Back in December, Movies.com was invited to the New York City set of writer-director Ken Scott's Delivery Man – an American update to his well-received 2011 French-Canadian film Starbuck. The movie stars Vince Vaughn as David Wozniak, a 42-year-old perma-adolescent working at his family’s meat shop in Brooklyn, who discovers he's fathered 533 children through anonymous fertility clinic donations in his 20s. Upon being told the news, he begins to come out of his shell and play something of a secret guardian angel to his offspring, but is forced to confront his demons when 142 of them file a lawsuit to unveil his identity. Delivery Man also costars Chris Pratt as Vaughn's lawyer and best friend, Brett, and Cobie Smulders as Vaughn's love interest, Emma.
The set visit was intimate and relaxed, with both Scott and Vaughn (decked out in a red-and-white Wozniak Meats basketball uniform) joining a small group of journalists to chat at length about the project, and allowing us a glimpse at the filming of several key scenes, which included a heated confrontation between Vaughn and his son Viggo (played by Adam Chanler-Berat).
The scene was shot in Wozniak's apartment, with him coming in from playing basketball alone in the rain to discover Viggo in his living room. Watching Vaughn work through each take, it's clear he has a background in improvisation and comedy – despite the film's more dramatic nature, Vaughn lightened the tension of the scene by tap-dancing after cuts, and slightly altering each take with nuanced mannerisms and inflections – at times he'd exclaim, "I'm gonna have fun with this one!”
We were also able to tour the set. Vaughn, commandeering a makeup chair surrounded by laughing crew members, warmly welcomed us, asking where we were from and offering us a walk-through of his character's apartment. He's just as you'd expect – upbeat, talkative and enthusiastic about his work, with an infectious energy capable of launching anyone in his radius into a fit of giggles. Wozniak's Greenpoint, Brooklyn apartment space was cluttered with sports memorabilia and lined with exposed brick, books stacked in random bunches throughout the rooms. There was a dedicated area of files related to his 533 kids, one sheets with photos and basic information plastered across a large wall. The mix of clutter, vintage furniture and gaming equipment gave the space a decidedly Brooklyn bachelor feel.
After the tours and the chats, here are a few things we learned about Delivery Man during our visit:
Why Remake Starbuck?
Scott was energized by the fact that Starbuck was such a hit – it was well received on the festival scene, and Scott said the film’s gala presentation at the Toronto International Film Festival, "Launched the international career of the movie." After winning various audience awards here in the States, he realized the film would be well received by American audiences, so he wanted to breathe new life into it with a remake. DreamWorks ended up loving the original, and picking up the rights. The end result, Scott said, is, "To take the same story… but it's an American version. The whole work for me was to simply integrate this story into the American culture, and really use New York as a backdrop to tell the story." In that vein, Scott reiterated he's not just remaking the film for remake's sake. "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 of on-screen," he says. "I tried to forget the original, to just try and go and tell this story the best way I can. For me, it wasn’t about comparing, it’s trying to the tell this story in the best way possible."
"I feel like it’s a very powerful, great story," said Vaughn. "I think people into the first one will be interested in seeing this New York version of it. I think people who haven’t seen the first one will love the concept and ultimately really love what the DNA of the movie is about. I guess it’s like a song… you love it, but I’d be interested if I like the song to hear someone else cover it, especially if it was the same composer doing it with different instruments."
What Attracted Vaughn to the Role
Despite his comedic reputation, Vaughn also has dramatic chops (as evidenced by some of his earlier roles in Return to Paradise, Clay Pigeons and Psycho) – and this movie is the perfect opportunity for him to showcase the unique mixture of comedy and drama that is being a father. He was also Scott's first choice for the role. "I needed someone who had great skills with comedy," he said. "I needed a charismatic actor, a very strong actor, because basically we are following him through this journey. I thought that Vince was perfect." Vaughn first saw Starbuck after his sister recommended it to him. "I really loved it because it was fresh," said Vaughn. "It was different than a lot of things that you see. It was original in thought, and I thought it was really well constructed. I loved the movie. The thing that made me interested in doing this was Ken, the fact that he wrote it and directed it and that he wanted to do it again is what made it exciting for me, because I really thought he did a good job on every aspect of the film."
