Starbuck stars Patrick Huard as David Wozniak, a 42-year-old lovable but perpetual screw up and habitual sperm donor, who discovers he’s the biological father of 533 children, 142 of whom are trying to force the fertility clinic to reveal his true identity. Co-written and directed by Ken Scott, who penned the screenplay with Martin Petit, the comedy was a runaway box office success in Canada after it premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and is now opening in U.S. theaters.
At the recent Los Angeles press day, Scott and Huard talked about their close collaboration on crafting such an intricate character, what made the script so remarkable, why it’s appealing to play a main character that appears in nearly every scene, and the challenge of introducing so many other characters and tying all their individual stories together without making it feel episodic. Scott also discussed partnering with DreamWorks on directing the English-language remake, Delivery Man, and Huard revealed he’s adapting his Taxi 22 TV series for Europe and writing a sequel to his highly successful comedy, Bon Cop Bad Cop. Hit the jump to read more:
Question: Can you tell us about yourselves and your collaboration on this?
Ken Scott: I’m the co-writer and director of Starbuck. I started my career very much like Patrick. I started as a comedian in a comedy troupe and doing a whole lot of improv. Patrick did a lot of improv, too. We started out our careers at the same time. I was in that world for several years, and then I got into screenwriting and wrote some scripts. In my first script that was produced, Patrick had a small role. It was called Life After Love, and in French, La Vie Après L’Amour. Patrick was in that movie, and ever since we have wanted to work together. Timing-wise, things never worked out, but as soon as I finished writing this movie with Martin Petit, I knew that I wanted Patrick and I sent over the script. It was great that this time it finally worked out.
Huard: If you would have seen us when we started out in this business 23 years ago, none of you would have bet five bucks on the fact that we would someday make a movie together that would do this well.
Patrick, what was it about this script that made you want to do it?
Huard: So many things. As an actor, it doesn’t happen often that somebody sends you a script that is first of all that good. You read it like a novel. It was a page turner. It was crazy. Right in the middle of the first page, I could picture myself being that guy. I don’t know why, but it talks to me right from the go.
Scott: The first page?
Huard: Yes, the first page.
Huard: Exactly. That’s right. That’s why.
Scott: That’s what hooked you.
Huard: I said, “Oh! He wrote it for me.” He actually thought of me when he wrote it. And also, at first, what was scarier was the fact that I was in every single scene. It had never happened before, and I’m sure it will never happen again. If you watch a movie, it never happens that you see a character that is in every single scene. It’s very appealing for an actor, and I’m not talking in terms of ego, but in terms of how many occasions and tools you will have to build this dramatic arc for a character. It’s like somebody ships you not just a box of tools, but a truck, because you will have all of those characters that you will interact with, all of those scenes, all of that time, so you can do it in a much more subtle way. That was very, very appealing, and also the fact that I laughed and cried while reading it in my office, which was kind of weird. It was in the morning. I was in my pajamas with coffee, and I was reading and laughing and crying by myself, which tells you a lot about a script.
When you craft such an intricate character, how closely do you work together?
Scott: For me, what was very important, as I mentioned, was that I’d wanted to work with Patrick for a long, long time. I had very early on, while we were writing the script, the sense that I wanted to send it to Patrick. I was fighting off that idea as much as possible during that first creation to try to think of it not in terms of how Patrick is going to do the lines and do the scenes, but to try to create a character that could be as full as possible and that’s great for telling that story. With all the movies that I have written, it’s trying to get a first draft up there and not thinking too much about the actors that could potentially be in the movie simply because I feel that that’s cheating. Any line that you write, imagine a great actor saying it and it’s going to be great. I wanted the script and the dialogue to exist on itself. But obviously, as soon as we had a first draft there, we sent it over to Patrick, and he read it, and he then brought everything that he is into this character.
Patrick mentioned the fact that he’s in every scene. There’s a reason for that. Since it was this character that was meeting so many kids and it had so many small stories, we felt that we had to have a structure that would tie this all together so it wouldn’t feel episodic. We felt that having the character in each and every single scene built a structure that would work. One of the main difficulties in telling this story is presenting so many characters, because we’re presenting a lot of characters, and to be able to get into their stories and out of their stories efficiently may seem simple, but it’s not that simple. You have to efficiently present a character, but you also have to efficiently get out of their story without it being jolting for the audience. The solution to all of that was to have this very strong character where we would get into these small stories and hopefully interest the audience in these small stories. What was most important was how these small characters impacted the main character, which was David Wozniak. So that was the way we created that character. My wanting Patrick to be that character was very much because Patrick is so great with comedy. He comes from that world. He’s great at comedy and he’s very confident in the way he brings comedy. I never feel that he’s stretching for the comedy. He knows it’s going to be funny, and he’s a great actor. That’s how we created it. And then, he came on board and he delivered everything that I was hoping for.
