Zach Braff

Zach Braff was recently in Australia to promote the new Sam Raimi film, Oz: The Great & The Powerful, and I was lucky enough to spend a few minutes with him to talk about the film, Twitter and his plans for the future. You can listen to / download the full audio by clicking here.

Matt:  I’m speaking this morning with Mr Zach Braff.  How’s it going?

Zach:  Hello.  How are you?

Matt:  I’m very well.  I’ve got to start quickly by mentioning Scrubs – an incredibly successful television show that ran for 9 seasons and finished a few years ago.  When you’re involved in a big show like that and playing the same role again and again, do you worry about getting typecast?  Being able to forge a career beyond that in feature films?

Zach:  Of course it crosses your mind but it’s such a lightning-in-a-bottle, once-in-a-lifetime chance to have a show that goes 9 years so as an actor, you can’t really complain when that happens.  The onus is on you to rise above it and to show people that you can do other things.

Matt:  I’m more of a film person so I know you more as the director of Garden State which I thought was a great film and featured some terrific characters.  It’s been almost 10 years since that so are we likely to see you behind the camera of another feature film any time soon?

Zach:  Yeah.  It’s tricky.  There’s so much I want to do and when you’re trying to accomplish so much, it’s hard to focus on all of it at once but I can’t wait to get back in the director’s chair and I have a new film that I’m trying to direct this year that would be my second film.

Matt:  Sensational.  And I didn’t know this until I was doing my research but of all the awards you could possibly win – Emmys, Oscars, Tonys and so forth – a Grammy wasn’t the one that came to my mind but you did win a Grammy for Garden State.

Zach:  Yeah, for the Garden State soundtrack.  It is pretty bizarre.  It’s the award I never thought I’d have a chance of winning.

Matt:  Where do you keep it?  Do you keep it at home?

Zach:  It’s on my bookshelf and I have a lot of musician friends who like to walk by it and give it the “evil eye”.

Matt:  Now I think about Garden State and it had a small budget of about $2.5m and now we’ve got Oz The Great & Powerful that comes with a $200m budget.  Try to describe for us – what’s it like working on a movie of that magnitude?

Zach:  It’s like going from a row boat to a cruise ship!  I’ve never even visited a set this large and so for me, it was really cool to be involved with something this epic and with really cool people.  There’s the director, Sam Raimi and there’s James Franco who plays Oz.  The witches are played by Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz.  It’s a really great cast and the story is a prequel to The Wizard Of Oz.  It’s an origin story about how Oz become Oz.

Matt:  It is one of my favourite stories, the whole Wizard Of Oz story, which I read as a kid and I’ve seen movies made about it before.  What was it for you that made you really want to get involved with this film?

Zach:  Well, Sam Raimi said he wanted to meet me so that was a no brainer.  The movie is live action but I play a sort of animated character named Finley – a little flying monkey who is James’s sidekick.  He said he wanted someone who could kind of riff with James and make jokes and improvise along the Yellow Brick Road.  We got along famously and I got the gig.

Matt:  So how did you shoot the film if you’re playing this computer generated flying monkey?  Are you on set or in a studio?

Zach:  I’m mostly on the set.  The character is 36 inches tall and so there were a lot of different ways we could do it.  Sometimes I would crouch down on my butt and get into whatever position I could get into.  We also had a puppet that was eventual size of what the computer generated character would be so I’d operate that some times.  They would put these video cameras on 3 sides of my face and by cutting that together, the animators would animate off the gestures that I made in addition to taking my voice.

Matt:  You’ve already mentioned the great cast.  Did you get a chance to hang out a lot on set or was it mainly James since you interact with him so much in the film?

Zach:  I do scenes with all the pretty ladies but most of my scenes were with James as my storyline is kind of a “buddy quest” alongside him.

Matt:  The way they’ve brought this colourful world to live looks so beautiful.  How much of what we’re seeing is a set or is it just you guys in front of a green screen?

Zach:  There were actually a lot of sets.  We shot on these 6 sound stages and I think were 24 sets in total.  They were enormous!  The way to think about it is… whatever we were interacting on, what we’re standing on and the things that are around us – those are all real.  It’s beyond that which is computer generated. 

Matt:  Now I haven’t been lucky enough yet to see the film so I have to ask if you’ve had a chance to see the finished product yet?

Zach:  I haven’t either!  I’ve seen little clips in 3D which looks really, really powerful.  The production designer was the same guy from Avatar and so it has a photo-real, unbelievable quality but it’s in the land of Oz and it’s in 3D and it’s happening all around.  I’ve only seen a 15 minute chunk and it got me so excited.

Matt:  I can’t help but notice on Twitter that you’re closing in on the 1,000,000 followers mark.

Zach:  Yes!  I was thinking I might hit the 1,000,000 followers mark while in Australia but it looks like I’ll have to wait a few more days.

Matt:  Look, I get excited when I get mentioned in just one tweet but I’m guessing you get hundreds of mentions every day.  How easy is that to manage?  Do you get time to read any of the replies?

Zach:  My girlfriend is so tired of the damn phone she wishes that I’d throw it out the window.  It’s fun for me because I like being outspoken and making people laugh. 

Matt:  Do you think more about what you tweet knowing that 1,000,000 people are going to see it?

Zach:  I should think more!  If I looked out my window and saw 1,000,000 people and had to step up to a microphone in front of them, I’m sure I’d think a lot more about what I’d say.

Matt:  You’ve touched on a possible director’s gig but I should finish up by asking what’s in the works?  Where are we going to see you in next?

Zach:  I’m not sure yet.  I’m up for a couple of things at the moment and I love theatre so I’d really love to do a Broadway play.  Of course I want to direct another movie this year so I’m trying to figure it all out right now. 

Matt:  Thanks for speaking with us this morning.

Zach:  I appreciate it.  Thank-you.