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18 Indie Facts About Garden State

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Garden State became an instant indie hit when it was released in the summer of 2004, both with moviegoers and critics. Inspired by Say Anything, Harold and Maude, and the fine state of New Jersey itself, writer/director/star Zach Braff’s movie tells the story of adrift twentysomethings. Here are some facts about the film that won’t make you scream into the abyss.

1. IT WAS THE FIRST SCRIPT BRAFF EVER WROTE.

Braff spent years putting the story together in his head and on paper before actually sitting down and banging out the script over a four-month period.

2. IT WAS ORIGINALLY TITLED LARGE’S ARK.

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Braff's character, Andrew Largeman, went by the nickname “Large.” According to Braff, there are intentional allusions throughout the movie to Noah’s Ark.

3. BRAFF ESTIMATES THAT "ABOUT 75 PERCENT" OF THE STUFF IN THE MOVIE ACTUALLY HAPPENED.

Jesse shot a flaming arrow toward the heavens because Braff’s friend liked to shoot arrows into the air for fun. Writing about a character on lithium with a psychiatrist parent was aided by the fact that Braff’s mother and stepfather were psychologists, and his stepmother was a therapist. Like Large, Braff worked as a waiter at a Vietnamese restaurant while trying to make his living as a full-time actor. Sam’s adopted African brother was inspired by Braff’s adopted Mexican sister.

4. BRAFF SENT A CD WITH EACH SCRIPT.

In trying to attract interest in the movie, Braff made a mix of the music he wanted in it. Some actors who passed on the film cushioned the blow by commenting on how much they liked the CD. Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel were shown a clip of the scene that Braff hoped they could use “The Only Living Boy in New York” for, and the duo gave their blessing. The soundtrack won the 2005 Grammy for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media.

5. NATALIE PORTMAN WAS COURTED BY WAY OF A LETTER.

Braff penned a letter to the actress. They then had lunch and Portman agreed to play Sam. Braff was surprised she said yes.

6. PORTMAN WAS STILL STUDYING AT HARVARD AT THE TIME.

Garden State was shot during the spring semester of Portman's senior year. Braff and Peter Sarsgaard met up with her at Harvard before filming to bond/party.

7. IT WAS ENTIRELY FINANCED BY ONE GUY.

Gary Gilbert made his fortune with home mortgages and was looking to get into the film industry. He wrote Braff a check for $2.5 million.

8. JESSE WAS ORIGINALLY GOING TO BE A DOT COM MILLIONAIRE.

Braff read one day about a 20-year-old billionaire who made his money from the internet. When the dot com bubble burst, he re-wrote Jesse to have invented silent Velcro instead.

9. THE CREW WAS ALMOST TOO GOOD AT THEIR JOBS.

A location scout looking for Andrew Largeman’s childhood New Jersey home knocked on the front door of a house that looked to be a good fit. It turned out to be Braff’s father’s place. (They didn’t end up shooting there.)

10. BRAFF CUT HIS REAL-LIFE RELATIVES FROM MOVIE.

They were extras in the Shiva scene, but their parts were left on the cutting room floor. He had to call them all and relay the bad news.

11. THE BEVERLY HILLS VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT ISN’T A BEVERLY HILLS VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT.

Most of the film was shot in New Jersey, but that food establishment was the Sea Thai Bistro in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

12. METHOD MAN WAS "BASHFUL" ON HIS ONE DAY OF SHOOTING.

Using some coarse language around Portman made the actor/rapper more inhibited than expected. Braff theorized that it was because he was a big Star Wars fan. Portman found it amusing.

13. THE POOL SCENE AT JESSE’S MANSION WAS THE MOST DIFFICULT TO SHOOT.

The owner of the Mahwah, New Jersey Crocker Mansion yelled at Braff on a rainy night when the toilets were backed up.

14. SARSGAARD ONCE SHOWED UP TO WORK IN A TUXEDO.

The actor was out late one night and didn’t have enough time to go home to change before arriving on the set. Sarsgaard claimed the (sort of) shameful mindset helped him play Mark in the scene the morning after the party.

15. SARSGAARD DIDN'T THINK HIS CHARACTER SHOULD HAVE A TATTOO.

Sarsgaard disagreed with Braff on having Mark wear ink on his arms to make his character a physically tough person. He told his director he would only spend 45 minutes every day to get a fake tattoo on his arm if it was something innocent like a “frog or something.”

16. THE DOG THAT HUMPED BRAFF WAS CUED BY TWO PHRASES.

When Ike was to mount, his trainer ordered him to “Love him up.” When Ike was meant to “gyrate”, his trainer asked, “Who’s your bitch?”

17. ONLY ONE OR TWO TAKES WERE SHOT FOR EACH SCENE.

Garden State was shot in just 25 days, while editing took six weeks. Braff began editing the movie while they were still filming.

18. BRAFF CRASHED WITH SARSGAARD AND MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL WHEN IT DEBUTED AT SUNDANCE.

