VinceVaughn
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An Interview with Vince Vaughn

He has graced the covers of Variety and Details. He’s been called the movie star offspring of Ann Margaret and Elvis Presley’s combined DNA (Movieline, March 1998). His outgoing, rock-a-billy quick wit and made-for-Hollywood looks (and height; he’s 6’5″) are the reason why girls want him and why guys want to be him. Meet Vince Vaughn, the newest member of Hollywood’s A-list. No longer will Vaughn only be known for his role in Swingers, as Trent Walker. Vaughn was on the big screen recently in Return to Paradise; currently, he can be seen in the indie film, Clay Pigeons and will soon become a household name, after the remake of Psycho is released. A nice break from inflated Hollywood egos, Vaughn, like his character portryal of Trent in Vaughn’s breakthrough movie, Swingers, is indeed oh so very money.

I meet with Vaughn in a suite at New York City’s Essex House hotel. Vaughn enters sporting a full beard, whiskers creeping way south of chin level. He’s relaxed and momentarily happy not to be a pretty-boy, clean-shaven Hollywood commodity. Throughout the interview, Vaughn is both highly engaging and accommodating. Halfway through the interview, Vaughn’s publicist informs me that we have gone over the time limit. Vaughn replies to her, “Yo, give my man some more time here….”

University Reporter’s Judd Handler: In Clay Pigeons, your character (Lester Long) is a psycho-killer charmer. What’s your motivation to kill these young and sexy women?
Vaughn: Lester probably had a very traumatic experience when he was younger, where women are concerned. He felt very emasculated and probably didn’t have any men at all in his life. I saw him as a kind of psycho-billy Frankenstein. I hope the movie is taken as sort of a dark comedic talent spread. In no way is it meant to perceive that there’s anything romantically cool or romanticized about the killings. It’s certainly in the order of strange, non-literal sex and that’s what most of the movie is telling us.

UR: In the soon-to-be released remake of Psycho, you play Norman Bates, another frenetically-eccentric role. Is this a trend we’re going to see from you?
Vaughn: It’s all unplanned. I was just psyched to work with Gus (Van Sant, director) in Psycho. When I approach my acting, I never set off to say, I’m going to do a whole bunch of comedies or I’m going to do action films. I just do anything that I think is good. David Dobkin (Clay Pigeons director) is a first time director, his script meant a lot to him. That s the world that I came from with Swingers and that totally moved me. With Clay Pigeons, I think that (Janeane) Garofalo rocks and Joaquin (Phoenix) is great. Also in Psycho, you got Bill Macy, Julianne Moore, Anne Heche and Hugo Mortenson

UR: Is it a back to earth, reality check to do an indie movie in between Psycho and Return to Paradise?
Vaughn: It’s not even planned that way, but Return to Paradise is really an indie film. I knew it would be a real hard sell, because twenty million dollars is a lot of money to spend on an indie film, but not really that much for a big studio movie. With its dark ending, it’s a strange movie to be in. I m not a household name yet, but what bummed me out about the movie was, the subject matter deals with young people, but the edit of the film, the score and the whole feel of it is geared more towards an epic. I always felt it should have a more youthful edit.

UR: With Return to Paradise, Clay Pigeons and Psycho, you’re going from one project to the next, have you had time to chill out at all?
Vaughn: Not much. I’m from Illinois and I moved out at 18 and spent like seven years on the outside. Swingers was something me and Favs (Jon Favreau, writer and co-star of Swingers) did with our friends. It was just totally fun for us and we just wanted to get the movie done. So I think now getting an opportunity now to play and do stuff has been so exciting to me. You wait so long. In Los Angeles the film industry is the predominant industry, you can’t escape it. The billboards and everything; it’s what you’re trying to get into. It’s tough, I’m really thankful for those years. I think it’s given me such an appreciation now for the opportunity I have. I think that if I would have gotten some roles right away, I probably wouldn’t have appreciated it as much as I do now.

UR: Knowing that you’re going to be compared to Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates, what made you strap on a set of balls and take the role?
Vaughn: I think too many people look at the arts with a religious outlook. Arts, music, singing and performing, it’s all make-believe. Plays are interpreted time and time again. Because you’ve seen a great version of Our Town, does that mean you’re emotionally cheating on the experience you had if you go see another performance, another artist’s interpretation? Also with music…you hear Hank Williams sing a gospel song, and then Elvis sings the same song. I think there’s value in that. For me I kind of approached it as a play. I approached it from the point of view of a tribute. I think Perkins gave a beautiful performance and signed his work beautifully, and if my mind-set going in was a competition with him, I would never do it. There’s no value in that. But there is value in great material being reinvestigated 38 years later. Psycho was the very first time in American cinema, where they ever showed a toilet on screen. And so now in 1998, making it contemporary but staying with the dialogue…I thought it was an interesting thing to go back and investigate it in modern day. More than anything else, it’s a tribute to Hitchcock, and actually, Hitchcock’s daughter came down to the set and was giving everyone gifts and was totally thrilled that we were doing it.

UR: How much consideration did you give in choosing the role in Speilberg’s, The Lost World, considering some of your indie brethren would consider you a sellout?
Vaughn: I work selfishly for sense of self, not for perception. I saw Jaws in the movie theater at seven years old, I think Jaws rocks. I saw ET when I was like ten, and I thought ET was the shit. So for me getting a chance to work with Speilberg in a format like playing Cowboys and Indians, but with great toys, was like the coolest thing in the world. I felt like a kid doing it.

