May 19, 2014 at 9:01 AM ET
In getting his new film "Wish I Was Here" off the ground, actor-writer-director Zach Braff spent years "running into problems." Then he ran into Mandy Patinkin, and his luck quickly changed for the better.
Braff and Patinkin stopped by TODAY Monday to talk about the new dramedy, which stars Braff as Aidan Bloom, a 30-something family man searching for identity, and Patinkin as Aidan’s father, Saul.
Braff said casting Patinkin was a much-needed stroke of good luck. After garnering critical praise for his 2004 directorial debut, “Garden State,” the “Scrubs” star stalled on his sophomore effort. “It took a long time,” he admitted to TODAY. “I’d lose my star, or I’d lose my financing. ... It just never lined up.”
Last year Braff decided to partially crowdfund the film through the website Kickstarter, setting his fundraising target at $2 million. Thousands of people rushed to chip in. "We raised our goal in 48 hours,” Braff marveled. “This is the first film of this size that is funded in part by the fans themselves.”
Landing Patinkin was just as much a coup. The Emmy-winning star of “Homeland” said he might not have been in the film at all were it not for a random sidewalk encounter with Braff in New York. “I was with my son Gideon, and Zach bumped into us and said hi and walked away,” Patinkin laughed.
“I never go up to famous people on the street of New York just because I’m so shy around famous people,” Braff explained. “But with Mandy I’m a lifelong fan. ... And I was like, ‘C’mon, get your courage. You have to go talk to Mandy Patinkin.’”
The chance meeting led to Patinkin reading Braff’s script, co-written with brother Adam Braff. “It was ... everything I wished for in a story,” Patinkin told TODAY.
When asked to join the cast, Patinkin jumped at the chance — and Braff wasted no time in bonding. “He took one of those little selfies and we were off and running,” Patinkin said.
Braff couldn’t resist snapping another outside TODAY studios Monday morning.
“Wish I Was Here” — also starring Kate Hudson, Ashley Greene and Josh Gad — opens in theaters July 18.