'Mr. Dad's' quirky debut lets walking do the talking

They say that every face tells a story. But, in the quirky world of Paul Dooley, footwear can do it better.  


They say that every face tells a story. But, in the quirky world of Paul Dooley, footwear can do it better.


The veteran Hollywood actor’s directorial debut, Head Over Heels — a half-hour film that kicks off the World of Comedy Film Festival in Toronto this Friday — literally turns the conventional romantic drama on its feet.


In this boy-meets-girl tale set in the 1930s, the characters are only seen from waist down as their shoes do all the talking, leading to much hilarity.


Inspired by how films have traditionally used close-ups of boots stepping out of a limo or hands grabbing a gun to introduce key characters or heighten the drama, Dooley was drawn to making a “funny” film revolving around limbs.

“But, then I started limiting myself and I thought that feet are funnier than hands and ears. My original title for it was Socks,” Dooley says.

It took the 82-year-old thespian a little while to get to his maiden project. Dooley blames this delayed creative spurt partly on “procrastination” and partly on his busy career.

Known for his critically acclaimed “dad” roles in films such as Breaking Away and Runaway Bride, Dooley has also had successful stints on TV’s Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Curb Your Enthusiasm, as well as Emmy-nominated roles on HBO’s Dream On and The Practice.
But the character that rings a bell with most people is his turn as Molly Ringwald’s understanding father in the ’80s cult favourite Sixteen Candles.

“Women who are thirty-ish now but were about 16 then just rave about it and tell me that ‘I wish you were my dad,’” Dooley says.

While Dooley is proud of being the quintessential on-screen father figure and is a real-life dad to four children, he is a little hesitant about professional mentoring — a lesser-known side of Dooley that will be on display at his workshop “Improv for Character Actors” at Toronto’s Second City Training Centre, prior to his film screening.

“Leave me alone” is his first wry response when asked about his best advice for young, upcoming talent. But, just like the curmudgeonly but well-meaning pop who bails out the kids in the end, Dooley ultimately offers his words of wisdom. “Many people get out of high school and want to get into television. But, you have to develop some chops. Work in a church basement, do a play, do a one-act. The point is to keep doing it,” Dooley says.

For now, Dooley intends to heed his own advice. He plans to make more films with his son, Adam, take them around the festival circuit and even put them on YouTube. Looks like Mr. Dad is not ready to hang up his boots yet.