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Josh Goldin's Wonderful World

Matthew Broderick makes for a hilarious misanthrope in the 2009 TFF premiere Wonderful World. We talk with writer/director Josh Goldin about the flick, which is now On Demand and hitting theaters in January.

In Wonderful World, which premiered at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival, Matthew Broderick stars as Ben Singer, a misanthropic pot-smoking single dad whose only friend is his Senegalese roommate Ibu, played by Michael K. Williams (The Wire, The Road). When Ibu falls ill, his beautiful sister Khadi (Sanaa Lathan) comes to visit and Ben finds his worldview slowly shifting.

Tribeca sat down with Wonderful World writer and director Josh Goldin recently, where he talked about working with his longtime friend Broderick, chipping away at negativity, and his upcoming project with Jay Baruchel. Goldin's unnamed movie, which stars Baruchel as a stand-up comic in love, will be produced by Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa (Little Miss Sunshine, Little Children, Hamlet 2) and Danielle Renfrew (Waitress). Goldin wrote the script and will also direct.

Wonderful World

Tribeca Film:
You wrote on the Huffington Post that the character of Ben is a combination of both you and Matthew Broderick, which I think a lot of people will find surprising. What are you in particular cynical about?

Josh Goldin: You know, we both grew up in New York City around the same time, and we're both Jews, although Matthew's half-Jewish, and I think during the era that we grew up in [in] New York, which was the '70s and '80s… it was like living in a world that you felt was falling apart and was never gonna come back together again. So it created a mindset of cynicalness, I think, for almost anybody.

We all sort of agreed that the world was… a semi-dark place, but you know, it doesn't define either Matthew or me, it's just one aspect, but… we'd have cranky conversations, bonded over our misanthropy. [laughs]

Tribeca: You guys have been friends for a long time. Was it awkward to approach him on a professional level?

JG: I'm sure it was more awkward for him. No, it wasn't really awkward, because we always talked about wanting to do something together, so it wasn't like, here's a breach in our friendship, 'cause it was something we had wanted to do anyways. And I was pretty sure that Matthew would like the script and like the character – it's a great character for him to play, and he did such a great job. I was really happy that he chose to do it.

Tribeca: I get the feeling it's a very personal project, and I'm wondering what sparked it. You've written other scripts, but you haven't directed any.

JG: Well, I think all the scripts that I write, and I've a written a couple of others to direct that haven't gotten made and one that's going to get made soon, but they're all personal in the sense that they're concerned with characters that I care about, and I think maybe this one in particular, there's, I think, a legacy of negativity in my family that needed to be expunged. My father was a great artist living in New York who I felt hadn't gotten the recognition that he deserved, so there was something about that quality, too… It was like emotionally in the movie without [including] his character.

Tribeca: Why did you include that Ben was a heavy pot smoker? I thought that was especially funny, given that he's such a dark person.

JG: I always find pot to be a drug – not that I've ever done it – but it's a drug that's kind of not a social drug, I think. It's something that puts you in your own kind of world of racing thoughts, and so it felt like an appropriate drug for that character to be doing… I guess people do it together a lot, but it puts you in a state of mind that keeps you into yourself. That was one of his things.

Wonderful World

Tribeca: Why do you think he cared so much about Ibu? It's a wonderful friendship, and Ben goes out of his way for him like almost no other person in Ben's life.

JG: I always thought of [Ben's] character as he's a very negative, he's a very cynical man about the world, but he's a very kind man individually with people. I mean, things haven't worked out for him with his wife, and he's not really able to talk to his daughter but he clearly loves her. And with Ibu, he's, you know, I think he has a lot of compassion for this man who's similarly—I mean, there's a similar predicament with Ibu, in a way. He's a very, very smart guy with no education, and so he's sort of in some way lost to the world, too. He's in a strange country. There's a bond of lostness, I think, that holds them. Then you have Ibu's sister Khadi who comes in and brightens everything and causes this sort of epiphany. She gets the ball rolling for Ben. I see the movie as like, it's a guy who's sort of locked himself away from the world and has taken a very black and white view that things are bad and from throughout, from beginning to end, things are chipping away at him, to tell him that it's not that way and he's being moved a little bit, jostled a little bit here, jostled a little bit there, then going back; it's one step forward and one step back and Khadi is one of those forces. His daughter is the other. His music's another. She's becomes the main one, but I think she's just one of many. He has his roommate talking to him too. There's a lot of things in his life that are actually working on him.

Tribeca: So you mentioned future projects…

JG: Well, there's a movie that I'm casting now with the producers Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa and Danielle Renfrew, and we have Jay Baruchel attached to star, and he's great. Hopefully we're gonna be shooting soon – late spring, early summer. In the near future… It's very hard to really pitch as a story. It's a love story between a very young stand-up comic who hasn't made it yet and a waitress. And I don't know how else to say it. It's a lot better than that sounds. [laughs]…. It's a dysfunctional love story. Or a love story between dysfunctional people. I won't tell you how it turns out.

Wonderful World is currently available via Video on Demand through Magnolia Pictures.

It opens theatrically in New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle on Friday, January 8, 2010. Click here for ticket information.


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