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Interview: Vince Vaughn for "Starsky & Hutch"

By Paul Fischer Friday March 5th 2004 12:05AM
Vince Vaughn for "Starsky & Hutch"

Vince Vaughan loves to be bad - on screen at least. Since bursting into the public arena in Swingers, Vaughan has established himself at part leading man, part character actor. In Starsky and Hutch he has a ball as the villain, but like everything, he takes it very seriously, as Paul Fischer discovered.

Question: Is there a trick to playing a villain in a comedy? Answer: I don't know. I saw this character in this movie [Starsky and Hutch] as really kind of the foundation of the movie, something to service the movie in that I never liked in comedic movies where the villain's kind of petting some strange bread of animal. You just don't take them seriously at all. But at the same time, you really can't play it extremely heavy because it doesn't belong in the movie. It's from a different movie. So I saw Reese very much as someone who would be grounded. The plot of the movie isn't the focus. The focus is more sort of the circumstances that these characters of these characters get in.. At the same time, you have to cut to the antagonist and check in with that going on because it's ultimately how you tie the movie up. So I sort of treat it like just kind of do your background, know who your character is and then be present within the scene and play it simple and real. Sometimes it would lean more on the comedic side, like if you're pointing the gun at yourself and that kind of stuff, but still be based in reality. And then sometimes, when you shoot the guy, I think it's important because you tell the audience that someone can die in the movie. It is possible for someone to die, so you can't completely not take it seriously.

Question: Is he the baddest villain you've played? Answer: No. Norman Bates is kind of a bad villain. I think Lester Long is probably the baddest villain I ever played.

Question: How do you develop the unsympathetic portrayal of these types of characters? Answer: I'm always more interested in that because I like doing stuff that's kind of more extreme. It's make believe and it's more fun to play that. The main thing I've always done is you really don't put a judgement on it. It's like in life too. You don't worry about being liked. You have to be yourself. So when I play a character like that, he always thinks what he's doing is fine. It's the same thing as Swingers in a way for a guy that's comedic and likeable. He's so committed to how many days you wait to call a girl back and this kind of stuff, but it's funny. And in this thing, he's like, "Okay, look, I'm not going to kill him again. Are you happy? Let's move on, let's talk about something else." So he doesn't put a judgement on things that most people would, and that's where the comedy or the unlikeability comes from is just kind of an okay, this, obviously if he's doing this stuff, he feels all right about it.

Question: Where did the sense of playing unlikeable characters come from since Swingers? Answer: Just really loving acting and wanting to do something that's different. My favourite time in film for me as a kid was the movies that were made in the '70s. A lot of those characters, even the protagonists were very flawed or antihero's not a totally fitting word, but not people that were okay, this is a good guy or this is a bad guy, but people that had good pros and cons about those sides of them. So for me it's more fun. It's always fun to play someone who's more extreme than someone who's straight down the middle.

Question: Are you surprised Swingers continues to be popular? Answer: Yeah, you know, it was made in such an innocent plays where sadly, in some ways, I guess, it was based on what me and Jon were going through. A lot of people at that times were making movies sort of making themselves out to be cool and tough or these things. And me and Jon really told a story that we knew that was truthful for us which was being actors that were out of work and playing a lot of video games, pretending to know a lot about girls but really not knowing all that much ultimately. So I think there's something universal that people watching it can relate to. There's something accessible that we can understand. My favourite scene from the movie is when Jon Calls that girl six times. It's so painful, but it's so relateable. I think even though the swing scene might not be as popular, thought it wasn't nationwide as much at the time, those things are sort of universal so that's what sort of stands the test of time. It really is a tribute to Favreau. I think even the success of the movie Elf that did very well, that movie doesn't have necessarily the major set piece laughs that a lot of comedies have, but you very much connect to Will's character and root for him and invest in that feeling of wanting to believe in something. And that's Jon's real strong point is tracking some very simple human conditions in a very truthful way and having some people invest in it.

Question: Will you work together again? Answer: Yeah, we have a couple things that we wanted to do. We still have that Hassidic western about a Hassidic Jew who is a gunfighter but we haven't been able to get that set up anywhere.