UR: In Swingers, there is a scene where you’re telling Jon Favreau to be a bear and not a bunny when he’s picking up a girl. Is Vince Vaughn a bear or a bunny?
Vaughn: Probably both. Whenever you’re scared of something, don’t let that define you. We all feel it, but step up. We can sit here all night or you can go up and introduce yourself and if she says no, it’s cool, whatever. But you’re never going to know unless you try.

UR: Swingers seemed like a very natural role for you. Was that portrayal typical of your early LA experience?
Vaughn: I wasn’t as big on talking about what independent film rocked, versus what didn’t. My take on it was always, if you’re the guy not working, who are you to say, that movie sucked, or whatever. Like most young guys, I went through my stage of going out to bars and meeting girls and having fun. There was a group of guys that I did that with, but I always preferred the sort of bars that were in the film, because they were kind of real. I was never big on the whole nightclub thing. I like the neighborhood bar. You go shoot pool or have a drink and you know the local bartender. If a pretty girl walks in, great, but it wasn’t the focus of my night.

UR: What’s your favorite (modern) swing band?
Vaughn: I’d say (Big Bad) Voodoo Daddy. I also like Muddy Blue Kings from Chicago.

UR: You give Voodoo Daddy props for Swingers?
Vaughn: Totally, back in the day, they were doing us the biggest solid by doing that film. It was one of their regular nights they were performing. They were totally down with us filming.

UR: Joaquin Phoenix, you’ve worked with him on successive projects (Return to Paradise and Clay Pigeons). Is he a cool guy to work with?

Vaughn: Totally cool, great actor. We get in a lot of trouble hanging out.

UR: Everyone has their soft spots in their self-esteem, where do yours lie? In what ways are you a loser?
Vaughn: In a lot of ways, as a kid I had a hard time reading in school. I was the kid who would go one period a day to the class for kids with learning disabilities.

UR: Were you a wise-ass in high school?
Vaughn: The teachers thought I was crazy. I was sort of a wild kid. But I always felt like, if a kid is getting up to give a speech and he s starting to cry, he s gotta go to school with us for the rest of the year, and your f***in’ with him, making him stand up there. I d tell the kid to sit down. And they’d say, “You can t tell him that, it’s my class.” And I’d say, “Give him a break on the speech, he just f***in’ cried in front of you.” What do you want? He’s gotta go and hang out, he’s gotta go to school for the rest of the day. You want him to sit up there the whole period and cry? And then when high school comes around he s the guy who cried forever? So I would get in a lot of trouble for that kind of stuff. I was always confidante enough to say, “This is f***in’ crazy.”

UR: So you worked with Speilberg. Do you think he got jealous of you hooking up with his wife, Kate Capshaw, in that scene in The Locust?
Vaughn: Well, I mean he’s a professional, but I was weirded out. I’m kissing his wife and he’s casting me for (Jurassic Park) Lost World.

UR: What’s the smoothest way you ever picked up a girl?
Vaughn: I was never big on lines. My whole thing was always just feel comfortable. And I was lucky I always got along with girls. It was never like a big deal. I had a lot of girls that I was friends with that I wasn’t sexual with. I think having two older sisters made me comfortable like that. I just like people, so I can just go up and say whatever.

UR: Are you going to work with Jon Favreau again?
Vaughn: We’re going to start work on our first movie together since Swingers. It’s called Martial Revelation, a western, about a Hasidic Jew in the old west who’s a gunfighter. Favs plays the Hasidic gunfighter. He’s looking for the man who killed his family and he can’t shoot the gun on Saturday because it’s the Sabbath. I play a Chicago hustler who teams up with the Hasidic gunfighter.

UR: What’s the last book you read and how does it relate to your state of mind?
Vaughn: The last book I read was the book I’ve been rereading most of my life, The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand). One thing that has been frustrating as an actor is in these movies you go and throw your shit out but you’re not in charge of the edit or how they manipulate it. It can be a hard thing sometimes. But I understand that’s my role. I have learned a lot but I think that’s sort of what made Favs and me hungry to get back and do the art thing again and have control. Because that’s much more a signature of what your taste is in a film. Because you have much more control of how it goes down. When we made Swingers, no one would take that movie. People would offer money to buy it and wanted to change it. “Why is it swing music? What’s this, you’re so money shit? That will never work.” Look, we weren’t trying to make something everyone in the world would love. And I think by doing that, people saw that value in the film.

UR: You mentioned Swingers a lot. You’re not burned out from talking about it?
Vaughn: No, not at all. I’m so proud of it.

UR: When you were younger, who was your Trent?
Vaughn: I thought Elvis was cool as shit because he wasn’t a dick with it. He was warm and a gentleman. He was able to make fun of himself. He was just smooth. I have always thought Clint Eastwood was real cool. I like Walter Matthau in the Bad News Bears. I always thought there was something really honest about that. You’ve got my man driving around with a bunch of kids, he doesn’t want them around and he’s drinking the sauce. He’s making them clean the pool and shit like that. And Matt Dillon in his earlier movies, like The Outsiders and Rumblefish. I thought he was the man.

©Judd Handler, 1999

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