''I just wanted to write a movie that describes how I felt about being 28 in 2004,'' says Zach Braff, the ''Scrubs'' goofball who -- let's add -- also directed and stars in ''Garden State,'' a tragicomic indie that inspired big enthusiasm and the biggest sale at Sundance this year. ''I felt no one had made the film about what it's like to be a twentysomething that wasn't broad, silly, or scatological,'' he adds. And so he's Large, a disaffected TV actor who falls for a big-hearted, lying epileptic (Natalie Portman) after returning home to New Jersey carting way more baggage than what he picks up at the airport.
Braff wrote the movie before he landed ''Scrubs,'' but soon found that his newfound clout -- alongside a good script -- quickly opened doors. Next thing he knew, the Northwestern University film-school grad was directing and starring.
''I was seeing other actors [for the part of Large],'' he says. ''But the funny thing was that I would never in 1000 years get offered this part if I hadn't written it, so it just felt like a smart thing to do.''
The movie's crammed with his favorite music -- e.g., Coldplay, the Shins -- because he felt ''it could speak to the generation too, the way Simon & Garfunkel did for 'The Graduate.''' He even enclosed a mood CD when he was shopping the script to studios, and the suits really dug it: ''I still have executives that passed on the movie that come up and are like, 'I still listen to the soundtrack in my car.'''