Vince Vaughn Explains The Secrets Of Improv On The Delivery Man Set
Thereís a lot of talk about shooting on location in New York and the idea of New York as a character. How do you feel thatís expressed in the film?
That was really important for me and one of the reasons I wanted to do the movie was if we shot it here, because I felt that this story really lends itself to a place that has a lot of different neighborhoods, a lot of different lifestyles, and New York certainly has that. Thatís why I feel like this version of the movie is really a powerful thing because there are so many different places that you can get to that really logistically it makes sense but theyíre very, very different worlds that youíre entering in, theyíre completely different worlds, so I think thatís a big deal. Then of course just visually, the energy of the city is tremendous and it really infects the particulars of our family being from Greenpoint, culturally where weíre located, and then also Davidís curiosity about the kids to travel to different places that he might not on a day-by-day basis go into.
When we spoke to Ken, he said that you kept fairly close to the story and there wasnít a lot of improv that you normally do on other films. Was that difficult for you to not do that?
Not really. I think the improv thing has become misunderstood, itís become this thing thatís this crazy thing but when I did improv in Chicago where Second City and all that came out of, where all those guys came out of before there was a Saturday Night Live. So it was a real craft that was understood that you were not just getting up and doing a scene and saying something crazy but that you were connecting concepts and telling a story with a beginning, a middle and an end. Thatís why if you look at a lot of the great screenwriters of our time, whether itís My Big Fat Greek Wedding or something Tina Fey has written or Favreau, they all came from that same training. So there was a concept within that that you were playing characters but it was adding up to a story. So to me, improv is really listening, itís really being in your character and committed to being able to react to whatís happening. I love to say the lines. I donít improvise as much as people think, but our style would be that if you have whatís scripted, sometimes itís fun to see if thereís a different way--a fresh way--to get to the same thing. But some people think that improv is ďWhatís the craziest thing I can say? Whatís the most shocking thing I can say?Ē but it has nothing to do with the story. I hear there are these people that they film and they say theyíve shot so much footageóthey just film and film and filmóI donít understand that. Itís like youíre just hoping to find something thatís weird or a moment thatís weird to put in there, and itís a very different process whereas if you shoot what you have and then you play around a little bit or sometimes, youíll even improvise that morning and then youíll shoot what you improvise that morning. Itís more systematic I guess. But thereís a time and a place for everything.
But on this movie, a couple scenes I played around with because it was fun. I donít know if it will be in, itís not important. Sometimes the improvisation is just a way to get back to the lines or explore something that would happen afterwards that can inform later scenes. This script is excellent. The story makes a lot of sense and it doesnít need a lot. Itís very well written. The character is very good, but I guess for me, I was really a trained actor as well. I did improv at a very young age. I was thankful they put me on stage, I performed. I moved up very quickly but I stopped after three months. I didnít stay and it wasnít my calling. I didnít travel with troupes, I didnít do that. I wasnít interested, but I also studied Shakespeare and did a lot more traditional dramatic stuff. I always considered myself an actor first and foremost.
So I think what happened is that when we started doing these comedies in recent time and started doing stuff, younger generations and people started thinking ďOh, improv, improvĒ but I donít think a lot of them know what theyíre doing and I think a lot of these schools that have sprung up and teach it donít really understand it. Itís more of a sketch in of itself where really itís meant to be some of those games you play are meant to be tools that you use to tell a complete story. Not that thereís a right or a wrong way, but I think itís used now as if it means ďI donít know what to say so let me just at crazy and weíll have a scene together.Ē But really if you know the scene, for example, in The Break-Up, all the scenes that I shot with Favreau were improvised, about 90% of them were, so the whole concept of him thinking that I was trying to have him put a hit out and he was winking but he knew that in the scene, I had to come at a different place of getting a message and he wasnít tracking that. He hadnít grown to show my growth, so we did it many different ways and that just happened to be one of the ones that was funny but the reason it works so well is that it also tells the story and itís what the story wants to be at that time. If it was just him rambling about a concept that was interesting but it wasnít advancing the story, then it wouldnít be as funny. It would serve a purpose.
Do you find that when people know youíre doing a role, they write more lines for you? I was thinking of your character in Lay the Favorite for instance.
Nothingís improvised in that. I came late to that movie; it was already greenlit. I think a lot of people write characters that I donít play that are in my voice. I hear people say that about lots of movies, ďI wrote this in your voiceĒ or ďI used your voice to write this.Ē Itís flattering, but no, I think, for me, I always felt that acting is that you look like youíre not acting so you want to come off naturalistic. But I think a lot of people, if they overact, or if they do stuff thatís really crazy, people go, ďThatís powerful.Ē The other big thing that I get a kick out of lately is this weight loss. Sometimes people will lose a ton of weight or gain a ton of weight, but theyíre boring as fuck to watch. (laughter) But people go, ďThis is amazing. This person gained or lost a lot of weight, this is incredible!Ē I think thereís a time and place for it and thereís times Iíve seen it done where I thought it was great. I think some people go ďThat means theyíre phenomenal. They lost all this weight or gained all this weight.Ē I mean, Chris Prattís a great actor and he gained weight for this part and it really works and he did a great job. And Iím sure there are other great examples of it, but sometimes, I think people do that because they want to have control over it, thereís something that they want to feel like theyíre doing and they physicalize it. But then you get on set and they donít know their f*cking lines. Itís weird. Itís like thatís what they focused on. Iím not saying that youíre not being committed and doing something great. I think it is and I think it takes discipline, and I think itís really impressive, but sometimes I think that becomes what people think is great acting and sometimes itís just that they made a real commitment, which is great, but I donít know that always means that I believe them as Iím watching a documentary.
Itís subjective and then sometimes I think that people really overact and people go ďThatís phenomenal, can you believe he did that?Ē But in real life youíd say that you wouldnít be in a room with someone who did that. Youíd go ďthat person is f*cking crazy.Ē (laughter) Thatís amazing but it was acting like theyíre normal and the other actors are talking to them. I just think itís subjective. I think we were always rewarded in that we did very well with audiences and people could find a way to relate to some of the movies we made. They could say ďThat seems familiar or believableĒ but sometimes even with Swingers we didnít get nominated for IFC awards and that kind of stuff. We didnít get into Sundance. Same with Made. Made never caught on, then later as years gone on, theyíre really well revered and considered to be very interesting. But at the time they said, ďWell theyíre just being themselves.Ē But John wasnít to that extreme and I wasnít saying ďYouíre money, babyĒ every four seconds. But we had to play that role and make it look like those characters are that character so I think in a way people take it granted and say, ďOh, thatís just them being them.Ē But really, thereís a real craft to making it look like youíre not acting. For me, the dramaticness or whatever, I think sometimes I think the tone just changes so if youíre doing a drama, sometimes all you have to do is not look fake and it comes off very good because you just have to be real in a scene. But comedy is so much harder on some level because you have to get that message across, plus make people laugh. So itís just different. Sometimes you do stuff bigger or smaller, depending on the tone, whatever the director wants.
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