We would guess Zach Braff is a little sick of talking about the long-anticipated (yet unforthcoming) follow-up to his 2004 directorial debut "Garden State" -- it seems to pop up in every interview we've seen with the screenwriter and actor for years -- but Braff is all about the silver lining: "It means people really like it and that's great," he tells NextMovie.
We're with the people clamoring for his next script, but we manage to soothe ourselves with "Scrubs" reruns (seemingly available on a million channels at all hours of the day and night) and movies like "The High Cost of Living," a Canadian indie starring Braff as a morally-complicated drug dealer and guardian angel to a grieving woman.
Your "High Cost of Living" character is very unlike the guys you've played in "Scrubs" and "Garden State" -- he does some pretty terrible stuff -- and yet, there's something endearing about him.
A lot of people are perplexed by that. They actually end up, if not liking, at least empathizing with the character. I think that's a testament to the writing. It's a challenging movie... where the lead is not someone you necessarily like. That's what I found really refreshing about it, and it's also the thing that keeps it a quote-unquote art movie and keeps it small.
I think people start to see in [my character Henry] that he's not a bad person, as many people who are thought by the masses, by society, all to be bad people aren't necessarily bad incarnate, they just got lead down a very bad path. I'm sure there are people in prison that are evil, truly evil. And then there are people -- their lives lead them down a terrible path and they're not bad people, they just got stuck.
One of the recurring themes in your movies, and occasionally even your work on TV, is the profound influence of happenstance. Is that something you seek out consciously?
I've never thought of that as a motif in what I'm attracted to, but even just hearing that out loud... My first play is going to be off-Broadway this summer at Second Stage in New York City, and it's totally about someone's life being saved by happenstance, or fate, whatever you choose to believe. So I guess it is something that I'm drawn to. I'm very intrigued by the split-second decisions, either made by me or surrounding me, that have shaped who I am.
I wanted to be in this play so badly when I was in my mid-twenties. I came to New York and I fought for it so hard and I didn't get it and I was very disappointed. If I'd gotten that little off-off-Broadway play, I never would have auditioned for "Scrubs," which would have changed my life.
Had I done slightly a better job, or had he been in a better mood, or had the guy before had not just crushed it -- the fact that those little moments shape us and how if you hadn't forgotten your keys, you never would have met the love of your life. I find all that very fascinating and sometimes it's just so spooky how powerful it is -- if I had not just done that my life would be different.
You probably know that a lot of The Shins' fans are miffed at your decision to include them so prominently on the "Garden State" soundtrack -- that clearly shaped their career.
I saw a comment once that said "I'm so mad. Zach Braff ruined The Shins." You know you're a hipster when you say "I'm mad that my favorite band is now popular." Because your favorite band was struggling and couldn't pay their rent and your favorite band would like to have a nice dinner too.
Is there a new version of The Shins for you in 2011? Who would be on your soundtrack now?
You know, I've been trying to make the movie now for so many years that I've collected so many songs and have this awesome mix that's like "next soundtrack mix," and if I don't get another movie soon I'm going to release it, the soundtrack to the movie I never made.
There are certain songs that score our lives well. Everyone has their songs that, when they're driving in their car or walking down the street, they put them in a good mood or make them feel happy.
It was such an example of one of those [in "Garden State"] that it felt perfect for that spot when Natalie said, "You've got to hear this song, it's going to change your life."
You were working with Natalie Portman the year she got an Academy Award nomination for "Closer," and of course she's now an Oscar-winner for "Black Swan." Could you have predicted that?
Oh yeah, I could have predicted it when I saw her in "The Professional." There are certain people that you, as a lover of acting and a lover of talent, that you go, "Wow, what is it about this young girl?" When she was in "The Professional" and "Beautiful Girls," you just couldn't take your eyes off of her. It isn't just physical beauty, although obviously she has that, it's just magnetism. The audience instantly wants to be with her and root for her.