After the movie screened—with then-New Jersey Senator Jon Corzine in attendance for support—Fox Searchlight and Miramax offered $5 million to release the movie as a joint effort (which is a rarity).

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The 10 Best Sci-Fi Movies on Netflix Right Now
Disney/Marvel
Disney/Marvel

If you’re in the mood for some speculative fiction and your pile of Arthur C. Clarke books has been exhausted, you could do worse than to tune in to Netflix. The streaming service is constantly acquiring new films in the sci-fi and fantasy genres that should satisfy most fans of alternative futures. Here are five of the best sci-fi movies on Netflix right now.

1. CUBE (1997)

This low-budget independent film may have helped inspire the current "escape room" attraction fad. Six strangers wake up in a strange room that leads only to other rooms—all of them equipped with increasingly sadistic ways of murdering occupants.

2. METROPOLIS (1927)

Inspiring everything from Star Wars to Lady Gaga, Fritz Lang’s silent epic about a revolt among the oppressed people who help power an upper-class city remains just as visually impressive today as it did nearly 100 years ago.

3. TROLL HUNTER (2010)

A Norwegian fairy tale with bite, Troll Hunter follows college-aged filmmakers who convince a bear trapper to take them along on his exploits. But the trapper fails to disclose one crucial detail: He hunts towering, aggressive trolls.

4. NEXT (2007)

Nic Cage stars a a magician who can see a few minutes into the future. He's looking to profit with the skill: the FBI and others are looking to exploit it.

5. THE HOST (2006)

A slow-burn monster movie from South Korea, The Host has plenty of tense scenes coupled with a message about environmental action: The river-dwelling beast who stalks a waterfront town is the product of chemical dumping.  

6. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOLUME 2 (2017)

Marvel's tale of a misfit band of space jockeys was a surprise hit in 2014. The sequel offers more Groot, more Rocket Raccoon, and the addition of Kurt Russell as a human manifestation of an entire sentient planet.

7. STARDUST (2007)

Director Matthew Vaughn's adaptation of the Neil Gaiman novel features Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro as supporting players in the tale of a man (a pre-Daredevil Charlie Cox) in search of a fallen star to gift to his love.

8. KING KONG (2005)

Director Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings) set his considerable sights on a remake of the 1933 classic, with the title gorilla pestered and exploited by opportunistic humans.

9. DONNIE DARKO (2001)

What will a teenage mope do when a giant rabbit tells him the world is about to end? The answer comes in this critical and cult hit, which drew attention for its moody cinematography and an arresting performance by a then-unknown Jake Gyllenhaal.  

10. ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY (2016)

Soon we'll have a movie for every single major or minor incident ever depicted in the Star Wars universe. For now, we'll have to settle for this one-off that explains how the Rebel Alliance got their hands on the plans for the Death Star.

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Library and Archives Canada, Wikimedia // Public Domain
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9 False Rumors With Real-Life Consequences
King Louis XV of France
King Louis XV of France
Library and Archives Canada, Wikimedia // Public Domain

Don’t believe everything you read—or everything you hear. Unverified but plausible-sounding rumors have been the basis for violent death and destruction throughout history, whether or not the stories had anything to do with the truth.

In their book A Colorful History of Popular Delusions, Robert Bartholomew and Peter Hassall describe rumors as “stories of perceived importance that lack substantiating evidence.” They also note that the sociologist Tamotsu Shibutani describes rumors as “improvised news,” which tends to spread when the demand for information exceeds supply. Such an information deficit most often occurs during wars and other crises, which might explain why some rumors have had such dramatic results. Here’s a selection of some of the most interesting rumors with real-life results collected in Bartholomew and Hassall’s book.

1. KING LOUIS XV WAS KIDNAPPING CHILDREN.

In 1750, children began disappearing from the streets of Paris. No one seemed to know why, and worried parents began rioting in the streets. In the midst of the panic, a rumor broke out that King Louis XV had become a leper and was kidnapping children so that he could bathe in their blood (at the time, bathing in the blood of children was thought by some to be an effective leprosy cure).

The rumor did have a tiny kernel of truth: Authorities were taking children away, but not to the king’s palace. A recently enacted series of ordinances designed to clear the streets of “undesirables” had led some policemen—who were paid per arrest—to overstep their authority and take any children they found on the streets to houses of detention. Fortunately, most were eventually reunited with their parents, and rumors of the king’s gruesome bathing rituals were put to rest.

2. LONDON WAS GOING TO BE DESTROYED BY AN EARTHQUAKE.

Two small earthquakes struck London at the beginning of 1761, leading to rumors that the city was due for “the big one” on April 5, 1761. Supposedly, a psychic had predicted the catastrophe. Much of the populace grew so panicked that they fled town for the day, with those who couldn’t afford fancier lodgings camping out in the fields. One soldier was so convinced of the impending doom that he ran through the streets shouting news of London’s imminent destruction; sadly, he ended up in an insane asylum a few months later.