Question: Sounds great. Answer: It's a great script. It's not only funny, but it's- -

Question: Both playing Jews? Answer: No, I play a guy who's from the city, who's not a gunfighter, who's wanted for sleeping with the wrong guy's wife. Jon plays a guy who's searching for the people that killed his family but he can't shoot his gun on Saturday because of Sabbath. He's a killer, he's the best gun in the west, but he plays it very dead on. So I make like I'm going to help him find these people and people come and try to kill us. I say it's because he's a Jew and he dresses like one so people want him dead. But really they're after me because this guy has a hit on me. I think it's a very smart, very funny movie.

Question: Why is it hard to finance? Answer: It's like getting Swingers set up at the time. There was no real female lead in Swingers. It's not a format that's been done a lot. This even more so I an anteater in a way. Western genre's not considered popular. I think the religious aspect scares people to some degree.

Question: When was the last time you said something was money? Answer: I don't know. I sort of dropped that years and years ago.

Question: You don't still talk like that? Answer: Even at the time it was something we would say that was exaggerated for the film, but we always go through phases where we have different catch phrases and stuff that we're saying to each other.

Question: Is Jon different now that he's married? Answer: Well, he's got two kids and he's a dad, yeah. In a good way too. He's a great father, he loves his kids and spends a lot of time with them and just older.

Question: Do you hang out still? Answer: Yeah, we play poker. My sister throws a poker thing at her house and we played about a week ago.

Question: Talk about playing a hero in Dodgeball? Answer: That was a fun role. I saw that kind of as a Bad News Bears role, kind of a guy who gave up on things a lot in life and stopped trying and was presented with something where he sort of had to respond and try. He hasn't tried anything for a long time.

Question: How did the success of Swingers put pressure on you? Answer: It did pressure me quite a bit in hindsight in that once that broke, I was getting a lot of opportunities to do comedies and sort of leading men, and I sort of just rejected it because I didn't feel comfortable with it. I really didn't want to be put in a category and also I really didn't like the comedies that I was sent. I really made an effort at the time, doing Return to Paradise, remaking Psycho, Clay Pigeons trying to do types of roles and I always felt you should really be conscious of capitalizing on this momentum, people want to see you as this guy. And I was more concerned with having a chance to do different stuff and getting a chance to really challenge myself and grow selfishly as an actor. So I responded by really pulling away from it and with The Cell, doing stuff that I thought would be something differently frankly than what I was doing. So then you do that and then you get offered a lot of those kind of things, but then I wasn't really thought of in comedies. I don't know if Vince is funny, you know. So Old School was something that brought that up and I had done a lot of the other stuff so I was excited to do comedies and I've done a bunch of comedies now. Then I'll be excited to go do some different kinds of stuff. There's an independent movie coming up, Thumbsucker, that I did with Donofrio where I play a debate coach who's a school teacher, very different. To me, that was always the thing. I moved out at 18. I always studied classes and trained a lot, you know. I think nowadays is such a different time because there's so many channels promoting the celebrity aspect of things. Not that there wasn't that, but I think ET was the only show on that was that way. There were no channels dedicated. So most of my friends, Jon and myself ,we'd go to the New Beverly Theatre constantly. We'd go study with [SOUNDS LIKE: Al Close and Robert Chicago]. We were nerdy I guess in a way. Nowadays a lot of the young kids you talk to think it's not cool to go to class or it's cool to say you didn't train. All of us, me and Jon would talk. Even the making of Swingers was really about working and trying to do some stuff. For us specifically a lot of the films that we saw younger that happened in the '70s, so for us that was really what we wanted to do. So I never, in response to what happened with Swingers, it really took me aback. It wasn't as if I had a big studio film that gave me that opportunity. And I was very thankful for what it brought me but I remember feeling I really don't want to go and try to repeat this or worry in my head about whether stuff does well or not. I always figured if you do the work and you do your best at it, there will always be a part for you. But if you get caught up in trying to just have a movie be successful, that's a much more dangerous game, because once that goes away, you don't have the same opportunities that you would have had.

