The 6’5 tall Vincent Anthony Vaughn was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota to Vernon Lindsay Vaughn (a salesman) and Sharon Eileen DePalmo (a Canadian-born real estate broker); he has two older sisters, Valerie and Victoria.
Vaughn’s father was Protestant and his mother was Catholic, and he was raised in a mixture of both religions; he has English, Irish, German, Italian and Lebanese ancestry. Vaughn’s parents divorced in 1991. He grew up in Buffalo Grove, Illinois and then Lake Forest, Illinois, where he graduated from Lake Forest High School in 1988.
Vaughn developed an interest in theatre at a young age. Although he had originally planned to pursue a career as an athlete, he decided to become an actor in 1987, after being involved in a car accident which derailed his chance at athletic success. In 1988, Vaughn was cast in a Chevrolet television commercial, and subsequently moved to Hollywood. Although he appeared in the 1989 season of the television series, China Beach and in three CBS Schoolbreak Specials (in 1990), he became a struggling actor and faced many rejections. His first film role was 1993’s “Rudy”, but Vaughn did not receive wider success until after his role in 1996’s “Swingers”. While filming “Rudy”, Vaughn met Jon Favreau, who was working on the original draft for “Swingers”; Favreau wrote Vaughn into the script as a favor.
“Swingers” was released in July of 1996, and became a successful independent film. Director Steven Spielberg saw Vaughn in the film, and cast him in “The Lost World: Jurassic Park”, which gave him an amount of exposure. From there, Vaughn went on to appear in several films of varied success, including playing Norman Bates in the 1998 remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho”. In 2000, he starred in “The Cell” with Jennifer Lopez and in 2001 appeared in “Made”, another film directed by Jon Favreau.
Since Vaughn’s role in the successful 2003 comedy, “Old School”, his profile has skyrocketed and he is now considered a bigger star. In 2004, he appeared alongside Ben Stiller in the hit films “Starsky & Hutch” and “Dodgeball”, and had roles in 2005’s “Be Cool”, “Thumbsucker” and “Mr. & Mrs. Smith”/ Also in 2005, Vaughn starred alongside Owen Wilson in the comedy “Wedding Crashers”, which grossed over $200 million dollars at the United States box office. After this series of roles, Vaughn has been dubbed as one of the Hollywood Frat Pack, a group of actors who frequently co-star in film comedies.
Vaughn’s latest role is in “The Break-Up”, a comedy starring Jennifer Aniston. In the film Vaughn plays one-half of a bickering couple who live in a wonderful condo in Chicago, comfortably located within the confines of the Windy City. But ultimately, their disagreements cause them to both agree that they have to break up immediately. However, there’s one thing that stands in their way: neither wants to give up living in the condo. So as it looks to be an ugly war of the sexes, both Brooke (Aniston) and Gary (Vaughn) might be fighting for more than just possession of where they live, but what might’ve kept them together for so long.
Out doing promotion for the film, Vaughn spoke to a packed press room about the project. It’s a more serious turn for the actor who’s more well-known for comedy parts. Vaughn also played a key role behind the scenes on the film and was one of the key elements to it getting made.
Question: Was it a particular break-up that inspired this movie?
Vaughn: Well, whenever I got scripts for romantic comedies, they always had some kind of bizarre subplot to them that really didn’t have anything to do with relationships like “If you don’t marry the girl, you will not inherit the family fortune and the mean guy who works for me will take over the company” or “I have to write an article for the paper… Ooops, I really did fall in love with the girl, what do I do?” And I always just felt relationships were kind of odd as they are.
So it’s an idea I had 10 years ago, because I love the movie The Odd Couple and I always liked that movie and as I got older I realized a lot of people were sort of buying places together because they didn’t want to just spend money on rent, they wanted to have ownership and get much more kind of savvy with making their money work for them and I had some friends who ended up in that position, where they no longer wanted to date the other person and were not married, but no one could afford the place on their own, so it seems kind of modern in that.
And then it wasn’t so much based in particularly any sort of one relationship I had, but there’s elements of relationships that I had and I thought that there was stuff that was very universal about not remembering to bring home 12 lemons and having the argument be about the lemons, but really the argument being about so much more than the lemons, but that just sort of being the vehicle to discuss stuff about.
