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It probably won’t surprise you if I tell you Vince Vaughn in a garrulous guy. Like the fast-talking swing-dancing playboy he played in his breakthrough feature Swingers, Vaughn can go a mile a minute if the subject at hand grabs him, and his enthusiasm is contagious. This turned a room full of reporters and bloggers on the set of Delivery Man into a pack of grinning fools as Vaughn talked about his latest project, his career’s highs and lows, and his thoughts on fatherhood. But aside for obvious excitement over the above, he also showed a surprising distaste for what many people consider improv, and flat-out sneered at actors who lose weight as a tool to earn critical praise.
In the American remake of Starbuck, Delivery Man, writer-director Ken Scott asked Vaughn to walk a tricky line between layered drama and light-hearted comedy. “I always considered myself an actor first and foremost,” Vaughn told us on the second to last day of the film’s production. Despite his general happy-go-lucky attitude, he was quick to expand on what he considers acting, and what he sees as novelty. After telling us he felt the key to acting is essentially looking like you’re not acting, he expanded a headline-grabbing trend that irks him:
“Sometimes people will lose a ton of weight or gain a ton of weight, but they’re boring as fuck to watch. But people go, ‘This is amazing! This person gained or lost a lot of weight, this is incredible!’ I think there’s a time and place for it and there’s times I’ve seen it done where I thought it was great. I think some people go “That means they’re phenomenal. They lost all this weight or gained all this weight.”…And I’m sure there are other great examples of it, but sometimes, I think people do that because they want to have control over it, there’s something that they want to feel like they’re doing and they physicalize it. But then you get on set and they don’t know their f*cking lines. It’s weird.”
He was also outspoken on the current state of improvisational comedy, denouncing what many seem to think is “improv.” After speaking to his own training in the skill set, he stated:
“To me, improv is really listening, it’s really being in your character and committed to being able to react to what’s happening. I love to say the lines. I don’t improvise as much as people think, but our style would be that if you have what’s scripted, sometimes it’s fun to see if there’s a different way--a fresh way--to get to the same thing. But some people think that improv is ‘What’s the craziest thing I can say? What’s the most shocking thing I can say?’ but it has nothing to do with the story....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 “Oh, improv, improv” but I don’t think a lot of them know what they’re doing and I think a lot of these schools that have sprung up and teach it don’t really understand it.”
In just a 24-minute interview, my opinion of Vaughn was transformed intensely. No longer did I think of him as a goofy guy with acting muscles that he could flex when called upon. Now I saw Vaughn as a dedicated actor who takes a great deal of pride in his work whether it be something serious like the Joseph Ruben thriller Return to Paradise or the willfully silly buddy-comedy The Internship. In the case of Delivery Man, Vaughn as a new father himself felt connected to the story of an forty-something manchild forced to grow up fast when he learns that his overzealous sperm donating has lead to more than 500 offspring, many of whom are looking to know their bio dad. You can read the more from the interview, including more on what he talked about above, on the following pages.
I get the impression that this movie is more dramatic than the things you’ve been doing lately. Was it a conscious decision to do something more dramatic?
Vince Vaughn: I don’t know if it was conscious. My sister saw the movie (Starbuck) and said I had to see it. And I was working at the time and just wasn’t good at multi-tasking and then when I saw the movie, I really loved it because it was fresh. It was different than a lot of things that you see. It was original in thought, and I thought it was really well constructed. I loved the movie. The thing that made me interested in doing this was Ken, the fact that he wrote it and directed it and that he wanted to do it again is what made it exciting for me because I really thought he did a good job on every aspect of the film. I always loved the material and it’s a great part to play but I think on some level. It’s been interesting for me, because when I started with Swingers and I did smaller movies like Made or Return to Paradise, stuff like that that was more dramatic.
