“He could be this generation's Tom Hanks,” says Tony Goldwyn, the director of Braff's latest film , The Last Kiss . But Braff does more than act: he writes, directs and creates movie soundtracks.
The star of TV's “Scrubs” is in the early stages of a film career that could last a while. (Let's hope so, as Braff says this season of “Scrubs” will be his last). It all really started with the indie favorite Garden State (2004), which he starred in, wrote and directed.
He followed that up by providing the title voice for the Disney hit Chicken Little (2005), and now, in The Last Kiss , Braff plays Michael, an engaged man who finds himself falling for a much younger woman (“The O.C.'s” Rachel Bilson).
When Braff walks into the room at the Four Seasons Hotel to speak about the film, he admits to the group that he's a little wired after downing a giant cup of coffee. He seems excited about the film, and it becomes clear that even though he didn't direct it, he had a fair share of input.
First of all, he worked with the dialogue in the script, which was written by Paul Haggis ( Crash ).
“I did a little tweaking,” Braff admits. “I mean, Paul Haggis is a genius. But I asked them if I could do a little, so that we speak more like my friends speak. I added a few jokes. I just saw World Trade Center , and even amid the rubble, they were making each other laugh, even during the hardest times.”
The Last Kiss is a drama, and heavy at times, but there are those moments of comedy. For example, while Michael is deeply confused about his personal situation, one of his friends starts up an extremely physical relationship with someone he met at a wedding. Emphasis on extremely.
To add to the different moods of the film, the filmmakers asked Braff to compile the songs for the soundtrack. He started the process early on, providing Goldwyn with mixed CDs as shooting progressed.
“When I listen to music, I think of how to set it to imagery,” Braff says. “When I hear a song, I think, this would be great in a soundtrack.” The final product features the likes of Aimee Mann, Snow Patrol and, for the climax of the film, Coldplay.
Braff's relationship with Goldwyn was tight throughout the filming process. He says he would voice his opinion to the director, which is something that isn't always received well. But in this case, Goldwyn has a deep acting background (most notably as the villain in Ghost ) and was receptive to cast input.
“My style evolved out of being an actor and working with directors who weren't collaborative,” Goldwyn says. “I try to create an environment that's safe, that's collaborative. You're only as good as the people you've worked with.”
Still, Braff worried.
“I'm sure I annoyed Tony at times,” he says with a laugh.
Well, did he?
“No, not at all,” replies Goldwyn. “It was the opposite. When I hired Zach, I said, ‘I'm gonna lean on you hard.' I wanted to use his voice, a 30-year-old's, not a 45-year-old's.”
“I can't help but want to at least have my ideas heard,” says Braff, who even contributed thoughts for specific shots. “He [Goldwyn] always listened to my ideas. He didn't have an ego about it. If he liked my idea better, he went with it.”
But the opposite was true, too.
“If he was wrong, I'd say no!” Goldwyn laughs.
Braff will likely be giving advice on many projects in the near future, most notably another one that he's writing and directing (a remake of the Danish film Open Hearts ).
With a probable starring role in the Fletch remake and many other possibilities looming, the subject returns to that moderately well-received, Oscar-winning actor.
“If things go right for him,” says Goldwyn, “if he makes the right choices, he could have a career like Tom Hanks.”
The Last Kiss releases in theaters Sept. 15.