When pressed about this move from comedy to drama, Vaughn admitted that early on in his career, he was almost passed up for comedic roles because all he'd done was drama. "I remember when Todd [Phillips] wanted to put me in Old School, they didn’t want to hire me because they didn’t think I could do comedy ‘cause I had gotten more dramatic stuff," said Vaughn. "But then I did Old School and all those movies – Dodgeball, Wedding Crashers – they all were fun movies… but I don’t work from a place of saying 'I need to do this or show people.' I probably didn’t do a very good job even of planning 'I’m going to do this movie and then that movie.' I would just like something and then I would want to go do it. I do think you wake up at some point where you maybe… for me anyway… you’ve done a similar kind of film for a while or stuff that’s kind of the same."
A Thin Line Between Reality and Fiction
Scott and Vaughn also took the material personally, being fathers themselves. "I was under the impression that he [Vaughn] felt that he really connected with the material because… he’s a father," said Scott. "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." Vaughn cited the serendipity of the role coming to him when he first became a father as being "powerful" and, explained, "As a dad, as a parent, you have a lot of hopes… mainly about your kid being enthusiastic about something that they love to do, having self-respect, being surrounded by good people. And then you have a fear of them getting caught up in stuff that’s maybe not as rewarding or as connected. So I think what’s fun about the movie is that through the different kids, because there are so many, you play out all of those anxieties or hopes of this kid’s doing well or this kid’s really in a bad spot. You start to realize the difference of believing in someone or feeling like there’s going to be a tomorrow can go a long way for folks that don’t feel like they have that messaging in their life. I felt like as a dad, it really hit me because all those things were going through my mind of 'What’s the life going to be like for these kids?'"
The Tricky Art of Improvisation
Since the film has an established story, both Scott and Vaughn were most interested in what was scripted on the page, but Scott calls Vaughn, "A very strong improviser." He did allow Vaughn to go off the cuff a few times, and was, "Very, very, very impressed by what he can do just spontaneously."
Vaughn had much to say on the subject, calling improv, "misunderstood." "It’s become this thing that’s this crazy thing, but when I did improv in Chicago where Second City and all that came out of, where all those guys came out of before there was a Saturday Night Live… it was a real craft that was understood that you were not just getting up and doing a scene and saying something crazy, but that you were connecting concepts and telling a story with a beginning, a middle and an end," he said. "So there was a concept within that that you were playing characters, but it was adding up to a story. So to me, improv is really listening, it’s really being in your character and committed to being able to react to what’s happening. I love to say the lines. I don’t improvise as much as people think, but our style would be that if you have what’s scripted, sometimes it’s fun to see if there’s a different way--a fresh way--to get to the same thing. But some people think that improv is 'What’s the craziest thing I can say? What’s the most shocking thing I can say?' but it has nothing to do with the story. I hear there are these people that they film and they say they’ve shot so much footage—they just film and film and film—I don’t understand that. It’s like you’re just hoping to find something that’s weird or a moment that’s weird to put in there, and it’s a very different process, whereas if you shoot what you have and then you play around a little bit or sometimes, you’ll even improvise that morning and then you’ll shoot what you improvise that morning. It’s more systematic I guess. But there’s a time and a place for everything."
Creating Pratt and Vaughn's Unique Bond
Scott didn't chemistry test the two, but he had a feeling they'd make a perfect on-screen duo. As far as creating a relationship that seems established, Vaughn said, "I think everyone has a different process, and you try to respect their process and you try to find your way in. About this one, Chris asked me to go out one night just to hang out and talk, so that was good. He’s a new father himself and just kind of like many people just talked about our backgrounds, hopes and fears and where we’re at and what we thought of the state of affairs of the world and all that kind of stuff, and just kind of spend some time -- it’s nice to have that, because you’re more comfortable around somebody. A lot of it is that I always think that the best gift you have as an actor is your imagination, so a lot of it is done on your own, building a backstory or however you get there so you’re creating those realities so when you get there it’s not like you’re just new. You kind of daydream, if you will, and create stories in the past or things you’ve been through or stuff, so it informs you when they say stuff. You think of actual events that have happened that brings you back, which may be a good thing or you were frustrated already. There’s lots of different ways, but that was sort of our approach that we had."
Updating the Film for an American Audience
The most obvious change is that Delivery Man is in English (Starbuck is a French-language film), but there are other more nuanced differences in the update. For example: instead of Wozniak being on a soccer team (in Starbuck), he's on a basketball team. And the film is set in New York City, which allows for all the kids to reside in the same area, but also for neighborhoods and boroughs to help define their personalities. "If you see a kid that's living in Chelsea, rapidly you sort of get a feeling of what this kid is about," says Scott. "If he’s in the Bronx, it’s another thing. So, it’s rich visually, but it’s also very efficient in storytelling perspective."
Delivery Man hits theaters November 22, 2013.
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