The travails of fatherhood has been a recurring theme of movies over the years and that’s largely at the center of Delivery Man, Ken Scott’s English adaptation of his own hit French-Canadian film Starbuck, a movie that grossed $3.5 million in Canada when it opened there in the summer of 2011.
This one is a starring vehicle for Vince Vaughn and it’s already proving to be a very different type of role for the normally comic actor as he plays David Wozniak, who has a day job delivering meat for his father’s Brooklyn meat company. When David was young, he regularly donated sperm to a sperm bank to earn some extra cash and decades later, he learns that his sperm has been used to father over 500 kids, many of them living in the New York area. Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Cobie Smulders (Marvel’s The Avengers) co-star as David’s best friend and girlfriend, respectively.
Now, a lot of movies film in New York City, but few of them actually do set visits for whatever reason. However, when they were finishing up with interiors at the Screen Gems Studios for Delivery Man, ComingSoon.net was invited to get an early preview of what they were doing.
The day we visited the set, they were shooting some of the more serious scenes in which Vaughn’s character is having a conversation with Adam Chanler-Berat’s Viggo, one of the kids with whom David had established a close connection. In the scene they were shooting that day, Viggo had just learned the truth about his connection with David and was confronting him and was getting ready to leave David’s apartment.
During a break from shooting, we were able to walk through David’s New York apartment, which looked well lived-in with lots of stuff that he’d collected over the years, much of it displaying the home of a chronic man-child who never grew up.
There isn’t much that we saw that day that couldn’t best be summed up by the film’s director and star, and as we arrived bright and early that morning, Scott was already there chatting with the press about remaking his own movie for a second time:
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about what we’re going to be seeing today in this setup here? Ken Scott: Yeah, the whole story is about a 42-year-old adolescent that discovers that he is the biological father of 533 kids, and they all want to know who he is. This is pretty much towards the third act of the movie, and it’s one of the kids that has actually found him and decides that he will be leaving, because he no longer wants to be with him.
Q: Can you talk about transposing your successful film “Starbuck” to American audiences, casting Vince, etc? Scott: Yeah, well the original movie “Starbuck” came out last year in Quebec and Canada and was a great success. That was in August. Then in September we had the chance to have a gala presentation at the Toronto Film Festival, and that really launched the international career of the movie. The original movie was sold throughout the world, so the original is still having a good career throughout the world, and it’s going to come out here in the United States in March. So I had the chance to travel with the original, and I had the chance to do a few festivals here in the United States. We did the Palms Premiere Film Festival in January of this year, where we won the audience award. Then we won the audience award in Santa Barbara, then we won the audience award in Traverse City. We actually saw how an American audience would react to this story. And obviously, as we won all these prizes, we had the feeling that the story could definitely connect with an American audience. Then we thought that even if the original is coming, it would be great to make an American version of this story (and that) would definitely reach a broader audience. We wanted to find some partners that would help us take this story and bring it in to the American culture, so we were very, very fortunate to hook up with DreamWorks. We felt that Steven Spielberg, Stacey Snider (Co-Chairman and CEO of DreamWorks), Holly Bario (DreamWorks President of Production) were the right people. They saw the movie, liked the movie, and they wanted to do the remake, so it was very exciting to be working with them. Basically, it was to take the same storyit is the same storybut it’s an American version. The whole work for me was simply to integrate this story into the American culture, and really use New York as a backdrop to tell the story.
Q: How did you know Vince was perfect for the role? Scott: Well, the whole story was structured in a way that this character is in every single scene, and it’s a dramatic comedy, so I needed someone who had great skills with comedy. I needed a charismatic actor, a very strong actor because basically we are following him through this journey. I thought that Vince was perfect to be this 42-year-old adolescent.
Q: Was he one of the first people you came to? Or did you see a bunch of people? Scott: No, this was the guy I wanted, and it was great that he reacted to the material and felt that he wanted to tell this story.
Q: As Vince is also a writer, and he’s also good at improv, did you find that you’ll come in and you’ll be doing a scene and he wants to vamp on stuff? Scott: Well, the film is very story-oriented. There’s a story to tell, and the scenes are written already there. So on this project, he is an actor and he’s very interested in telling this story that is already written and that is already there on the page. But you’re right to say that he’s a very strong improviser. We did it a few times, and I was very impressed, but he read the script, and he felt very strongly about this is a story that needs to be told in this way, in these words. So that was great. But the few times where I’d identify a few places where “Okay here we can improvise a bit,” I was very, very, very impressed by what he can do just spontaneously.
