Delivery Man Set Visit: Director Ken Scott and star Vince Vaughn talk the dangers of being a sperm donor, in theaters this Thanksgiving
Last October, DreamWorks invited us to the set of Delivery Man in New York City. The film stars Vince Vaughn as David Wozniak, an irresponsible forty-two year old about to become a father for what he thinks is the first time. David is in for quite a surprise. As a young man he donated sperm to make some easy money. It turns out that David was quite a popular choice and has unwittingly sired over five hundred children...All within the five boroughs of New York City. Some of the children come together and file a lawsuit to discover the identity of the donor, with one of his offspring - Viggo (Adam Chanler-Berat); discovering David and reaching out to him.
Delivery Man is a remake of the popular French-Canadian Film, Starbuck. Remakes aren't unusual in Hollywood, but Delivery Man's voyage to the silver screen has been much quicker than others. Starbuck was released earlier this year in the US, with Delivery Man set for the fall. Director /writer Ken Scott took Starbuck to the film festival circuit where it won numerous awards and was very popular among audiences. Steven Spielberg saw the film and loved it so much, he asked Ken Scott to direct an American version. Thus Delivery Man was fast tracked, Vince Vaughn was cast as the lead by Ken Scott, and they were filming within months.
We arrived on the set of Delivery Man on the second to last day of shooting. Ken Scott had filmed extensively around the city, with the final days of the shoot in a midtown studio. The studio looked like any other innocuous office building in Manhattan from the outside. For those on the sidewalk, it seemed like another drab building filled with seas of cubicles. Not even close, movie magic sometimes comes from the most unlikely places.
The set for the final shoot was David Wozniak's apartment. We were to witness a climactic scene between David and Viggo, where Viggo, disappointed by David, decides to leave. We were shown a quick tour of the different rooms in the apartment. As a New Yorker, I would kill to have that kind of space. Then were taken to a separate room where we could see the filming on monitors and listen to the dialogue with headphones. We get our first glance of Vince Vaughn as he walks over to say hello. Vince is a really tall guy. He gained a bit of weight for this role and was a bit heavier than the last time I interviewed him. Vince was decked out in a red basketball outfit. His character of David Wozniak lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and plays in a local league representing his parent's store. Vince is an extremely affable guy, very engaging and talkative. He chatted with us a while, took the time to shake everyone's hand and ask our names, which is rare, before he had to return to film. We took our chairs and watched Vince Vaughn and Adam Chanler-Berat in action.
The scene we witnessed was a somewhat emotional one. I won't go into too much detail, but it showed that Delivery Man has dramatic moments. Ken Scott's direction was on point and specific. His French-Canadian accent sounding very wise, almost like a painter with his brush. This point would come out later in our interviews, but everything was scripted. There wasn't any embellishing of lines or off the cuff remarks from the actors. What we saw was purely scripted and well delivered. As the crew reset the cameras for a different take, Ken Scott was ushered in by the unit publicist for a few minutes. He was cordial and had a memorable opening for us:
Ken Scott: I may smell a bit like Vicks, because I'm trying not to get a cold.
So we're visiting the set on the second to last day of shooting?
Ken Scott: Yes, we're finishing on Saturday.
Can you tell us what we're going to see filmed today?
Ken Scott: The story is about a forty-two year old adolescent that discovers that he is the biological father to five hundred and thirty-three kids. They all want to know who he is. This is towards the third act of the movie. It's about one of the kid's that has found him, but no longer wants to be with him.
What was the process of transposing Starbuck, the very successful French Canadian film, to Delivery Man?
Ken Scott: Starbuck, the original movie, came out last year in Quebec, Canada. It was a good success. That was in August. In September, we had a gala presentation at the TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival). That really launched the international career of the movie. The original movie was sold throughout the world and is having a good career. It'll be out in the United States in March (2013). I travelled with the film doing festivals in the United States. We did the Palm Springs Film Festival in January, where we won the audience award. Then we won the audience award in Sonoma and Santa Barbara. What's great was that we saw how an American audience would react to the story. We won all these prizes, so we had a feeling it would connect. We thought that even though the original was still coming out, to make an American version would reach a broader audience. We wanted to find some partners to help us take this story to American culture. We were very fortunate to hook up with Dreamworks. We felt Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider were the right people. They had seen the movie, liked it, and wanted to do the remake; so it was very exciting. Basically, it was to take the story, and to integrate it into American culture, using New York City as the backdrop to tell the story.
And casting Vince Vaughn as your lead?