I remember when Todd (Phillips) wanted to put me in Old School, they didn’t want to hire me because they didn’t think I could do comedy ‘cause I had gotten more dramatic stuff. But then I did Old School and all those movies—Dodgeball, Wedding Crashers—they all were fun movies but I didn’t have a conscious effort (in choosing to do comedies). I don’t know, but I don’t work from a place of saying “I need to do this or show people.” I probably didn’t do a very good job even of planning of “I’m going to do this movie and then that movie.” I would just like something and then I would want to go do it. I do think you wake up at some point where you maybe… for me anyway… you’ve done a similar kind of film for a while or stuff that’s kind of in the same. You feel like I don’t have something fresh to do or I’m not as motivated but I took a lot of time off. I started doing less movies when I started doing Couples Retreat and then I didn’t do as many.
Then when I did The Dilemma, when I did that, I took a lot of time off because my wife was having a baby and I was tired and wasn’t motivated to do stuff. So now that I’m doing stuff again, I can’t say that I made an effort to try to do other stuff but I’m open to it. And I think I was less motivated to cultivate, to try to just do the same kind of comedies and stuff. Even in The Internship, which was my idea, I think it’s very timely because it’s about two guys who lose everything. I think it’s very relatable. There are guys who wake up with their jobs kind of gone instinct and their skill set doesn’t feel like it translates to today’s technologies and what people have. It has a heavier grounding to it, still a comedy and very funny and a good tone. I think it starts from a more extreme human place.
I think what I like with this one is that it’s a very funny concept—guy wakes up and realizes that the sperm he gave actually went somewhere. He’s got 500 kids. When he’s 18, he doesn’t even think of consequences. He’s just getting paid 35 bucks to go into an air-conditioned room, but now it’s like, “Oh, wait a minute, they really did stuff with that and I have 500 kids.” It is really about being a parent or being a child. It’s about family, it’s about life, it’s about all those things, but it’s a really funny concept that we’re laying into it. I don’t know if that answered it but it was less of a conscious thing but I did start to feel like I was not as motivated to do the similar type of stuff that I had been doing.
Was it a coincidence that this film came to you as you became a father?
That was powerful for me because as a dad, as a parent, you have a lot of hopes and great things, mainly about your kid being enthusiastic about something that they love to do, having self-respect, being surrounded by good people. And then you have a fear of them getting caught up in stuff that’s maybe not as rewarding or as connected and stuff, which we all go through phases. So I think what’s fun about the movie is that through the different kids, because there are so many, you play out all of those anxieties or hopes of this kid’s doing well or this kid’s really in a bad spot. You start to realize the difference of believing in someone or feeling like there’s going to be a tomorrow can go a long way for folks that don’t feel like they have that messaging in their life. I felt like as a dad, it really hit me because all those things were going through my mind of “What’s the life going to be like for these kids?”
With Starbuck opening in the spring of 2013 in the US, and Delivery Man coming out in the fall, are you worried that they’re too close together?
No, I don’t think so. I think there’s something with Ken and us doing the movie that’s almost like a play in that it’s different spices in the mix. Again, the thing that made me want to do it was the fact that Ken was so interested and as he directs, he really cares. Each take matters to him. It’s important to him, so for me, I don’t worry about that as much. I feel like it’s a very powerful, great story. I think it’s interesting in this world that young actors have gotten really interesting, and I think people into the first one will be interested in seeing this New York version of it. I think people who haven’t seen the first one will love the concept and ultimately really love what the DNA of the movie is about. I guess it’s like a song, like when someone sings a song. You love it but I’d be interested if I like the song to hear someone else cover it, especially if it was the same composer doing it with different instruments, maybe that’s interesting.
Speaking of the original, why is this called Delivery Man and not Starbuck?
I believe the name meant something more in Montreal, it was like a famous bull that was a breeder or something that was a breeder. So it had a meaning there, and here, the name stays the same as far as the character. But Delivery Man became the title that they went with (for the American version of the movie).
