18 Indie Facts About Garden State
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.
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.
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).