Ken Scott: This character is in every single scene. It's a dramatic comedy. I needed a strong actor, a charismatic actor. Basically, we're following him through this journey. I felt that Vince was perfect to play this forty-two year old adolescent.
Was he your first choice or did you look at other actors?
Ken Scott: He was the guy I wanted. It was great that Vince reacted to the material and wanted to tell the story.
Vince is a great improv actor. Was he able to add more comedy?
Ken Scott: Well, this script is very story oriented. There's a story to tell. The scenes are written. On this project, he's an actor. He's very interested in telling this story. It's already there on the page. You are right that he's very strong at improvising. We did it a few times. But he was adamant, after the reading the script, that this was a story that needed to be told in this way, in this words. There's a few times where I did identify a few places he could improvise a bit. I was very impressed with what he can do spontaneously.
Can you talk specifically about what you changed to make it fit more into American culture?
Ken Scott: Well, we did it in English. (laughs) That really helped. Instead of soccer, it's basketball. It's the story of five hundred and thirty-three kids that live in the same city. So New York was the perfect place to tell this story. It made it as credible as possible. What's great is that we met all of these kids, and we needed to be as efficient as possible in the storytelling. They live in these different neighborhoods and New York has these different neighborhoods. So if you see a kid living in Chelsea, you have an idea of what he's about. With the Bronx, it's the same thing in a different way. So it's rich visually, and efficient from the story's perspective.
How familiar were you with New York City to place the story here?
Ken Scott: I've been here a few times. I've never lived here. Some screenwriters say that you should write things that you know. I'm more from the school of writing things you would like to know. Then to go out there and discover it, be passionate about it. I was very happy to do the research, to come here and discover New York. Bring the story into this reality.
Was there anything in Starbuck that you weren't satisfied with that you wanted to update in Delivery Man?
Ken Scott: It's strange because I try not to think that much about the original. I didn't have any big frustrations with the film. It was a way smaller budget. We had success. But for this film, it was very important for me to say two things. First, I don't want this to be a copy of the original. We have to stay creative to feel that magic up on screen. But on the other hand, I don't want to be different for the sake of being different. So I tried to forget the original and tell the story in the best fashion. Maybe we're going to end up at the same place because we made some good decisions in the original. But for me it was not about comparing. I'm trying to tell the story in the best way possible.
Ken left us to head and set up the next series of shots. We took a break ourselves and made a beeline to the craft table. The craft table is where all the food is on a set. Today we got lucky, yummy chicken quesadillas and tortillas. You can always tell a film has a decent budget by the food on set. The fact that we had guy schlepping out tortilla goodness shows this isn't an indie-film. With bellies full, we got back to the action, where saw the same scene shot again from different angles. This went on for a little while. It's incredible how much time it takes to shoot mere seconds of film. As Ken took another break to reset the scene, we got out chance to talk to Vince Vaughn. Who I'll say again comes off as a tremendously nice and colloquial guy.
You take a turn for the dramatic in this role. Was it a conscious decision to do a more serious role?
Vince Vaughn: It wasn't really conscious. My sister saw the movie, and said I had to see it. I was working at the time and not very good multi-tasking. When I saw the movie, I really loved it. It was fresh, it was different. It was original in thought and well constructed. I loved the movie. The thing that made me interested in doing it was KEN SCOTT. He wrote and directed it. The fact that he wanted to do it again made it interesting for me. I thought he did a good job on every aspect of the film. I love the material and it's a great part to play. It's interesting because I started in Swingers. Then we did Made, then Return to Paradise - the smaller, dramatic films. Then when Todd Phillips wanted to cast me in Old School, the studio didn't want to cast me because they thought I couldn't do comedy; because I had done more dramatic stuff. I did Old School, then Wedding Crashers, and they were all fun movies. I don't know why, but I've never worked with the idea that I need to do this to show people. I've never done a good job of planning. I do think that you wake up at some point, for me anyway, where you've done similar kinds of films for a while. Then you feel like I don't have something fresh to do. I took a lot of time off after Couples Retreat. My wife was having a baby and I was tired. I wasn't motivated. Now that I'm doing stuff again, I wouldn't say I've made an effort to do different things; but I am motivated to try. Even The Internship I see as very timely. There are guys that lose everything. Their jobs go extinct and their skill set doesn't keep up with today's technology. I feel like that has heavier ground. It's funny, but comes from a more human place. What I like with this one is that it's a funny concept. A guy wakes up and realizes the sperm he donated actually went somewhere. And now he has five hundred kids. At eighteen, he wasn't thinking of consequences. He's getting paid $35 to go into an air conditioned room. Now it's like, what a minute, I have five hundred kids (laughs). It's about being a parent, being a child, it's about life. It's a really funny concept as a way into it.
