Interview: Ken Scott and Patrick Huard, director and star of 'Starbuck'
The French Canadian comedy about a former sperm donor who discovers he has 533 children is being remade by Scott as an American film starring Vince Vaughn
In Ken Scott’s funny and poignant “Starbuck,” Patrick Huard stars as David Wozniak, a 42-year-old lovable loser who finally decides to take control of his life. A habitual sperm donor in his youth, he suddenly discovers that he’s the biological father of 533 children, many of whom are engaged in a legal battle to force the fertility clinic to reveal the true identity of the prolific donor code-named Starbuck. The film, written by Scott and Martin Petit and co-starring Julie Le Breton as David’s long-suffering girlfriend who finds out that she’s pregnant, was a huge hit in Canada. Ken Scott was subsequently hired by DreamWorks to make an English-language version of the film that will star Vince Vaughn as the hapless sperm donor. I spoke with Scott and Huard in Los Angeles on the eve of the film’s U.S. release.
MSN Movies: I really enjoyed the film but I wondered what it was like for you to cast the actor who played the younger David who had to make the “deposits” at the fertility clinic.
Ken Scott: I have to say that casting that actor was the most disturbing thing I’ve ever done! To be directing a guy in that scene and telling him, “Do it this way. No, not that way!” I kept thinking, “What am I doing here?” Believe me, I tried to audition the fewest number of guys as possible!
Patrick Huard: (Laughs.) Yeah, you don’t want to get a reputation all over town: “Did you masturbate for Ken Scott?”
I thought you did a great job making David redeemable since he starts off as such a screw-up. Was that a challenging tightrope to walk?
Ken: Yes, we were very aware of the possibility that this situation could be perceived as too dark or disturbing so we really had to make sure when we were writing it that the character could still be likable even though he’s made one bad decision after another. That’s partly why we chose Patrick.
Patrick: I’m so lovable!
Ken: You are! And very good with comedy.
Of course even though David makes all those bad decisions he’s more clueless than mean-spirited which is why his evolution is believable.
Ken: Exactly! My co-writer, Martin Petit, and I have known each other since college, and we definitely referenced some of our friends from back then—not that I’m going to name any names! But we knew people like David and his best friend the lawyer who was played by Antoine Bertrand.
Oh, I loved that character! I guess if you have any friends from back then who were fat they’re going to think he was based on them!
Ken: (Laughs.) Woops! We’re in trouble! But I love that character, too. The film was designed as an exploration of all facets of fatherhood, so we decided to give him four kids and no wife!
Patrick: One trick I’ve used as an actor when I’ve played people who do crazy things is to never, ever judge them. I think everyone who does something thinks it’s the right thing to do as they’re doing it so every time I feel like I’m about to start judging, I make myself snap out of it. That’s not my job—it’s the audience’s, I’m just trying to be a human being. It’s a great job to explore all of those emotions that you’d never get to connect with in your real life and to try to make them believable.
And this is a great film for that since here’s all these people from different walks of life who suddenly find they have a connection to this guy.
Patrick: Right. They all have one thing in common and it’s this ridiculous slacker! I love that!
I know that I only have two kids and that takes every ounce of emotional and physical strength that I have! I can’t even imagine how I’d respond if I suddenly had hordes of people coming at me wanting some kind of connection!
Patrick: Well, as Ken has said, sometimes two kids can feel like 533—at least on certain mornings!
Ken, did you base the character of David on any of real-life person?
Ken: What happened was my that my co-writer Martin came up with this idea of a guy having all these kids so we came up with this arbitrary number—let’s say he’d have 150. And each day we came in to write we’d struggle with that number. Is it too much? Will people believe it? But six weeks into the process it came out in the news that there was this guy who had 250 kids because of something like that that happened at a fertility clinic! Then we did more research and found that there really was a guy with over 500 kids!
Did you think, “Uh-oh, this is in the news, someone’s going to write this movie before us?”
Ken: Yes, we felt an urgency, we kept wondering why no one had tapped into this! But we moved pretty fast. Between the original idea and the movie coming out was about two years.
Patrick: That is lightning fast for any film project!
Ken: What’s strange is that even though every talk show was covering the story when it first hit the news, people seemed to have forgotten about it! Now there’s a new case in Vancouver that is pretty similar to our story.
There will probably be more.
Ken: Without being judgmental, I think the movie does touch on the fact that we should really address this somehow. There was a quote in the New York Times recently that said there are more rules and regulations that come into play when you buy a used car in the United States than when you buy sperm!
Yeah, sperm and guns are super easy to get down here!
Patrick: Wow, that’s kind of a weird combination!
Ken: In Canada, it’s actually changed a lot in the past several years. I don’t think you get paid anymore for donating.
Patrick: But now there’s something very fashionable called “artisanal donors.”
What? You mean making sure that your donor has a great IQ and is a perfect physical specimen?
Patrick: It ‘s more than that! The guy actually “performs” the donation live for you, if you know what I mean. And he gets paid for that!
Huh? We call that something else! Ken, I’ve talked to directors whose films were being remade in English but I’ve never heard of a foreign writer-director getting to do the American film himself, and so soon! Isn’t that pretty unusual?
Ken: Yes, it has been a bit bizarre! The only thing I can think of to compare it with is like putting on a wet bathing suit. You’re like, “Whoa! That feels very weird!” But then it warms up and it’s okay!
Is the new film already finished?
Ken: I’m in post-production right now.
Patrick, how do you feel about Vince Vaughn taking over your role?
Patrick: I think he’ll be great! I just watched “Into the Wild” again and Vaughn’s character in that reminded me of David—kind of a bum but a father and really good with people. And, of course, he’s so great with comedy.
You two should make a film together where you’re brothers.
Patrick: That would be fantastic!
Ken: Ooh, that’s a great idea!
Patrick: Let’s do it! One’s from New York, one’s from Montreal, but they had the same father and didn’t know it!
Or maybe their father was just an "artisanal" sperm donor!
“Starbuck” is currently playing in limited release. Check your listings to see if it's coming to your city.