There’s a lot of talk about shooting on location in New York and the idea of New York as a character. How do you feel that’s 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. That’s 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 they’re very, very different worlds that you’re entering in, they’re completely different worlds, so I think that’s 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 we’re located, and then also David’s 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 wasn’t 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, it’s become this thing that’s 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. That’s why if you look at a lot of the great screenwriters of our time, whether it’s 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, it’s really being in your character and committed to being able to react to what’s happening. I love to say the lines. I don’t improvise as much as people think, but our style would be that if you have what’s scripted, sometimes it’s fun to see if there’s a different way--a fresh way--to get to the same thing. But some people think that improv is “What’s the craziest thing I can say? What’s the most shocking thing I can say?” but it has nothing to do with the story. I hear there are these people that they film and they say they’ve shot so much footage—they just film and film and film—I don’t understand that. It’s like you’re just hoping to find something that’s weird or a moment that’s weird to put in there, and it’s a very different process whereas if you shoot what you have and then you play around a little bit or sometimes, you’ll even improvise that morning and then you’ll shoot what you improvise that morning. It’s more systematic I guess. But there’s a time and a place for everything.
But on this movie, a couple scenes I played around with because it was fun. I don’t know if it will be in, it’s 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 doesn’t need a lot. It’s 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 didn’t stay and it wasn’t my calling. I didn’t travel with troupes, I didn’t do that. I wasn’t 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 “Oh, improv, improv” but I don’t think a lot of them know what they’re doing and I think a lot of these schools that have sprung up and teach it don’t really understand it. It’s more of a sketch in of itself where really it’s meant to be some of those games you play are meant to be tools that you use to tell a complete story. Not that there’s a right or a wrong way, but I think it’s used now as if it means “I don’t know what to say so let me just at crazy and we’ll have a scene together.” 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 wasn’t tracking that. He hadn’t 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 it’s what the story wants to be at that time. If it was just him rambling about a concept that was interesting but it wasn’t advancing the story, then it wouldn’t be as funny. It would serve a purpose.
Do you find that when people know you’re doing a role, they write more lines for you? I was thinking of your character in Lay the Favorite for instance.
Nothing’s improvised in that. I came late to that movie; it was already greenlit. I think a lot of people write characters that I don’t play that are in my voice. I hear people say that about lots of movies, “I wrote this in your voice” or “I used your voice to write this.” It’s flattering, but no, I think, for me, I always felt that acting is that you look like you’re not acting so you want to come off naturalistic. But I think a lot of people, if they overact, or if they do stuff that’s really crazy, people go, “That’s powerful.” 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 they’re boring as fuck to watch. (laughter) But people go, “This is amazing. This person gained or lost a lot of weight, this is incredible!” I think there’s a time and place for it and there’s times I’ve seen it done where I thought it was great. I think some people go “That means they’re phenomenal. They lost all this weight or gained all this weight.” I mean, Chris Pratt’s a great actor and he gained weight for this part and it really works and he did a great job. And I’m sure there are other great examples of it, but sometimes, I think people do that because they want to have control over it, there’s something that they want to feel like they’re doing and they physicalize it. But then you get on set and they don’t know their f*cking lines. It’s weird. It’s like that’s what they focused on. I’m not saying that you’re not being committed and doing something great. I think it is and I think it takes discipline, and I think it’s really impressive, but sometimes I think that becomes what people think is great acting and sometimes it’s just that they made a real commitment, which is great, but I don’t know that always means that I believe them as I’m watching a documentary.
It’s subjective and then sometimes I think that people really overact and people go “That’s phenomenal, can you believe he did that?” But in real life you’d say that you wouldn’t be in a room with someone who did that. You’d go “that person is f*cking crazy.” (laughter) That’s amazing but it was acting like they’re normal and the other actors are talking to them. I just think it’s 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 “That seems familiar or believable” but sometimes even with Swingers we didn’t get nominated for IFC awards and that kind of stuff. We didn’t get into Sundance. Same with Made. Made never caught on, then later as years gone on, they’re really well revered and considered to be very interesting. But at the time they said, “Well they’re just being themselves.” But John wasn’t to that extreme and I wasn’t saying “You’re money, baby” 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, “Oh, that’s just them being them.” But really, there’s a real craft to making it look like you’re not acting. For me, the dramaticness or whatever, I think sometimes I think the tone just changes so if you’re 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 it’s just different. Sometimes you do stuff bigger or smaller, depending on the tone, whatever the director wants.
We saw in the scene you were shooting before that you did one take that was a little lighter, a funnier. Have you been doing that with some of the scenes before or did that just come that specific moment?