Question: You’ve made a bunch of against-the-norm comedies that have done well, why don’t more people do the same?
Vaughn: I don’t know. I think there’s room for everything, it’s just my sensibilities, sort of starting with Swingers, I like stuff that’s kind of character-driven, exaggerated for comedy, but, like the scene in Swingers where he calls five times and leaves that message, it’s funny, but it’s also really painful. And I liked in this movie, that you sort of look at the male-female drama and laugh at it and then you kind of have a more serious complicated side that’s more truthful in it and not really feel the need to say “OK, we’re tonally this, or tonally that.” So, I don’t know.You can only, sort of, for me, do stuff that you’re interested in or that you find to be kind of fascinating or interesting and you certainly don’t — like with Wedding Crashers or this — approach it saying “I want to be different just for being different,” you just try to put original thought into it and say, “What’s simple and truthful for this story even if it’s not traditional.” So I don’t really go into any of them going, “What’s a way to do this totally different,” I more go into it saying, “What’s an original way of doing it,” if that makes sense.
Question: If this is successful, will there be copycat break-up movies?
Vaughn: Oh, I don’t know. I think that’s just normal. I think there wasn’t a lot of rated-R comedies being made and then not only ourselves, but Virgin did so well that now there’s a lot more rated-R comedies in production. But again for us with Crashers, we weren’t really going to say, “Let’s use the R in a way to be as shocking or vulgar as we could be.” We really wanted to tell a great story that had good turns and twists in it and be R because of situations that happen and not because language was constantly being thrown out there. So then, the unfortunate side is sometimes people go, “Oh, R comedy must work, so let’s just go and do a bunch of R material but not really necessarily have good story or good turns and stuff in the movie.”
Question: Is there going to be a Wedding Crashers 2?
Vaughn: Still Crashing, it’s called… Owen and Rachel are on the run. No. We haven’t talked about it. I’ve heard people mention it, but I’ve always been reluctant. There was a big talk for a while about Old School 2 and Swingers, we had a script written, actually. I would never say never, but I just think that, you know, there’s want to sort of go, “Oh, that went well, so let’s try to recreate that,” but sometimes there’s really no second movie to that. It just depends. If the script was really good or it was something different, maybe, but there’s always new good ideas out there too, I think.
Question: When did you realize that the chemistry was there with you and Jennifer Aniston?
Vaughn: You know, when we were developing the screenplay, she was the only actor that I had in mind, because she’s so good with comedy and she’s also a very good actor and she also has a quality to her that just inherently she’s very likeable, there’s a warmth to Jennifer. These characters are both very flawed, so it’s important to have that. And when we started the rehearsal process right away, I really was impressed with her acting, her timing, with all of that.
Unfortunately a lot of time it’s like women are stuck in movies just sort of rolling their eyes at whatever the guy does and one thing that I really liked and that me and David [Dobkin] really insisted on in Wedding Crashers is Isla’s really funny in that movie too and it’s really both of us and the scenes become funny. I like the comedy to come out of the situation, be grounded in reality, so Jennifer is really the heart of the movie, like Owen is the heart of the movie in Crashers. If she isn’t as good of a straight man, as it would be, in this movie, and then also able to be comedic if it calls for it, but never lose that sense of being real and being a real person taking this journey, the whole movie would falter, so she was really instrumental. And yes, I did like her right off the back as a person as well. I think she’s terrific.
Question: What was it like to come back to Chicago to shoot?
Vaughn: Well, I really love Chicago, I mean the people there are just great and I think just being from the Midwest, I have family from Ohio and lots of places, but I was raised outside the city. Chicago really takes advantage of the summer, because they don’t get good weather all the time, so there’s a lot of great outdoor festivals and stuff that they have and great restaurants and food and there’s great museums, there’s great theaters and plays and stuff in Chicago.
It’s just a great city. So, for me going up, I was a fan of all the John Hughes films and, of course, The Blues Brothers and all that kind of stuff. When me and Jon did Made together and I had gone back to New York, where he was from originally — although he lived in Chicago for a while — I kind of got it in my mind, “I’d like to do something and bring it back to Chicago,” so this seemed like the right kind of movie, because the city’s sort of a backdrop lead in the movie and it just kind of made sense, it’s kind of the Heartland, and it’s a big city but it still has some smaller town sensibility and it just seemed like a good combination of accessibility for most folks.