Question: Has that changed? Answer: No. I mean, this movie, I love Todd, I loved Old School. I thought Old School was very different than a lot of the comedies that had come out. And that character I liked. I tried to ground him very much in reality and play him very much finding things important to him that are somewhat ridiculous.

Question: Can you discuss this revolving group of actors you work with? Answer: Well, Will [Ferrell] asked me to do it [Anchorma] and I think Will is funny, so I was happy to come and do- - I don't have a large part in that. I really just came in for a few days to do stuff for him. So that was fun. I respect his work and Todd I met on Old School and I had a good time doing that, thought that was good. Stiller and I worked on the thing for MTV, the short we did years ago, Titannie. I loved the Stiller show. I thought that was really funny sketches. I've always thought was just very cool, very simple and very funny. So it wasn't really kind of a game plan that we thought okay, there's this group. It's just sort of turned out that these are people I'm interested in working with and there's been material that supported us doing something together.

Question: What else are you doing? Answer: I'm shooting Be Cool, the sequel to Get Shorty. It's going very well. I play Raji, a record producer/promoter. Then I'm doing Wedding Crashers with Owen. Then I set a movie I'm producing at MGM about toy salesmen who sell toys. Rival salesmen. I've always loved salesmen. My dad was a salesman. As an actor, I always thought there's something funny about salesmen hustling anyway. But in contrasting that, there's something funny to me if they're trying to hustle My Little Pony. It's not like a car and they talk about it just like anyone would talk about whatever their field is. They present it like seeing grown men who gamble, demonstrate the pony and how the pony walks, but also being competitive and aggressive with each other I thought was a nice contrast. Then there's a movie I set up at Revolution called The Break-up which is a romantic comedy. I've been offered a lot of romantic comedies. I never liked any of the romantic comedies. It's always the same shit. Oh, I don't like you. Now I love you. Now I hate you. It's gonna happen, isn't it? So I thought with The Breakup what about a movie where from the very beginning it's the breakup, they're breaking up with each other? You have them out to dinner and have someone say something like, "God, I'm glad your mom's not coming to visit" turning into saying "I hate your drunk of a sister" just saying horrible things and saying "That's it, it's over, we're breaking up." Then I have it so that they had just bought- - they're not married, but they just bought a condo together and neither one wants to move out so they agree to put it on the market and sell it. neither one can afford to pay the mortgage, so they agree to put it on the market and sell it, but they're sort of going through the breakup under the same roof. Very derivative, I got the idea very much from The Odd Couple, having people put in a place and that kind of tone where it's not War of the Roses or very dark, but they're fighting over stuff that most of us do like you didn't do the dishes or you left this here. If she's dating, bringing someone new home or he brings someone new home or a friend's coming over, hearing her friend say that they never liked you.

Question: Won't they force you to get them together? Answer: Well, they might end up together at the end, but like even in The Odd Couple, the way that they handled it in those kind of movies was never such an absolute completion. It was always more of the possibility or the potential of something. It's a much more smaller step. So, I think if at the end of the movie, there's a potential that they'll communicate, even The Odd Couple is positive. In fact, Felix is always wanting to be liked, wanting to be needed. He ends up with the Pigeon sisters. And he's okay, he's found a place where he's accepted, that's his journey. He's wanted. And Oscar now wants his place clean. He has the guys come over for poker, he doesn't want them smoking and leaving stuff out. So you just have to take a small step in a direction of growth. It doesn't have to be that they're married with a final wedding scene. I would never do that. That's way too much. But for them to come to some kind of peacefulness or openness with each other I think is fine. Swingers ends optimistically. It's the same kind of thing. He met a girl. It's not that he's dating her. It's not that he's in love, but he's gotten past what was presented to him. You don't know if he ends up with her or not, but you know he's out of the rut that he was in. Made is similar in that they don't get the money for the job but the little girl's okay, he's got the bad influence out of their life and they're no longer trying to make money in a way that's not safe for them. So I'm a fan of something as long as it's a small step in that direction and not the absolute completion. I think that's too far of a step to take sometimes.

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