When director Ken Scott asked his longtime friend and actor Patrick Huard to star in his new French-language movie “Starbuck,” the 44-year-old Canadian wasn’t immediately sold.
“He said it’s about a guy who gave a lot of sperm and he’s actually the father of 533 kids. And we thought of you to play the part,” Huard told me during an interview this week. “I didn’t know if it was good that he thought of me for that part.”
But after reading the script, Huard, who has appeared in more than two dozen French films and television shows, was sold. “It was like reading a novel,” he said. “Five minutes afterwards, I was over the phone with Ken saying I absolutely want to do this movie. There’s no way I’m not doing it.”
“Starbuck” tells the fictional story of David Wozniak, a man whose frequent donations to a Quebec sperm bank (and a bank error) in 1988 result in the birth of 533 children all genetically linked to him. Twenty-some years later, 142 of those children join a class-action lawsuit to uncover the identity of the anonymous donor known as “Starbuck.” Although he resists at first, David soon begins investigating the lives of his litigant offspring and finds himself hopelessly invested in helping them with their life problems. As it turns out, it is David, who has hit a financial and romantic dead end in his own life, who benefits most.
Huard and I continued our chat about this charming, clever and surprisingly funny film (which is now open theatrically in select cities) as we talked about parenthood, coffee and the upcoming “Starbuck” remake.
David Onda: How often do you get asked whether this is a movie about coffee?
Patrick Huard: [laughs] At the beginning [in Canada], it didn’t last long. We have Starbucks here, but everybody knows about this bull that we had in the ’80s that was sort of a national pride. This bull was so fertile, at a certain point he was responsible for one part of the cows in North America, and he was insured by the government for $25 million or something like that. So it was easy to say, “No, no, no, it’s not the coffee, it’s the bull.” But when I was in the States promoting the movie, a lot of people were asking “Why Starbuck? What’s the link here?”
Onda: The main character just loves caramel macchiatos, that’s all.
Huard: [laughs] Yeah! Woody Allen had a movie called “Bananas.” And everybody was asking him, “Why ‘Bananas’?” And he said, “Because there was no bananas in it.”
Onda: In the beginning of the film, David is stuck in a funk. He’s not a bad person. He’s a good man. So, how does he hit this dead end in his life?
Huard: He’s just that kind of guy who can make a really long string of bad decisions one after the other. That’s the kind of guy. We all know somebody like this, somebody that we love that just seems to – every time he has the choice between the right and wrong, he chooses the wrong. And every time he does choose the wrong path, he does it with all of his heart because he thinks it’s the right one. That’s why we keep loving those people. We all have a friend or relative that we go, “I can’t believe he did that. It’s impossible that he really sat down, thought about it, and thought it was the right thing to do. It’s crazy.” Those people exist. But David is, like, the king of them. The reason why he does that is because he hasn’t found himself yet. He doesn’t know what he’s good at. And it happened to be being a father. He’s a great father. He’s great at human relationships. It’s just that he found out a little late.
Onda: Were there elements of this character that you could personally relate to?
Huard: Actually, a lot. What I love about this movie is it’s exactly my perception of man romanticism. Men are not about music and flowers and saying the right thing at the right time. We’re not like that. We’re doing stuff that, sometimes, nobody knows we’re doing for somebody, because it’s easier for us to do stuff than to represent stuff or say stuff. And I can totally relate to that. Sometimes I don’t know what to say to my wife or my kids, I’m not sure I can say the right thing at the right time, but one thing I know is I can do something. I can be there for them, I can wait for my daughter to get out of her piano lessons for an hour and a half in the parking lot and just being happy to see her smile when she gets out. That’s the kind of thing that men do. And sometimes I think it’s underestimated, because it’s a lot of love, it’s just expressed differently.
Onda: Despite their mistakes, David’s kids are good, decent people. There’s not a mean-spirited one in the bunch. Is this a statement about nature vs. nurture? Are these 142 kids genetically predisposed to be good people because David is?
Huard: That’s a good question. I never thought about that. I think it’s just Ken’s point of view about life, and that’s something we share. I totally love human beings and humans for what they are in everything. That’s why I never judge one of my characters. I’ve played serial killers, I’ve played a lot of weird stuff, but I never judge my characters. I take for granted that everybody, in 100% of situations in their lives, is absolutely sure that they’re doing the right thing. Those kids – they’re young, they’re looking for something, they don’t know who they are yet and they hope for the better. And I think it’s something that every kid has in common.
Onda: Do you imagine that David maintains his relationship with any or all of these kids after the movie ends?
Huard: Yeah. For me, he does. For sure. And for real. He’s the kind of guy who will want to see his kids every Sunday and make a huge barbecue that will put him in debt even deeper. [laughs] He’s the kind of guy who would do that to see his kids and play with them and chat with them. I can totally imagine him with his Facebook page, chatting with all of them all day long, trying to figure out their problems and answering their questions and trying a way to be this super dad.
Onda: Ken just finished filming an English-language remake of “Starbuck” starring Vince Vaughn. Is it hard for you to let go of the character and know someone else is playing it?
Huard: Actually, it is. It is, because I’m so proud of this character, but I totally understand why. At first, it was tougher than it is now. Now I can see it as – I see that script was so good and that part is so great, I see it as sort of a, let’s say, a symphony. I was just very fortunate to be the first one to play some of those instruments. And somebody else will play it. But the thing that makes a lot of difference to me is the fact that Ken is directing the movie. If somebody else directed the movie, I would feel like, “Ehh.” But I’m so proud he’s the one that directed it. It doesn’t happen often that they wanna do a remake and they actually ask you to do it. Usually they say, “Your movie was great, so somebody else will do it.” [laughs] And they didn’t do that, and I’m very proud for Ken and I’m sure he did an amazing job and the remake will be great.
“Starbuck” is now open in limited theatrical release. Click here to order tickets through Fandango.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.