Question: Are you like this kind of guy? Would you help do the dishes and go to the ballet?
Vaughn: Yeah. I think we all have different sides of ourselves and definitely there are sides of myself in Gary, especially younger and it’s exaggerated, again, for comedy. But yeah, I don’t like to do dishes, no, not normally. I do do the dishes and I do contribute, but as I’ve gotten older, moreso you’re open and you kind of enjoy it more, but when you’re younger you don’t really like it that much. Also, I do kind of like to watch sporting events and stuff like that.
I think that there is kind of a dynamic with men and women where guys are kind of less concerned with what color the curtains will be. They just want to sign off and have the conversation stop and girls are kind of like, “I’d kind of an important decision and everyone should sort of weight in on it” and that’s sort of where the comedy comes from. But I have two older sisters. I’ve always gotten along really well with women. I love women. And so I’ve always in relationships not been as extreme as Gary is. I really enjoy kind of the friendship part of the relationship as well, but I think there is just innate things that are truthful that when it comes to certain conversations or focus and stuff that men and women have to learn how to kind of give the other person their space with stuff.All of sudden I feel like I’m answering like kind of like Dr. Phil questions — Well, I’m glad that you asked that… What it is is a love tank and it has to be filled up or that person…
Question: Are you a better boyfriend than Gary is and what do you see as the key to relationships?
Vaughn: I think friendship is the biggest thing. And for me, sense of humor. I like someone that can make me laugh, because I like to laugh at stuff, especially myself, so I think you have to be able to roll with life. Life is always peaks and valleys, there’s gonna be good times and bad times and when all the other things are there, the biggest thing for me is having someone that makes you laugh and that you have a friendship and a trust with, ultimately, in a relationship. When you’re younger, you kinda have your priorities in a different place, but as you get older, I think that becomes most important to you.
Question: You’re a lot thinner in the final scene. How’d you lose all the weight?
Vaughn: Yeah, I had rigorous exercise program. I wouldn’t want to wish that type commitment of raw eggs and running daily… No. When we did the movie Swingers, we didn’t know what the last scene of the movie was until we started shooting. We always knew there would be a last scene, which ended up being me in the diner with Mike and the baby. We shot the entire movie Made and we waited to know what is that last scene. Whenever you’re summing up movies like this character-driven movies that are more about a journey and moments and learning and not so much about a final answer, it always is a question to be raised.
The ending that we ended up shooting is exactly like the ending we shot originally, just a better version of it. We realized what the journey was and how these characters were changed by their action and not so about “Will they or won’t they?” and moreso about “If they do, it would probably go very well, because they definitely, you can tell, in a real way learned their lessons.” Gary goes and does his stuff with his family separate of her, because he’s forever changed. She makes a decision, even there when she’s on the phone, she has a meeting, she doesn’t say, “Hey, let’s get something to eat,” she says, “I gotta go to a meeting.”
She has her life coming first, so I think it’s hopeful that way.And if they don’t, there’s still a great love and thankfulness there for each other and lessons learned that would go and their next relationship would be a healthier better relationship. So, on that particular one, as we had our one ending in place, we went and reshot — well, not reshot, but shot — versions. And we did a couple different things. There were different people weighing in. I have to say that Universal was extremely supportive. This is not your traditional type of romantic comedy. There’s a lot of fear on their end, a studio’s end, when you’re doing something different. There’s a reason why Swingers was made for what it was made and those kind of movies, but they were very supportive and open to this. And, as people had ideas… My way of working, even in Swingers when I wasn’t credited, I was very collaborative in the writing and decision making, all of us were, it’s just the way that I like to work, knowing that you always can go for what is the best.
What came clear to them and all of us very well was it wasn’t about that — satisfying that or not satisfying that — it was that the original intention of the screenplay was the right intention for what this movie was and it worked out really perfect. Forget all the things about whether they went back and shot or didn’t shoot, which happens on most movies, just every movie I’ve done, it made more sense and it worked for the character in that, as time has passed, Gary takes better care of himself, he’s got his boat, he’s a different person, he’s shopping — it shows change without dialogue and exposition. He’s self-deprecating about the weight he’s in, so he’s a different person, has a sense of humor about stuff.
