At Sundance - Day 8
The Return of Zach Braff
Exactly ten years after he made his directorial debut with the coming-of-age story Garden State here at Sundance, the actor/director returns with Wish I Was Here.

Zach Braff is a Sundance favorite. Tickets to the late morning premiere of his film were hard to come by, and the lines outside the Marc cinema (a local gym and racquet club for locals during the rest of the year) went around the block, many hopefuls holding up signs with writings like “begging for ticket.” Inside a makeshift red carpet tent – why this was tented in the most gorgeous and sunny weather is beyond comprehension – the always gracious Braff gave interviews with his leading lady Kate Hudson, who was adequately dressed in jeans, boots, and a thick sweater, with her blonde mane spilling out from underneath a fur hat and bright red lipstick. Also on the carpet were co-stars Josh Gad and Donald Faison.

Zach Braff and Kate Husdon, star of Wish I was Here

The HFPA members had their own interview with Zach Braff the following morning. He didn’t dispute that a few things in the film - which he also co-wrote with his brother Adam - are autobiographical: “Yes, I was raised very orthodox and kosher and I did have a bar mitzvah at which my father told me I was a man. And I answered, okay, if I am a man, then I want to make my own decisions and the first one is that I am going to have a double bacon cheeseburger! And you could see his head explode!” he laughs. “My father was very religious and my brother and I grew up very religious because of that, and we rebelled against it as we got older. So there’s a lot of anecdotes that made it into the film, and it was about weaving these stories together. But unlike the two brothers in the film, Adam and I have a wonderful relationship with our father.”

A large part of the money to make the movie came from Kickstarter. “The experience was wonderful because I was able to not make any compromises. When I started talking to traditional financiers about the film, they liked the script but the conversation immediately became, okay, here’s what you’ll have to do - you’re not going to shoot it in L.A. because you’re not gonna get a tax break; some of that fantasy stuff, that’s gonna have to go. All of a sudden the conversation is how we are gonna cut the script and change the script. And then the Veronica Mars thing happened. And I happen to have a very loyal and amazing web presence and fan base. And we immediately went, wow, if it would work, we wouldn’t have to make any of these changes. And maybe the fans would actually like something that has zero concessions and compromises. So I decided to roll the dice and the film was funded in 48 hours.”

Kate Hudson and Mom Goldie Hawn at the the premiere of Wish I was Here

What do his loyal fans get for helping to get the movie made? “From small speaking parts in the film to early screenings before anybody else. I attend Q&As in their cities, I am scheduled to go to cities all around the earth. There are six cities in the US and ten across Europe. I don’t see this as work. I have a wonderful relationship with my fans and I am very active on social media, so I enjoy doing that.”

He doesn’t agree with some critics who called Wish I was Here the adult version of Garden State. “No, tonally some of it is similar but I have learned a lot since I made Garden State in the ten years as a filmmaker.”

Elisabeth Sereda

Other Sightings on Day 8
Michel Comte and Eduardo Ponti at Sundance. Ponti, son of Sofia Loren, stars in photographer Michel Comte's stylish reinterpretation of Madame Butterfly ("The Girl From Nagasaki"). Photo Credit: Silvia Bizio HFPA
Main Street Scene: Mark Ruffalo and Zoe Saldana send their warmest from one of Main Street's ubiquitous balconies. Photo Credit: Scott Orlin HFPA
Maggie Gyllenhaal's likeness presides over a party at the Sundance Channel Lodge this week. The actress will headline the 8-part miniseries An Honourable Woman, to air in Fall of 2014. Photo Credit: Luca Celada HFPA