Zach Braff is a self-confessed procrastinator. It’s been 19 years since the Scrubs star’s writing and directorial debut, Garden State, and nine years since he followed it with Wish I Was Here. Though he tells Total Film magazine (opens in new tab) in the latest issue, which features Renfield on the cover, that he wanted to write a third film he struggled to get started. "There has to be a catalyst that really puts me in the chair," he laughs over Zoom from LA. "Like so many people who write, I’ll do anything to procrastinate. So it has to be something that I’m really willing to dedicate so much time to, and also something that I feel like I have to say that’s hopefully worthwhile to people."
All three of his screenplays happened at pivotal points in his life, he admits: Garden State springing from a "post-collegiate quarter-life crisis", while Wish I Was Here was triggered by his fears of his parents passing. A Good Person was born out of grief.
"I had a four-year period where I just kept losing very important people in my life," he recalls of a series of sorrows: the death of his dad, his sister, his dog, his manager and, as the pandemic raged and devoured, his friend, actor Nick Cordero, who died of COVID-19 while staying in Braff’s guesthouse.
His need to explore "standing up to grief" also dovetailed with a wish to write something for Florence Pugh that showcased her skills. "We were partners [the couple split last year]. I was, and am, in awe of her talents, and I thought, 'Oh my goodness, it would be such an honour to write for her.'"
The resulting screenplay told the story of Allison (Pugh), a happily engaged pharma rep whose world falls apart in the aftermath of a car crash that kills her prospective sister- and brother-in-law. Prescribed OxyContin for pain, Allison numbs her emotional wounds with addiction and self-loathing, her self-destruction carrying her back into the orbit of her would-be father-in-law (Morgan Freeman).
The idea for both Pugh and Braff is that the film reflects all humans climbing out of whatever darkness they happen to be experiencing. "I think that anyone can insert whatever their lowest moment in their life was and relate and empathise," Braff nods of his ambition for connection. "And have the film be about the struggle to stand back up, and how one does that…"
In the meantime he’s writing another film for Pugh that he hopes the procrastination won’t kick in on. "I really love writing for Florence. It’s too early to talk about what it is, but I am writing something new with her in mind again." He adds to Total Film (opens in new tab). "I’m not going to take this long again."
- Pre-order the Renfield issue here (opens in new tab)
A Good Person is released in cinemas on March 24 and is on Sky Cinema from April 28. For much more from Zach Braff, Florence Pugh, and Morgan Freeman, grab a copy of the new issue of Total Film magazine (opens in new tab) when it hits shelves (and digital newsstands) this Thursday, March 2. Check out the covers below:(opens in new tab)
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