Ever since “Garden State” received rave notices from formerly skeptical, sitcom-hating film critics, Zach Braff’s legion of fans have hounded the uniquely talented star with one nagging question: When will you direct again?
“As far as what I’m gonna direct, I’m now gonna start ’Scrubs’ for the next seven months, so I won’t be available until about April,” Braff said last summer. “And that’s when I think I’m gonna direct.”
He walked the red carpet at January’s Golden Globes and again urged “Garden State” die-hards to keep the faith: “I’m trying to direct this spring. I have a project I’m trying to put together, and it’ll be my second movie. If everything comes into line, it’ll happen this spring, early summer.”
Now Braff has proven himself to be among the rare Hollywood talents that actually stick to a timeline, signing on to adapt, direct, produce and star in a remake of the 2002 Danish drama “Open Hearts.” After an intense bidding war that Braff instigated by telling several studios he was ready to step behind the camera, Paramount won out over the Weinstein Company and “Garden State” distributors Fox Searchlight.
As the filmmaker’s fans search the Internet for foreign-made DVDs that can explain what Braff has signed himself up for, they will find “Elsker dig for evigt,” a Dogme film (which are shot under high-minded regulations prohibiting modern filmmaking techniques, such as dubbed dialogue and CGI). The intense original, which won an award at the Toronto Film Festival and took home Best Film, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress at Denmark’s Oscar-like Bodil Awards, received a brief U.S. release and is unavailable on DVD Stateside.
The “Open Hearts” plot centers around a young, soon-to-be-married couple whose lives intersect with a married duo following a horrific traffic accident. The young boyfriend is rendered a quadriplegic, and it is revealed that the driver of the car that struck him is actually the wife of his attending physician. The doctor and his patient’s young fiancee begin a torrid love affair while the clueless young man struggles with his new physical limitations. The original version walks the fine line between powerful melodrama and soap-opera overindulgence.
Braff has not revealed which character he’ll play in the remake, and it’s unlikely that he’ll give much attention to the Dogme rules as he steps back behind the camera. What is known, however, is that Paramount plans to shoot the film this summer while the young auteur is on hiatus from the long-running “Scrubs.” Undoubtedly excited by the opportunity to follow up his “Garden State” with another flick that taps into themes of isolation, love and angst, Braff is currently scouting locations in his home state of New Jersey.
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