Thursday, March 29, 2007

Garden State: Worth a Rewind

In Garden State Andrew "Large" Largeman (Braff), a struggling L.A. actor/ waiter returns to his hometown in NJ at the behest of his father (Holm) to attend his mother's funeral. Once he's back, Large meets Sam (Portman) a kooky compulsive liar who charms dude out of his lithium addled existence. Mark(Sarsgaard) is a honey bear-toking gravedigger who filches the jewels off of cemetery stiffs -- what's not to love? Braff also wrote and directed GS (his debut in the big chair). Everyone breathes life into their respective roles while Braff uses the dead pan stare into the camera to hilarious effect. Although the plot meanders at points, there are definite patches of funny to be foun -- the soundtrack is hot too, so if you haven't seen it yet (or bought the soundtrack) give it a whirl.

Sell crazy someplace else because they're all stocked up on Garden State which features TV's Scrubs star Zach Braff (in his directorial debut on a feature film) and Golden Globe nominee Peter Sarsgaard (Boys Don't Cry, Jarhead) bring a fresh take on 20-something nuttiness -- Jersey style. I covered press for that flick and the only thing I used was the copy for a piece on Natalie Portman [here's what went down during the roundtable with Braff and Sarsgaard while they were in town supporting the film back when it came out-- it's kind of funny to see where their minds were way back then before the film dropped]

Q: So what can you tell about your experience with acting and directing at the same time?

Zach: It's tricky. It's like juggling and riding a bicycle and going food shopping at the same time but I loved it.

Q: What brought you to your character Mark, the grave digger?

Peter: I'd never read anything that didn't adhere to the formal rules of moviemaking so much as this one did. I just liked, that Braff had so much guts to break so many rules at once.

Q: For example?

Peter: There's no three act structure. There are all these detours along the way that, in retrospect, make some sense in the grand scheme of things but also are just [there] because he felt like it.

Q: How much of this film's content is from real your life?

Zach: There's a lot of it that's me and there's a lot that I think that I have more in common with the character more so than the story. It was just things I sort of collected and used as a jumping off point to write this script but the character had a lot to do with who I am as a 20-something nowadays.

Q: So you're saying that you actually waited tables in a Vietnamese restaurant?

Zach: I DID wait tables in a Vietnamese restaurant. [laughs] That scene in the Vietnamese restaurant was an actual word-for-word experience that I had with someone [while working] at a French-Vietnamese restaurant in Beverly Hills.

Q: Did you guys do any ad libbing with your scenes in the film because you had a couple of sweet lines in your performance

Peter: No, no -- it was all scripted, that's all Zach. Every once in a while he'd say "why don't you say this instead of that?"

Zach: That's a testament to those actors. Natalie and Peter are actors that you watch have the thought and then say it. It's a fundamental thing but -- go home tonight and watch television and you'll see that most people are just reciting lines as opposed to watching someone have the idea.

Q: Photography is one of your hobbies, how influential was it on your film making?

Zach: It inspired the way we shot the movie a lot because I hate "shaky cam" -- that's my biggest pet peeve in the world and it's "so everywhere." People are like, "You're cinematography's so different" and it's like "Yeah, I put the thing on a fucking tripod." [laughs]

Q: So he was good director to work with or what?

Peter: It was probably one of the easiest movies I've ever did -- very little difference between the camera being on and the camera being off. I think it helps the movie.

Q: With that in mind, when you're filming roles do you know when you're working on it that it's going to come together?

Peter: No. It's difficult to know. A lot of it is just kismet. There's so many things that can screw up a movie along the way that you never know, I mean on Boys Don't Cry I thought a lot of people were giving great performances. So I thought, "at least it'll have that." I didn't think that it would be commercially successful on that one.

Q: Going back a little ways, a lot of your characters in the past have had these darker themes around the edges -- do you see yourself doing more comedy?

Peter: I like to do both. If it's a comedy, it's a comedy. If it's drama it's drama but I enjoyed doing this. It's nice showing up to work and not having to act in a scene where the baby's dead, you know what I mean? Those scenes take a lot out of you.

Q: How long were you out here before you hit. Before your career really started rolling?

Zach: I went to New York first - I graduated from school in '97 and I didn't get Scrubs until 2001.

Q: When did you come out here to Los Angeles, Peter?

Peter: I live in New York. Probably the first time, I think, was to audition for Man in the Iron Mask with John Malkovich at the director's house -- very weird. Actually my first scene in a movie was getting dragged through a swamp by Sean Penn.

Q: What do you have coming out in the fall?

Peter: Kinsey's coming out with Liam Neeson and Chris O'Donnell. The Dying Gull will be coming out I think in January - I don't when [exactly] -- that's with Patty Clarkson, Campbell Scott and myself. I'm doing this movie with Jodie Foster called Flight Plan and right now I'm finishing up this movie with Kate Hudson, Gena Rowlands and John Hurt called Skeleton Key.

Q: Any more directing projects?

Zach: Lots of ideas but I'm not sure what my next one will be. I'm going to do Scrubs now for seven months and then five months off again. I can't imagine that I'd be able to direct a movie that quickly. I think it would be something that I act in.

Q: Any advice for people who want come out here like Largeman with high expectations?

Zach: My advice would be the advice that my mom gave me, she said "It always gets better." What I always tell myself when I'm at a low point is to just wait it out -- time will show everything. Everything comes in cycles and the good times will come again, so will the bad times. That's what the movie's all about -- that's life. If you numb yourself to that [fact] then you numb yourself to what life is.

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