Was it a coincidence that this film came to you as you became a father?
Vince Vaughn: As a parent, you have a lot of hope that your kid will be enthusiastic, finding something they love to do. You also have a fear of them getting caught up in stuff that's not as rewarding. What's fun about the movie is that there are so many kids. You play out all of those anxieties. This kid's doing well. This kid needs some guidance. As a dad, it really hit me, all of those things where going through my life.
Are you worried with Starbuck coming out early in the year, then Delivery Man coming out in the fall, that these releases are too close together?
Vince Vaughn: I don't think so. The great thing about Ken doing this movie again is that it's like a play. There are different spices in the mix. Again, what made me so interested was how much Ken wanted this. He really cares. Each take matters to me him. It's important to him. I don't worry about that as much. For me it's a really powerful, great story. The young actors that they've gotten are all interesting. I think people that saw the first film will want to see this New York version of it. And people who haven't seen the first will love the concept and the DNA of the movie. I guess it's like a song. Someone sings a song, and you love it, but I'd be interested to hear another person cover it; especially if it was the same composer doing it with different instruments.
Why is this film called Delivery Man, and the original Starbuck?
Vince Vaughn: I believe that name meant something more in Montreal. It was a famous bull that was a breeder. Here the name stays the same as the name he does it under, but the title became Delivery Man.
There's been a lot of talk of New York being a character in this film. How important was it to shoot here?
Vince Vaughn: That's one of the primary reasons I wanted to do the movie was to shoot if here. I felt that the story really lends itself to a place that has a lot of different neighborhoods and lifestyles. That's what's great about this version of the movie. There are so many different places that we get to. Logistically it makes sense, but we get to see these different worlds. I think that's a big deal. Then you have the visuals and energy of the city. It really affects the particulars of this family being from Greenpoint. Other places started coming up with rebates, so you need a good reason to film in New York or California. There's a rebate here, but it doesn't compete with other places like Louisiana and Georgia. Georgia is where folks are filming. Michigan for a while had a big rebate. It's nice to be able to shoot here, but the studio will go where they can keep their budgets lower. It's out of our control, but thankfully the studio was willing to place us here.
This is the first film for many of the young actors that play your children. What was it like to work with them?
Vince Vaughn: For me it was awesome. Young actors are really enthusiastic. It means a lot to them. They are excited to be there. They get to play such extreme scenes. It's a lot of fun for me to watch them. They love acting. That's the reason why they're doing it. It's great to see them play these different parts, because this material isn't out there these days. Whether it's the girl struggling with addiction or the boy who wants to win a part, there are great vignettes. It was a lot of fun.
Ken has said that the film is really shot from the script, and there's little to no improvisation. How has that been for you?
Vince Vaughn: Not really, this improv thing isn't understood and has become crazy. When I did improv it was in Chicago with Second City. It was a real craft. It was understood you were not only getting up and saying stuff but connecting on concepts, and telling a story with a beginning, middle, and end. All of the great screenwriters of this time, Tina Fey, Jon Favreau, they all came from that background. But it was a concept that added up to story. To me, improv is listening, being in your character, and being committed to what's happening. I love to say my lines. I don't improvise as much as people think. But our style was to take what's scripted and do it in a fresh way, do something fun. But some people think improv is just doing the craziest thing. What's the most shocking thing I can say. That's got nothing to do with the story. I hear about these people who say we did a lot of improv, and just filmed and filmed and filmed. I don't understand that. There's a time and place for everything. In this movie, there's a couple scenes I played around. I don't know if it will be in the movie and that's not important. Sometimes the improvisation is just to get back to the lines, or explore something that may be coming out in a later scene. This script is excellent. It doesn't need anything else. I'm a trained actor. I did improv at a young age. I'm glad I was able to perform, but I stopped after three months. It wasn't my calling. I never went travelling with troupes. I also studied Shakespeare and much more traditional dramatic acting. I consider myself an actor first and foremost. What happened to me is that we started doing these comedies, and the younger generation started thinking it must be improv. But I don't think a lot of them know what they're doing and these schools that have sprung up teaching it don't understand it. The sketches that you play are tools that you use to tell a complete story. Another thing I get a kick out off is this weight loss. People will gain a ton of weight or lose a ton of weight, but are still boring as fuck to watch. (laughs)