Q: You were speaking about bringing this story to America. Were there any specific elements that you changed from the original story to better fit American culture? Scott: Well, we did it in English. That helped. Instead of soccer, there’s basketball. In a story of 533 kids all living in the same city, New York really felt like the best place to tell the story to make it as credible as possible. What’s great is we meet all these kids, and we have to be very efficient in the storytelling. So, they live in all these different neighborhoods, and New York has all these different neighborhoods. If you see a kid that’s living in Chelsea, rapidly you sort of get a feeling of what this kid is about. If he’s in the Bronx, it’s another thing. So, it’s rich visually, but it’s also very efficient in storytelling perspective.
Q: What was your familiarity with New York that allowed you to base the screenplay here? Scott: I’ve been to New York a few times, but never lived in New York. But for me, some screenwriters say you should be writing things that you know. I’m more of the school of I think it’s great to be writing things that you would like to know and go out there and discover them, and be passionate about knowing some more. So I was happy to do the research. Come here and discover New York, and bring the story into this reality.
Q: We hear that Vince and Chris (Pratt) have really great chemistry together. Did you chemistry test them at all or did that just happen? Scott: They had never met before we started the rehearsals. But when I met Chris I really felt that they would hit it off, and they did, so it was great.
Q: With “Starbuck” having done so well at festivals, was there anything you thought that you could change now that you’ve had a chance to make the movie again? Scott: It’s strange because I try not to think too much of the original. I didn’t have big frustrations about the original. It was a way smaller budget, but we had success with the firstwhat with the actors and everyone that I work with. It’s very important for me to say two things. First of all, I don’t want this film to be simply a copy of the original. In a sense, you have to stay creative to show the magic onscreen, but then on the other hand, I don’t want to do things different just for the sake of doing things different. I tried to forget the original, to just try and go and tell this story the best way I can. So maybe we’re going to end up at exactly the same place because I think we made good decisions in the original, but for me it wasn’t about comparing, it’s trying to tell this story in the best way possible.
Q: Since the first one was much smaller and now this one is a much bigger Hollywood film, what are you able to do that you weren’t able to do before? Scott: I don’t know. It doesn’t feel much, much different once you get into it, once you come on set, once you’re working with the actors and you’re trying to tell the story. It’s basically the same story. But it doesn’t feel much, much different.
Q: Was there any hesitation on your part on coming back to this? You could have taken your success and gone on to do another project. Did you have to think about it or was it a pretty easy decision? Scott: No hesitation at all. I felt that there was some qualities in the original that I wanted to make sure were back in the remake, where it’s a dramatic comedy. You know, we try to walk a fine line between the drama and the comedy, so I felt that I wanted to do it again and make sure that we had that.
Q: Can you talk about some of the other characters around Vince? And what they bring into this one? And if you brought in any new ones into this one? Scott: Well, one of the great features of doing this project there is David Wozniak/Vince Vaughn is in every single scene. But the other thing that is very exciting about the project is that there’s all these kids. And the kids are all between 18 and 20. So, it’s very exciting for me as a director to be working with people like Vince Vaughn, but also be working with these young kids, some of them who are on set for the first time. And they bring their energy and they have their scenes. They are really excited to be there. We have all these kids that great to work with and that are very talented, and that people will discover most of them, and then there’s Cobie Smulders that plays a cop that’s pregnant. She’s David Wozniak’s girlfriend. Chris Pratt that’s David Wozniak’s lawyer and best friend. And then he has his family. It’s very much a movie aboutobviously about sperm donation, but it’s not just about that. I would say it’s even more an exploration of fatherhood and what fatherhood is all about.
Q: As Vince recently became a father, do you think that personal experience helped him add depth to the character? Scott: Definitely. Well, you would have to ask him. I was under the impression that he felt that he really connected with the material because he’s a father. That was the same thing for me. I have three kids and I felt that I have a whole lot to say about what fatherhood is all about. I think fatherhood has changed in the last 15 or 10 years. Nowadays, you could hear a father say, “Yeah I want to stay home because my wife just had a baby and I want to take care of the baby.” You know, you hear that today. Fifteen years ago that was impossible, so it’s exciting to be informed with what fatherhood is all about today because it has changed.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the tone of this movie? It seems a little bit like a departure for Vince as far as not being straight comedy. Did he bring even more humor to it than the original, or was it always kind of a mixture? Scott: Well, I think naturally this whole project tends to be a dramatic comedy because of what I just said about it’s an exploration of fatherhood. And I feel that fatherhood is very much like a dramatic comedy. There’s some great moments. There’s some funny moments. There’s some more dramatic moments. Naturally, when we stay close to a theme, and we’re all explaining that theme in a hopefully authentic way, naturally we have all those emotions. So I feel that fatherhood really feels like a dramatic comedy.