Huard: Ken had such a precise vision. He showed me pictures of stuff that he wanted to show on the screen and the feeling and the colors and everything. It really talked to me because of the way I work. There are different types of actors. Some like to start from the inside and then go to the outside. I’m the other type of actor. First, I have to know how my character looks, how he walks, how he drives, how he eats. All of that stuff I work on so physically I can be that guy, and then I go inside. Because Ken showed me all of those images, and because also in the script a lot of those answers were already there, I knew how he drove, and I knew a lot of stuff about him because it was in the script. It was very easy for me to become that guy. I don’t know if it’s like that in every movie you direct, but the vision was very, very crisp. I could be in his head easily every day. All I had to do was talk with him, ask him a few questions, be in the moment and let go. I never walked out of a set as exhausted as I was on that film, because I was there from the beginning of the day until the end non-stop. But also, I have to admit that, for me, it’s the best part I have done yet and my easiest as well.
Scott: For me, with the original, we had a very nice success in Canada and then we did the Toronto Film Festival. From there, we sold the movie pretty much throughout the world and now we’re coming out here in the United States. We felt that we had potential with the movie that we had, and we were very happy that it all came together and it worked. We felt that we really reached our audience with that, but we also felt that there was the potential of doing a remake, and we wanted to make sure that we held off long enough for this original to have the career that it could have in Canada, but also in the United States, and that’s exactly what has happened. It was also very exciting to think that this story could be remade, and so, after the 2011 Toronto Film Festival, we started talking with different people here in Los Angeles to try to find partners that would have the same vision of what this movie should be.
We had several discussions with different people, and eventually, we got a call from DreamWorks inviting us down to meet with them and with Stacey Snider, Steven Spielberg and Holly Bario. We came down and we had a discussion. It was strange because I had already adapted the movie in English and into the American culture, so we felt that we were ready to move forward. We didn’t want to get into a long development deal, and we were very clear about that with people that we were talking with. We said that to DreamWorks, that we wanted to go forward with this. When we said that, it meant for us that we would have to be shooting very fast, in the spring or summer of 2013. Finally, things happened even faster than that. It was crazy because they were on board right away. They loved the story. They loved the film. They loved the original. And, right away, they showed their interest. They wanted to be on board. Right away, we got Vince Vaughn, and he was ready to go. And so, we already shot the movie in 2012 and it was even faster than what we were hoping for. And, in what way it’s different, I try not to think of it. This is something that I told everyone that I worked with.
I think that in the original we did a good job. We made some great decisions. I worked with all the actors, with all the heads of the departments that put together the movie, and I made sure that everyone was not trying to simply copy a movie. I didn’t want anyone to come up and say, “Okay, we’re going to be doing this in this way because that’s what you did in the original.” In the same way, I didn’t want it to be different just for the sake of being different. “Oh, you did this in the original. Let’s do something different.” No. I never had those discussions, and that’s why I say I’m sorry, I don’t know, because I tried to keep away from comparing. I went at it in a way that I wanted all the different artists and actors in the movie to come from a place of wanting to tell a story. In doing so, maybe and probably, we ended up at the same place, because I think we made some pretty good decisions in the first one. At least, when you get there, with the actors, they know why they’re there and why they’re saying stuff in that manner, because it went through the whole process and they’re not just emulating something that has been done already. So, all that very long answer just to say that it’s very difficult for me to say what the differences are. It’s the same story basically, but a different film.
Was the American title, Delivery Man, your idea? Where did that come from?
Scott: It came from the fact that maybe you’ve all heard of the Starbucks Company which sells coffee. We had the luxury of keeping the same title, but we felt that it would have created confusion with the original in certain ways. We searched for something that was a bit different. I was very happy that we came up with Delivery Man.
Did you feel the same sense of freedom in terms of your vision with Delivery Man that you had with Starbuck?
Scott: Yes, absolutely. We just brought it into the American culture. We changed the game of soccer to the very popular American sport of water polo. (laughs) No.
Patrick, did you do a cameo for the American remake?
Scott: We wanted to, but it just didn’t happen.
