- French-language "Starbuck" undergoes a Hollywood remake
- American version will be called "Delivery Man" and star Vince Vaughn
- The film is about a sperm-donor who has fathered hundreds of children
Plenty of French comedies have been adapted for the American audience ("Three Men and a Baby," "Dinner for Schmucks" and "The Birdcage" among others). But French-Canadian comedies? Not so much.
"Starbuck" is the rare Québécois film that will get the Hollywood treatment. The story of a prolific sperm donor who learns he has fathered more than 500 children will open next fall under the title "Delivery Man," with Vince Vaughn in the starring role.
But months before "Delivery Man" comes out, American moviegoers are getting a chance to see the French-language original. "Starbuck" is about to expand to theaters in Dallas, Houston and other cities after opening in New York, Los Angeles and Boston. It's earned positive reviews from many American critics including The Washington Post's Michael O'Sullivan, who called the film a crowd-pleaser with "charm to burn."
The Post and The New York Times praised actor Patrick Huard's performance as David Wozniak (the Vaughn role), an affable underachiever who only learns of his prodigious reproductive record after 142 of his offspring file a class action suit seeking to reveal the identity of the donor known only as Starbuck.
"We felt that it was a great premise to explore what fatherhood is all about today," says director and co-writer Ken Scott.
In a conversation with CNN in Los Angeles, Scott and his star described "Starbuck" as the rare comedy that translates across cultures.
"We've had a great success in Quebec and now the film is traveling throughout the world," Scott said. "Comedies don't always travel as well as other genres, so it's a pleasant surprise."
Huard attributes the film's widespread appeal to its earnest tone.
"When you have the tagline, 'This guy is the father of 533 kids,' you're expecting a kind of, maybe almost goofy comedy. And that's not the case (with this film)," he told CNN. "The movie (is) actually touching and more human than just being funny. I think people responded very well to that ... And I think that's why it talks to people outside of Montreal and Quebec -- it's just universal themes."
That universal quality apparently wasn't lost on the people at DreamWorks, who snapped up the English-language rights. Scott adapted his original script (co-written with Martin Petit). In another coup, DreamWorks also tapped him to direct the remake.
"We felt that there was that potential to have a movie made here with the American culture -- with this story but with the American culture embedded into it," Scott said.
Scott wouldn't reveal what changes he made for Hollywood other than the title (the studio perhaps thinking "Starbuck" would suggest a film about coffee). But given how middle-of-the-road many American comedies can be, it seems unlikely "Delivery Man" will begin, as "Starbuck" does, with a masturbation scene.
The constant between both films is the main character's journey -- from carefree lug to a guy with greater maturity who tries to play a positive role in the lives of his many, many children.
Scott expresses surprise at how quickly the Hollywood version came together, right down to casting the leading man.
"We hooked up right away with Vince Vaughn and he was great. He loved the story, loved the original, and he had a window of availability for us in September (2012), so it all just happened very smoothly," Scott said.
Huard praises his American counterpart.
"I've seen a lot of Vince Vaughn's comedies, like 'Made' and 'Swingers.' The guy is great. I think it's going to be a great part for him."
Huard denies feeling proprietary about the role he originated.
"A part is a part," he told CNN. "It's like music. I happen to be the luckiest guy because I was the first to play that symphony, but there'll be a remake also in France and one in India in a Bollywood kind of way, and I think I'm just privileged to be the first to do it. But it's such a great part I'm very happy that it's going to be played again but in a different way."
"Delivery Man" is due for release in October. Scott said if this new version meets with success, it will be icing on the cake.
"Our greatest expectations have been exceeded a long time ago."