Zach Braff loves Sundance, and Sundance loves him back.
It’s been 10 years since Braff made a big Sundance splash with “Garden State,” and now the “Scrubs” star is back with “Wish I Was Here,” which earned rapturous applause following its Saturday premiere at the Marc, and a standing ovation for Braff as he took the stage for the trailing Q&A.
It was an auspicious start for the first Kickstarter-backed project made by a known Hollywood star to play in front of an audience — Rob Thomas’ “Veronica Mars” won’t premiere until March — and bodes well for a quick sale in Park City. “Garden State” was picked up by Fox Searchlight and Miramax for $5 million in 2004, and went on to gross $35 million worldwide.
Braff also stars in his return to directing — he’s spent the past 10 years focused on his acting career — and has drawn both applause and ire for his use of Kickstarter, where he raised more than $3 million of the film’s $5 million budget. Braff thanked producer Stacey Sher for encouraging him to mount the crowdfunding campaign.
“The goal was a month — and in 48 hours it was funded by my fans, 47,000 people,” Braff said. “I’ll thank Stacey ’til the day I die.”
Many of those fans were in attendance — though some were left out in the cold, and reportedly vocally grumbled about helping pay for a film they didn’t get to see premiere. But there was no grumbling inside: the crowd at the Marc cheered the contributors when their names showed up in the credits.
In “Wish I Was Here,” Braff plays a 35-year-old struggling actor, father, and husband still trying to find purpose in his life. Braff assembled a starry ensemble for his movie, including Kate Hudson — who’s already drawing rave reviews, including from mom Goldie Hawn, also in attendance — Mandy Patinkin, Josh Gad, Ashley Greene and Joey King. Jim Parsons and the late James Avery both have cameos.
Braff acknowledged onstage that he knew people might have gone “apeshit” over his decision to crowdfund the film — but said it was worth it to make the exact movie he had in mind. That included helping to pay for the film’s sparkling soundtrack — another trademark of “Garden State” — including original music from Bon Iver and James Mercer of the Shins.
It helped that the “Garden State” soundtrack was itself a hit.
“People called me back quicker,” Braff joked.