Time for something different
Actor Zach Braff is leaving his role as a doctor in the television comedy Scrubs behind, drawn to a dramatic screenplay that sees him portraying an illegal alien in Montreal, reports BRENDAN KELLY.
Zach Braff appears at the door of his trailer, which is parked in Montreal’s Le Plateau neighbourhood, and peers out at a reporter and photographer.
The photographer suggests maybe taking a few snaps of the former Scrubs star outside, given that it’s an unusually warm and sunny afternoon, but this native of South Orange, New Jersey, politely suggests it’s a little too chilly for him, and all three of us retire to his comfy trailer.
Braff knows and really digs Montreal, having already spent some quality time here in 2005 shooting the romantic comedy The Last Kiss. But even this warm day here is a tad nippy for him.
“ I was looking forward to coming back, because we had so much fun making that movie here,” Braff said. “ Staying in Old Montreal, I feel like I’m walking around in Europe.”
But it wasn’t the cool Euro architecture, the chic restos or the beautiful people that made Braff decide to come back to Montreal. He spent the past month here for one simple reason: He was blown away by the screenplay for The High Cost of Living, which was penned by f irst-time feature filmmaker and Montreal resident Deborah Chow.
Chow, who was born in Toronto and spent time in L.A., got the script to a powerful Hollywood casting director she knew; the casting maven passed it on to Braff, and the actor immediately took to this story of an American in Montreal whose life gets seriously mucked up when he smashes his car into a pregnant woman, played by Isabelle Blais. This is the first production from Suki Films, a fledgling company run by producers Kim Berlin and Susan Schneir.
“It’s not very often you read something this good,” said Braff. “The movies that I like to see are few and far between, and this just seemed like the kind of project I’d love to be involved with. Every movie is on a sliding scale of art and commerce, and this one was so clearly in the art direction. No one is doing this movie for cash. It’s for the love of the project. I just really responded to it. The part is really challenging.
“ I’ve done the same character for nine years, so I was looking to do something that couldn’t be more different from Scrubs. When it’s over, you can’t help but go, ‘OK, now I want to find something that’s completely different.’ And this script was that. It was dramatic, it was small, it was a real character study. I also really liked the fact that it was in French and English.”
Braff played Dr. John ( J. D.) Dorian on the hit sitcom Scrubs from 2001 through to this past December, when he departed the popular series. (Braff confirmed on a Facebook posting this week that ABC is set to finally cancel Scrubs. The comedy originally ran on NBC for its f irst eight seasons.) But Braff has always been drawn to indie film: He scored an art-house hit with his f irst f ilm as a writerdirector, the coming-of-age comedy Garden State, back in 2004.
Since then, he’s spent a lot of time developing other projects as a director, notably toiling for years trying to remake the 2002 Danish f ilm Open Hearts. At one point, Sean Penn was set to star in it, but then the financing fell apart. Now he’s less en- thused about the project, largely because — like The High Cost of Living — it deals with the aftermath of a car accident.
“I don’t want to be known as the aftermath-of-a-car-accident guy,” quips Braff.
In The High Cost of Living, Braff plays Henry, an American living illegally in Montreal, a low-life character who pays the bills by selling prescription medicine on the black market. Driving high one night, he crashes into the pregnant Nathalie, played by Blais. She survives, but her unborn baby doesn’t. The two then hook up later on, though she doesn’t realize he’s the guy who nearly killed her.
Now that he has wrapped work on Chow’s f ilm, Braff is hoping to devote all his attention to his next project as a writer-director: Swingles, a comedy about dating, 21stcentury style, starring Braff and Cameron Diaz.