Movie News & Reviews

July 24, 2014

Zach Braff co-writes, directs, stars in 'Wish I Was Here'

Zach Braff will have no one to blame but himself if "Wish I Was Here" misses at the box office. He not only stars in the comedy, he directed it and co-wrote it with his brother Adam.

He also didn't have a big studio executive messing with his vision. Much of the budget — approximately $3 million — came from a Kickstarter campaign.

"It all became a matter of just trusting my gut," Braff says during a short press tour over a long weekend away from his current work on Broadway in "Bullets Over Broadway." "I didn't have a lot of 'yes men' hanging around to tell me that I was a genius. It was a blessing that fans funded this with me and not a studio where some financier would be telling me what to do."

The film Braff wanted to make — his first directing job since 2004's much-praised "Garden State" — has him playing a father, son and husband who's trying to deal with his own insecurities while helping those around him. The multigenerational drama/comedy also stars Kate Hudson and Mandy Patinkin.

REVIEW: Zach Braff, Kate Hudson terrific in touching "Wish I Was Here"

Inspiration for the story came from hearing people talk about homeschooling children. Braff wondered what it would be like if there was a father who was forced into homeschooling and was terrible at the job.

That idea grew into the production that looks for love and laughs through three generations of a family.

Getting the financing ended up being easy compared to the logistics of scheduling the actors. Patinkin, who always was Braff's first choice to play his father, was only available for four of the 26 filming days because he was working on the new season of "Homeland."

It meant juggling the schedule, but Braff made it work.

Braff also wanted Hudson to play his character's wife.

"I think Kate is phenomenal and very underrated. What I got from her was the same thing Cameron Crowe got when he directed her in 'Almost Famous,' " Braff says. "It helped that I knew her and we have a close friendship. That really gave us a leg up in playing the relationship between these two people. It wasn't a matter of having to struggle with pretending to be lovers. It felt very natural."

The other key casting was Josh Gad, who plays the socially awkward brother who is having troubles dealing with some harsh family realities. Gad handles the funny moments with ease and turns in a strong dramatic performance.

Braff credits his nine years on "Scrubs" — watching the show's creator Bill Lawrence — for helping him understand how to find the right mix of drama and comedy. "I can find a lot of the balance when I start editing the movie. I can build tension but then I know there needs to be a release," he says.

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