed amongst folks like Martin Scorsese, Alexander Payne and George Clooney is a real honor,” Reiser told me after the NBR win. “Those guys are heroes of mine, they’re the best at what they do, which is why I’m a little baffled that I’m being recognized alongside them.

“But I’m honored and humbled. I’m so proud of this movie and I couldn’t be more thrilled by the NBR’s acknowledgment. It’s a real testament to all the tremendous contributions from everyone involved.”

Reiser and I talked at length about “50/50,” the Indie Spirit nominations, and Anjelica Huston’s contributions to the film’s success. It was a great talk. Here’s Will Reiser on “50/50,” and the successes of this past week:

HollywoodNews.com: Have you given any thought to what makes an awards-worthy screenplay?

Will Reiser: I honestly don’t think I’ve ever thought of that. I think for me, when I’m writing or reading the scripts that I connect to the most, it’s because of the characters. When I think about independent film, I think it’s a showcase for writing, acting and directing. It’s a very pure form of cinema, and I think it all stems from the characters. I think that’s what resonates with independent filmmaking.

HollywoodNews.com: Because of that, is it equally important to you that “50/50” was recognized in the Best Feature category at the Independent Spirit Awards, as well, since that suggests that all facets of the film connected with the nominators?

Yeah, absolutely. You know, I’m really proud of it. I think it’s a really great movie. And it’s nice that others recognize it too, for sure. For me, “50/50” is a dream come true because it’s exactly the type of movie I aspired to make. It’s the first movie I wrote. So the fact that we’re being recognized for our work is really awesome.

HollywoodNews.com: I was thrilled to see Anjelica Huston recognized as well. When the film was being promoted, so much was made of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen, and rightfully so. But it was her performance as Joe’s mother that just floored me, and I feared she was being overlooked.

Well, her character, Diane, and her relationship with Adam is rooted in my relationship with my mother from the time I was sick.

HollywoodNews.com: Was Ms. Huston ever able to meet your mother?

They did meet! And Anjelica’s first response to her was, “You are nothing like I imagined you would be!” [Laughs] But I think that’s good. Anjelica and I discussed her character, and I told her about my mom and my sister. But what Anjelica was able to do was make Diane her own, which was really important. She just did such an incredible job. You understand her, despite the fact that she can be a little overbearing or neurotic. You get it. You understand who she is as the mother of a son who has cancer. You empathize with her. And so much of the richness of that performance is because of what Anjelica brings.

HollywoodNews.com: Listen, I held myself together for the bulk of the movie right up until the scene with Adam going into surgery, and the look on Anjelica’s face just did me in. I’m the parent of two young boys, and that killed me.

Then you get it. You just get it. Because the movie is about being young. But she brings this wisdom to it. It’s funny. I’ve spent so much time talking about, like you said, Joe and Seth’s performances, but I really do think that Anjelinca doesn’t quite get enough recognition for her performance. So I’m really excited for her, and I hope that the Academy recognizes her. She’s an incredible actress, and I don’t know of another actress who could do what she did with that role. To be so composed, so strong, and yet so vulnerable and neurotic at the same time. I don’t know … she’s unhinged, but she’s not. It’s brilliant.

To read our exclusive interview with “50/50″ co-star Seth Rogen, click here!

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About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC FilmCritic.com, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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