Ken Scott's new film Starbuck may have an improbable premise, but the story of a middle-aged man who discovers he's fathered 533 kids through a sperm bank is very much grounded in real-life emotions, the director says.
Scott (who previously directed Les doigts croches) and his star, Montreal legend Patrick Huard (of Bon Cop, Bad Cop fame) sat down with The Globe when their film premiered at last month's Toronto International Film Festival to discuss fatherhood, emotional roller coasters and why they think every movie should be a dramatic comedy.
What was it about this story that attracted you?
Scott: It had great potential for comedy – and was also a chance to write about fatherhood. What's great about that is I have three kids, and Martin Petit, who co-wrote the film, also has kids. We had the impression we had a lot to say about fatherhood. And there's something that seems to have changed in society about the job of being a father.
What do you think the movie says about fatherhood?
Scott: We didn't want this movie to come over like something preachy – "This is the way you should be a father!" It's more an exploration of what fatherhood is. We wanted to visit all kinds of different situations where Patrick's character is acting as if he were a father, and then he becomes a father.
Huard: And if there's one thing that you can actually learn about fatherhood from this movie it is, first, step up and be there. The second is, adapt. The character adapts to all of these kids and tries to give them his best.
Which all sounds very lovely. But it's also a comedy with some very funny moments.
Scott: When we wrote the script, we had the decision to say, 'Okay, this will be a dramatic comedy.' It makes you eliminate some of the comedy and it makes you eliminate some of the drama. It's a type of movie that I like to write.
Patrick, do you find you gravitate to that kind of comedy?
Huard: It's something we have in common. We come from the same background. We were comedians before doing live shows and everything. I don't talk about the bad food on airplanes. That's not what I do. I talk about death, money, religion, racial problems and stuff like that. That's what makes me laugh, because it comes from the heart. Sometimes it hurts and sometimes it's shocking. But you take an audience and put them through this roller-coaster ride. That's why the movie works for me, because it's real. In life, in very dramatic situations, you can laugh your butt off because something just happened that you didn't expect. And sometimes it's the other way around.
Is that what you look for in roles, something that's true to life?
Huard: When you're young you want to challenge yourself so bad you can accept parts that don't fit you at all. You want to prove to everybody that you have this great, wide range as an actor. I think you should do what you can be good at. Sometimes it's something you never did. Sometimes it's something you do, and I'm good at comedy. It's my background and I'm proud of this. And not only am I proud of this, there are fewer actors that can do comedy. So why run away from comedy?
This interview has been condensed and edited.
Starbuck is currently playing in Toronto and a number of Quebec cities. It screens this week at the Vancouver International Film Festival.