Yeah, not always. Sometimes Ken will have particular ideas to try or I’ll say, “Let me try something.” He’s good about that. We play around and give him choices, depending on what you’re going to go for. There’s always a billion different ways to play a scene, so there’s a version of what you are launching as he’s been living with me for a while. Some of you know the original, and so I’m thankful that he’s leaving. I think Benjamin Franklin said, “Houseguests and fish start to smell after three days.” There’s a way to play it where you’re less nuts, and there’s a way to play it where you’re really masking it. But I think in the moment what felt real to me was that there’s a little bit of both. You wish it was a different thing but it doesn’t feel connected.
Ken mentioned that a lot of people who play your kids in the movie, it was their first time on set. What was it like working with first-timers like that?
For me, it was awesome. You find that young actors usually are enthusiastic and it means a lot to them. They’re excited to be there and they get to play such extreme scenes it’s fun for me to watch them. I love the enthusiasm that actors have. They love acting and that’s why they’re doing it, most of them. The fact that you get to see them play these kinds of parts—that material just isn’t generated nowadays. In other words, the girl that’s struggling with addiction, the boy who wants the part but no one’s there. It’s a great vignette. So, it was a lot of fun to be around them and have them take their work seriously and have them really get into it. That was fun.
As a parent, can you talk about what you think this movie uniquely says about parenthood and the theme of it?
Well, I think it deals with the fears and hopes of what one would want for their kids, but I think it extends back past that and sort of the family of the world in a way where this guy realizes just how connected he is to so many people from so many different backgrounds and walks of life. And that there’s a humanity at the center of that. What I love about the character of David is that he goes in very open to some of the stuff he hasn’t seen or experienced before, but he goes in there I think at our best. “Okay, this is going on in this person’s life,” and he is connected to that in a way. So I think it’s about the family but I think it’s about life and about all of us in some kind of way. At our best, I think we like to feel that we’re not against each other. And sometimes people are hurting and you need a little bit of support. I like the stuff he says about being a guardian angel, feeling like things can be different tomorrow for whatever is going on. So I think it takes out a bigger message without being preachy, then just that you’re family, but just about human beings and life. It gives you a perspective of what really matters. You get to the place of family and them being with each other and his friend who is not at his best but who is trying to do a case for whatever his reasons are. You get to learn why it matters to him. I think it speaks really to maybe some understanding and some optimism, just where people are concerned.
We’ve been told that you and Chris have really great chemistry together, and this is the first time you guys have worked together, right?
Yeah, he’s really funny and he’s very genuine and he works very hard and I like him as a person. He’s really humble but also his work matters to him so we had really fun. It was fun doing the scenes with him and stuff.
Are your scenes more comedic?
I think in the same way Swingers is, we sort of play it real here, so it’s funny but I think it comes from situations, not from “Hey, look how crazy we are.”
A lot of the films you’ve done recently are with people you have established rapports with like Jon Favreau or the Wilsons, etc, so coming in to work with people you haven’t worked with in the past and developing that relationship, can you talk a little bit about that process?
Yeah, I think everyone has a different process and you try to respect their process and you try to find your way in. About this one, Chris asked me to go out one night just to hang out and talk, so that was good. We went out and just talked about stuff. He’s a new father himself and just kind of like many people just talked about our backgrounds, hopes and fears and where we’re at and what we thought of the state of affairs of the worlds and all that kind of stuff and just kind of spend some time which it’s nice to have that because you’re more comfortable around somebody. A lot of it is that I always think that the best gift you have as an actor is your imagination, so a lot of it is done on your own, building a backstory or however you get there so you’re creating those realities so when you get there it’s not like you’re just new. You kind of daydream, if you will, create stories in the past or things you’ve been through or stuff, so it informs you when they say stuff. You think of actual events that have happened that brings you back, which may be a good thing or you were frustrated already. There’s lots of different ways but that was sort of our approach that we had. We had a little bit of time for rehearsal. We had a night to go out and hang out just as two people and then in a short time, I tried to build a backstory that I thought was fitting.
Delivery Man opens on November 22nd.