Zach Braff: 'Wish I Was Here' 'honest and from the heart'

Zach Braff and Kate Hudson seen at the premiere for 'Wish I Was Here' in New York City July 14,...

Zach Braff and Kate Hudson seen at the premiere for 'Wish I Was Here' in New York City July 14, 2014. Dan Jackman/WENN.com

Mark Daniell, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:05 PM ET

NEW YORK – It’s been a decade since the directorial debut of Zach Braff’s indie fave Garden State became a zeitgeist-defining film for Generation Y. In the years since, he has parlayed his fame (which was heightened thanks to his nine-year run as J.D. on TV’s Scrubs) into a variety of smaller, less glitzy roles.

But when it came time for his sophomore directorial effort, Braff had his sights set on a personal story – in the vein of Garden State – that could speak to thirtysomethings trying to find their way in 2014.

“I wanted to write something that was honest – even if it was to a fault,” Braff, 39, told a small group of reporters, while promoting his latest film Wish I Was Here (which opens in Toronto Friday before expanding across Canada on July 25).

“People could say I was too sentimental or silly or whatever; I wanted to write with my brother (Adam) something that was honest and dealt with questions that me and my friends talk about – what’s upsetting us? What makes us stay up late at night? What makes us laugh? And what is the temperature of that at 35? This is the story we decided to tell and that’s what I wanted to do; to tell something that was honest and from my heart.”

And when he couldn’t find a studio willing to bankroll his tale of a struggling actor who is trying to make peace with his dying dad and wayward brother (while home-schooling his kids and dealing with questions of faith), Braff turned to his fans on Kickstarter to help fund his passion project.

He set a goal of $2 million for the project, and nearly 47,000 backers helped him exceed that by over $1.1 million.

The film follows a Jewish man (Aiden, played by Braff) on a quest for some form of spirituality in order to deal with his own mortality and that of his dying father (played by Homeland’s Mandy Patinkin).

When he can’t afford to send his kids to a private Jewish school, Aiden attempts to home-school them. Meanwhile his wife (Sarah, played by Kate Hudson) is stuck in a job she hates, left to be the primary breadwinner in their household.

The story is rooted in Judaism, but it speaks to the relationship millennials have with religion.

“At its core, this film is about family and ultimately finding a spirituality that makes sense for you in 2014, when you’re not someone who organized religion works for,” Braff said. “The other aspect is, what if you don’t believe in an afterlife?... How long are you allowed to go after your dream? How long are you allowed to pursue everything you hoped your life would be about? Especially when you have a mortgage and kids to pay for and responsibilities and jobs that you don’t love. How do those two conversations intertwine?”

So it’s supposed to be a film that will hopefully spark some discussion, maybe even coffee afterwards.

“I feel like so many movies, I come out of them afterwards and I say, ‘That was fun,’ and then I don’t talk about it ever again,” Braff said. “I know a movie is good when I’m thinking about it the next day and I want to talk about it. So I hope people talk about it.”

Hudson echoed these sentiments.

“At the end of the day, whether you’re atheist or whether you’re religious, the central aspect (to the story) is connectivity to your family... How able you are to create intimate relationships and how you challenge yourself to work at things you are afraid of because inevitably... we die.”

“I think – not to push this on anyone – that this is the life we have; there is no afterlife and there’s no cloud that we get to sit on and read the paper,” Braff added. “When I fold that into the search for my own spirituality, I want to seize the day. I want to live each moment. I want to make the most of it, because this is it.

“If I believe that I’m an animal and that animal dies and goes in the ground I want to make sure I’ve done all that I can in the way I can.”

Twitter: @markhdaniell

mark.daniell@sunmedia.ca


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