(Braff also spent millions of his own money on the film.) I tell him I was shocked at just how cross it got people. " He adopts a Mary Poppins–ish accent: "I sat down with Zach Braff in the Bowery hotel. In it, Braff is an unemployed actor home–schooling his two children while struggling with questions of faith as he faces the terminal illness of his father, played by Mandy Patinkin (Saul Berenson in Homeland).
Ever since, Braff has been buffeted between extremes of adulation and excoriation, buzz and backlash. His new film, Wish I Was Here, which features the same screwball humour and schmaltzy sentimentality, is going to be lapped up by his fans, and make others want to punch him.
On the day we meet – in the cosy lobby of New York's Bowery Hotel – he appears as earnest and goofy as he does on screen. Braff, being Braff, is now riding the wave of a new controversy.
He adds: "I saw a list of countries and the United States was second to last in believing in evolution.
The fact that science is called into question now made me even more passionate about wanting to talk about this. '" For those who only know Braff as the hapless junior doctor, JD, in the very silly medical comedy Scrubs, it might be surprising to know that these are the sorts of questions occupying him so passionately.
He had had a bit part as Woody Allen and Diane Keaton's son in Manhattan Murder Mystery, but by 2001, "I was working as a waiter. My parents gave me $5,000 and I put it all into buying a Nissan 240 SX.
I loved that car." When he got the role he gave the car to his favourite bus boy.
"He's a narcissist who's checked out from his family.
He's annoyed by his kids, he's ignoring them, he's annoyed that they're in the very faith that he's indirectly imposed upon them." Braff and his brother, with whom he wrote the film, are Jewish but as a teenager Braff had what he calls "an epiphanous moment" when he realised that "people really thought there was a Noah's Ark and a Garden of Eden", as opposed to seeing them as "beautiful allegories".
Didn't he want to make his character a bit darker or more complex?