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The Emotional 50/50 Scene Joseph Gordon-Levitt And Seth Rogen Totally Improvised

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen made a dramedy hit in 2011 with "50/50." Directed by Jonathan Levine and written by Will Reiser, the film tackles the emotional wave Adam (Gordon-Levitt) undergoes after he is diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in his spine and learns he has a 50/50 chance of survival (via IMDb). Reiser drew from his own experience with cancer for the film's screenplay, and Seth Rogen actually helped care for him in real life as his character does in the movie (via NPR). The close friendship depicted between Gordon-Levitt and Rogen's characters is the film's highlight, as Adam slowly realizes how hard his wise-cracking friend Kyle has been working to help him.

According to NPR, Rogen's character is portrayed similarly to how Rogen reacted to Reiser's diagnosis in real life. He suggested they use his cancer diagnosis to garner sympathy from women, and much like in the movie, Reiser said Rogen was grossed out when he helped change bandages.

"Seth was incredibly squeamish," Resier said (via NPR). "Despite what you might think about Seth, he is an incredibly fragile human being who does not like the sight of blood or cuts or scrapes or anything like that. For him, changing the dressing and seeing my giant wound was a traumatic experience for him. But he did it — he just complained about it the whole time, much as he does in the movie."

One of the film's highlight-reel moments comes from a scene Gordon-Levitt and Rogen have said they completely improvised.

50/50's head-shaving scene was improvised on the first day of shooting

Marketing for "50/50" heavily relied on a scene in which Adam decides to shave his head after starting chemotherapy treatment, in which the actors actually shave Gordon-Levitt's head and crack jokes about where Kyle's razor has been (via YouTube). The moment appears in the film's poster and is prominently displayed throughout the film's trailer (via YouTube).

In a recent appearance on the YouTube series Hot Ones, Rogen called the scene "high-stakes improv."

"I'd say [the scene is] in the pantheon of head shaving scenes. 'GI Jane,' 'Empire Records,' '50/50,'" Rogen told Sean Evans, referencing other films where characters in crisis shave their heads bald.

According to MTV, Rogen and Gordon-Levitt said at the film's premiere that the head-shaving scene was filmed on the first day of shooting. "My heart was beating hard, because we only had one take because you can't shave your head twice. It doesn't work," Gordon-Levitt said. "Normally, you can always do it over again when you're making movies. You get a take two. But we only got take one, and it worked."

Whatever energy Rogen and Gordon-Levitt captured improvising on that very first day clearly helped propel the film to success. According to Box Office Mojo, "50/50" made $35 million in the US on an $8 million budget and is well-loved by fans and critics alike (via Rotten Tomatoes).