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Q&A: Vince Vaughn

Highlights from Issue 24: The Chicago Issue

Vince Vaughn in his Los Angeles office, Nov. 2005 / Photograph by ZEN SEKIZAWA

EMAIL STORY PRINT STORY

Monday, January 09, 2006

What follows is an excerpt from Issue 24: The Chicago Issue

For more information on this issue, click here

THE DOOR IS OPEN
(EXCERPT)

The Stop Smiling Interview with Vince Vaughn

By James Hughes

The co-star of Wedding Crashers and Mr. & Mrs. Smith reflects on the rise of the R-rated comedy, the appeal of flawed characters and how circus people once ruled Hollywood.

Stop Smiling: Wedding Crashers was last summer's highest-grossing comedy. What drove its success?

Vince Vaughn: I think people wanted to see an R-rated comedy that wasn't just language based, but situation based. [It was] the situations that made it more R than shocking language. I think there's such a calculated process with PG-13 and figuring out what can and can't be advertised. We just had fun and our movie wasn't about people who, on the surface, are characters you can root for. Because it did have an innocence to it, with a reckless abandon that I think audiences really responded to. Now in Hollywood there's a movement to make R comedies. But it comes from the wrong place. They always think it's the genre that's topical, not the specific story that takes place within that genre. You can't just go in and say, “Let's make crazy R-rated comedies.” It's like when Unforgiven came out, there was a slew of westerns. But they couldn't match the story. They would follow the bullets and have crazy camera shots versus establishing characters that you were worried about, or at least knew what was at stake for them, and then putting them in situations of life or death. But I feel like, a lot of times, given how things are, studios react more to what's been successful and focus on the wrong thing. They don't quite understand what is it that makes something get over. Even in the casting of actors and actresses – with young actresses, you see a lot of girls and their focus is being as pretty in a traditional sense as they can be, even to the extent of plastic surgery. When you look at the great actresses, like Meryl Streep or Sissy Spacek, none of them are necessarily women you would see on the cover of a magazine. I think it's because their emotional truth is so great, you connect to them and you take a journey with them.

With Wedding Crashers, the studio left us alone. We all knew the director. One thing that's great about New Line is that they're one of the few studios left that really love movies. The movie industry originally was kind of circus people, and people with life experience. As it's developed now, you get a lot of kids – and not to come off like I'm knocking it down – but kids who come from colleges and go the corporate route and approach it from the business perspective. They really know film, but they don't love movies. They see it as a place to be profitable, and maybe think it's fun. They like movies, but they don't love movies. When it comes to wanting to make movies and take chances, New Line is the best. I would do stuff in dailies on Crashers and think, “I'm sure I'm gonna hear notes on this shit.” And they came in laughing.

SS: How can you tell when a project is really working?

VV: I used to watch movies with my dad, and he would always say, “Oh, that's bullshit. That would never happen.” And the movie was over for him at that moment. “That ain't how it goes down, Vince!” That became my litmus for acting and watching films. “Do you buy it?” For me, it's always been more fascinating to start someone in an extreme place and have them move just a little bit by the end, just a glimmer of hope – the door is open, they could go in this direction. But it's not wrapped up entirely. That, versus taking someone and making a complete transformation and having everything fall into their life perfectly at the end. I liked those kinds of movies where you start in one place and leave with the possibility of things changing. In life, you're always in transition. Nothing is ever completely over. There will be more good times and more bad times to come, you're just talking about this one transition.

SS: That's consistent with your characters, because you often play someone who's encouraging your co-stars or freeing them up to get at what they want. Is that something you seek out in scripts, or something that you develop on the set or with the director?

VV: On some level, I unconsciously bring that specific thing. In Wedding Crashers, it's a little different because I'm being put upon the whole movie. I'm telling Owen Wilson not to go. I'm giving him the wrong message, that we shouldn't really care about these girls, then I'm having events happen to me that I'm forced to deal with, and I'm not encouraging him, I'm saying, “What's wrong with the way we live?”


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