Huard: (joking) I was asking too much money.
Scott: He was too expensive.
Huard: I asked for too much. But I’m really looking forward to seeing the American version. I think it’s so amazing. For me, what I’m most proud of is the fact that they asked Ken to do the remake. If we went on the internet together on IMDb today, we would not find more than a handful of directors who have had this privilege.
The history of adaptations is that they love you, they love your film, and they can’t wait to remake it, but you’re out.
Huard: Exactly, and it’s kind of crazy. It’s weird that we’re talking about this because I’m actually living the exact same situation. I created a TV series back home called Taxi 22 about a crazy taxi driver, a very funny guy who has an opinion on everything. And now, the show has just been bought in Europe, and I’m in the same process of trying to convince everybody that we have to keep the story, but it’s going to be a different beast. It’s going to feed on something else. The climate is not the same. The artisans, the actors, everything, it has to be new again and try to keep the roots and the core of what was so good about it. I think it’s a great experience as a director. As an actor, I had this privilege once where I played a character on stage, and then, with a totally different director, I played it on the screen. It was an amazing experience because that was two totally different characters.
What was it called?
Huard: Talk Radio. It was an Eric Bogosian play that I think Oliver Stone did an adaptation. But what we did on the screen was not an adaptation. It was the play, the same text, the same script. We did it for a TV movie. That was a great experience to have the privilege to do it twice. It’s two totally different characters, and I love them both. I’m very proud of the two things. They’re totally different. I have to say, as an actor who was part of the original, I’m really happy that the title will be different. For me, it also shows a lot of respect for the fact that the original is one thing and the remake will be something else. I’m very happy about that. It’s great.
Patrick, how close are you to your character? I don’t think you have 533 kids.
Huard: You would be surprised.
Did you feel differently toward kids after making this film?
Huard: So different actually that I made another kid. It’s true. When I started to shoot the movie, my daughter was 14. I was very happy to be in a movie that she could actually watch, because the previous movies that I’ve been in, I’ve been playing those very dark, crazy characters – drug addicts and murderers and stuff like that.
Scott: Stuff closer to yourself.
Huard: (laughs) Yes, closer to me. This one is actually a character part. It changed my outlook. I thought I was too old. I met this new woman, and I was madly in love while I was shooting, and I still am today. She was talking to me about having a kid, and I was like, “I’m too old. I cannot do this.” But while shooting the movie, and being with all of those kids, and being that dad, I just realized that I missed it very much and I wanted to do it again. When we walked the red carpet for the premiere, my wife was six months pregnant with the baby. That was very funny. Ken learned today that we actually tried for that kid on the set in the trailer.
Scott: (laughs) I didn’t know about this and I’m a bit upset.
What’s great about David’s character is the more responsibilities he gets, the less self-centered he is, and he seems to have a more fulfilling life. Was that a theme you and your co-writer were working on as you mapped out the story?
Scott: No, it just happened, I would say. There was a lot of stuff that we did map out, but I wouldn’t say that was one of the themes that was deliberately structured that way. I guess it just happened. I don’t think we were going for that necessarily. I think the character discovers himself through these kids and [realizes] what he can be. Maybe that’s just a part of that.
Huard: That’s what I love about this movie. Everybody has his or her way of seeing it because it’s so simple in a way and also so complex. It feels like life is very complex and very simple at the same time. So, you can have your opinion. For me, the whole story of my character was, this guy was looking for something he was good at his entire life, and he was bad at everything except one thing, and it’s relationships. He realized that he could be a great dad. It’s a great revelation for a man to realize that he’s good at one thing and it’s being a dad. And good for me, I have 533 of them and another one on the way. So life is good. For me, that was the whole thing. It’s different for everybody, and I’m sure, even on the set, everybody was getting something from that story that was different.
What do each of you have coming up next?
Scott: I’m in post-production on Delivery Man. That’s pretty much what takes up all my time.
Huard: Next week, I’m wrapping my tour for this year on stage. After 11 years, I decided to go back last year on stage to perform a new show and make people laugh. It’s called Bonheur (Happiness). So, I have two more shows next week, and I’m working on this adaptation for a TV show. I’m also writing a sequel to a movie that was very successful back home called Bon Cop Bad Cop which is a cop buddy comedy. I’m writing the sequel right now.
Scott: Very successful is an understatement. I think it’s the biggest. Is it the biggest?
Huard: It is.
Scott: It’s the biggest box office success of all time for a Canadian movie.