Zach Braff has been many things: an actor, a Grammy award winner, a TV doctor, and Brendan Fraser’s number 1 fan. But in 2004, back before he voiced a cute existential chicken in Chicken Run, Braff made his directorial debut with Garden State a cult classic drama movie that has a bit of a negative reputation.
Garden State is often critiqued for Portman’s Manic Pixie Dream Girl character, though when Braff wrote it, he was attempting to recreate classic female rom-com characters. While speaking with The Independent, he admitted, “I was just copying Diane Keaton in Annie Hall and Ruth Gordon in Harold and Maude. Those were my two favorite movies growing up, and I was kind of taking those two female protagonists and melding them into Natalie Portman.” Braff also starred in the movie as Andy, though he insists that the character wasn’t entirely based on himself.
While Portman’s character is often panned for not having depth, at the time, Braff said that he was living out his own fantasy without thinking about how it would come off to audiences. “Of course, I’ve heard and respect the criticism, but…I was a very depressed young man who had this fantasy of a dream girl coming along and saving me from myself,” he explained, implying that it was a form of therapy for him. “And so I wrote that character.”
Even though the film wasn’t autobiographical, Braff admits that he was working through his own internal issues while making the film. “I wasn’t as extreme as Andy, but I was certainly battling my own demons. As I was writing it, I was hoping I could survive what became known as the quarter-life crisis, and depression, and fantasizing that the perfect woman would come along and rescue me.”
Braff entered a relationship with Florence Pugh in 2019, though the two split last year. While they were together, Braff wrote his latest film A Good Person specifically for her.
In the film, Pugh’s character tried to piece her life back together after a tragic accident sends her into a spiral. The movie also stars Morgan Freeman. Despite their breakup, Braff said there was no hesitation to release it. “We’re both really proud of the movie,” Braff continues. “We both want everyone to see it, so we’re both promoting it and doing everything we can to get it out there.”
Hey, at least he knows now that the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope never seems to work out in real life. Hopefully, it doesn’t become a quirky TikTok trend!