So for the pure story, it’s the perfect thing. And again, when you do a movie like Swingers or like Made you’re not under the microscope as much and on those movies it was always our journey. You have to go through process, for me anyway, of editing such a tonally different movie, tones that are different… What is the satisfying answer? What I say “satisfying” what is the only answer? And to me, ultimately, this became the only truthful, simple real answer that could be made.
Where the weight is concerned, there’s nothing that’s that complimentary to me. I was such a genius that I quit smoking before we started shooting the movie, something I wanted to do for a long time and I had quit smoking for eight months and just in time to put on 25 pounds for the romantic comedy. And then, when we finished shooting and we wrapped the movie, I said to myself, “Well, I can have just one cigarette, I mean, it’s been eight months, what’s the big deal?” And then again I was up to a pack a day, so I lost the weight then after, because when you quit smoking, you tend to eat a lot and then when you start smoking it kind of curbs your appetite, so there was no great character choice in that. It just sort of worked out well for everything.
Question: What was the girl like in the original script?
Vaughn: She didn’t talk in the original script. No. I’m kidding. The one thing I’ve learned is, wherever you’re from, wherever you’re from, if it’s a place in America or it’s some place different, as much as things are different, they’re really the same. And not just in relationships. People want to take care of their families. There’s very much very universal truths about people from whatever background that they’re from and the more different they seem, really the more close they are. And that was one thing that we learned from Swingers. We had a lot of pressure when we ended up making the movie for nothing, but people said, “People will never respond to this musical backdrop. The kids aren’t into it. There’s much more of a grunge music. This way talking, people don’t understand it.” But my thought and Favreau’s thought, was always “The more specific you are, the more universal you are.”
So, for me, accents and ways that people talk or perhaps their job occupations — the Midwest is not as much of a fashion oriented place, people are not in the fashion industry as much as they are in Los Angeles or New York — but I think the dynamics are very similar. I think that’s really universal. So for me, I really wanted Gary to be kind of a tour guide, a blue collar guy, from that kind of background, and Brooke to be someone who was kind of open and interested in the art world, but not from a place of financial success, just because she sort of liked it, not like it was something that she didn’t love but she was just doing to be successful.
But yeah, I’d always loved Chicago and I guess you write with what you know. I grew up outside of the city, so I felt very comfortable telling a story that was authentic to that place, similar to what we did in Swingers with Los Feliz and what Jon did New York in Made. It was a place I hadn’t gone. I wanted to go make a film there. Selfishly I wanted to be there in the summertime as well. I always thought it was a great backdrop for these two characters and the story that would be kind of universal. Although it’s specific to Chicago, I think it’s relatable wherever you’re from.
Question: How do you like to balance the acting, the writing and the producing?
Vaughn: I’m thankful that I get a chance to do it all. They’re also kind of related depending on how you work it. Again, I just refer to my background and how I started with Swingers and how we were all so collaborative and even in Wedding Crashers, you know, most of my lines I would write in that and even scenes and that whole third act is stuff that me and Owen came up with, with me marrying the girl and all that stuff. And I’ve been lucky that whether it’s Dobkin or Phillips on Old School, I’ve always been allowed to collaborate and do stuff. And that’s what I mean when I say on this, Jen was so important, because we really embraced her ideas and opinions and were open to her affecting the screenplay and the character in a way for the better.
Everyone sort of has a say and weighs in and I think the more you’re sort of open to that or confident to let that happen, the better the movie can be. I find that sometimes for me as an actor, when I’m just acting, if you work with a director that’s very closed off and not open to stuff, a lot of times it’s because they’re not that confident and it can be detrimental.Most of the guys that I’ve worked with, or girls, that are good are open to ideas and hearing ideas from wherever they come from. It’s just the style that I like to work in, so I think that they all coincide and are relatable and it’s not always about “credit for this” or “credit for that” or “do this” or “do that” and the only reason on The Break-Up it was kind of an idea that I knew it would be a more difficult type of movie to get through a development stage, so the writers wrote it and I collaborated with them, so we had a finished script that we could go out and say “This is what we’re shooting, buy it or don’t buy it,” so that I wouldn’t be in a situation of trying to develop it and scenes like the strip poker scene not be in the movie. There’s just a lot stuff that probably, just because it’s different, we’d have had a harder time coming to the screen