3. JEWS WERE POISONING WELLS.

A deep well
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Reports that Jews ritually sacrificed Christian children were not uncommon during the Middle Ages, but things took a particularly terrible turn during the spread of the Black Plague. In the 14th century, thousands of Jews were killed in response to rumors that Satan was protecting them from the plague in exchange for poisoning the wells of Christians. In 1321 in Guienne, France alone, an estimated 5000 Jews were burned alive for supposedly poisoning wells. Other communities expelled the Jews, or burned entire settlements to the ground. Brandenburg, Germany, even passed a law denouncing Jews for poisoning wells—which of course they weren't.

4. BRIGANDS WERE TERRORIZING THE FRENCH COUNTRYSIDE.

In July 1789, amid the widespread fear and instability on the eve of the French revolution, rumors spread that the anti-revolutionary nobility had planted brigands (robbers) to terrorize the peasants and steal their stores of food. Lights from furnaces, bonfires, and even the reflection of the setting sun were sometimes taken to be signs of brigands, with panic as the predictable result. Provincial towns and villages formed militias in response to the rumors, even though, as historian Georges Lefebvre put it, “the populace scared themselves.” In one typical incident, near Troyes on July 24, 1789, a group of brigands were supposedly spotted heading into some woods; an alarm was sounded and 3000 men gave chase. The “brigands” turned out to be a herd of cattle.

5. GERMAN-AMERICANS WERE PLOTTING SNEAK ATTACKS ON CANADA.

Officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police marching in a Canada Day parade
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Canada entered World War I in 1914, three years before the United States did. During the gap period, rumors circulated that German-Americans sympathetic to their country of origin were planning surprise attacks on Canada. One of the worst offenders of such rumor-mongering, according to authors Bartholomew and Hassall, was British consul-general Sir Courtenay Bennett, then stationed in New York. In the early months of 1915, Bennett made “several sensational claims about a plan in which as many as 80,000 well-armed, highly trained Germans who had been drilling in Niagara Falls and Buffalo, New York, were planning to invade Canada from northwestern New York state.” Bizarre as it may sound, there was so much anxiety and suspicion during the period that Canadian Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden requested a report on the story, which the Canadian police commissioner determined to be without any foundation whatsoever.

6. THE INDONESIAN GOVERNMENT WAS HUNTING HEADS FOR CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS.

In certain parts of Indonesia, locals reportedly believe—or once did—that large-scale construction projects require human heads to keep the structures from crumbling. In 1937, one island was home to a spate of rumors saying that a tjoelik (government-sanctioned headhunter) was looking for a head to place near a local jetty construction project. Locals reported strange noises and sights, houses pelted with stones, and attacks from tjoelik wielding nooses or cowboy lassos. Similar rumors surfaced in 1979 in Indonesian Borneo, when government agents were supposedly seeking a head for a new bridge project, and in 1981 in Southern Borneo, when the government headhunters supposedly needed heads to stabilize malfunctioning equipment in nearby oil fields. Terrified townspeople began curtailing their activities so as not to be in public any longer than necessary, although the rumors eventually died down.

7. POWERFUL APHRODISIAC GUM WENT ON SALE IN THE MIDDLE EAST.

An assortment of sticks of pink bubble gum
iStock

In the mid-1990s, the Middle East was home to some alarming rumors about aphrodisiacal gum. In 1996 in Mansoura, Egypt, stories began spreading that students at the town’s university had purchased gum deliberately spiked with an aphrodisiac and were having orgies as a result. One local member of parliament said the gum had been distributed by the Israeli government as part of a plot to corrupt Egyptian youth. Mosque loudspeakers began warning people to avoid the gum, which was supposedly sold under the names “Aroma” or “Splay.” Authorities closed down some shops and made arrests, but never did find any tainted gum. Similar rumors cropped up the following year in the Gaza Strip, this time featuring a strawberry gum that turned women into prostitutes—supposedly, the better to convince them to become Shin Bet informants for the Israeli military.

8. SORCERERS WERE PLAGUING INDONESIA.

In the fall of 1998, a sorcerer scare in East Java, Indonesia, resulted in the deaths of several villagers. The country was in crisis, and while protests raged in major cities, some in the rural area of Banyuwangi began agitating for restitution for past wrongs allegedly committed by sorcerers. The head of the local district ordered authorities to move the suspected sorcerers to a safe location, a process that included a check-in at the local police station. Unfortunately, villagers took the suspects’ visits to police stations as proof of their sorcery and began killing them. Anthropologists who studied the incident said the stories of supposed sorcery—making neighbors fall sick, etc.—were based entirely on rumor and gossip.

9. OBAMA WAS INJURED BY A WHITE HOUSE EXPLOSION.

These days, rumors have advanced technology to help them travel. On April 23, 2013, a fake tweet from a hacked Associated Press account claimed that explosions at the White House had injured Barack Obama. That lone tweet caused instability on world financial markets, and the Standard and Poor’s 500 Index lost $130 billion in a short period. Fortunately, it quickly recovered. (Eagle-eyed journalists were suspicious of the tweet from the beginning, since it didn’t follow AP style of referring to the president with his title and capitalizing the word breaking.)

An earlier version of this story ran in 2015.

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