Vince Vaughn: It’s Oz, Bro
Post-Swingers, Vince Vaughn was a hot commodity in Hollywood. But for a while, it seemed like no one knew what to do with the fast-talking actor. This interview from the September 1997 issue of Movieline magazine comes after Vaughn broke out with Swingers. He had a supporting role in Lost World under his belt an lots of indies on the horizon. But at the time, Vaughn was just happy to be there.
Vince Vaughn is minding his own business while sitting at an outdoor cafe when a beautiful blonde woman strides up and looks him right in the eye.
“I finally saw Swingers last week,” she announces, referring to last year’s comedy about two lovable losers who cruise L.A.’s cocktail scene looking for “beautiful babies” like this one. “I thought you were great.”
“Thank you very much,” says Vaughn.
“I should smack you for it, how ’bout that?” jokes the blonde, slithering off.
“She’s pretty beautiful, don’t you think?” Vaughn says to me as the girl disappears into the cafe. “You should have turned on the recorder and given the kid a shot.”
If Vaughn thinks lucky shots are what actually get you ahead in this business, he has reason. Since Swingers was released, everyone’s been giving this 27-year-old a shot. He landed a starring role opposite Steven Spielberg’s wife, Kate Capshaw, in the small drama The Locusts. Then he was cast in The Lost World: Jurassic Park by Spielberg. Next year he’ll be in Clay Pigeons, with Janeane Garofalo and Joaquin Phoenix, and A Cool, Dry Place with Joey Lauren Adams. And after that he’ll star in Force Majeure, which is based on Bruce Wagner’s novel. Two years ago, Vaughn’s resume had only a bit part from Rudy and a Chevy commercial on it.
“There goes the beautiful baby,” I say as the blonde comes out of the cafe, jaywalks across the street and jumps into her truck like a cowgirl. “She’s so hot for you she can’t stand it.”
“Nah, it’s the weather,” says Vaughn. After a long sigh he continues, “A beautiful woman who doesn’t use the crosswalks and drives an American-made truck. I can’t wait to start dreaming tonight.”
DENNIS HENSLEY: Has playing Trent, the lady-killer in Swingers, affected your dealings with women?
VINCE VAUGHN: Probably some. I’ve always dated a lot of girls, but I never approach it in a conquest way, like, “I have to have her.” Playing Trent has confused things, though. People know you before you meet them. And there’s a little bit of the “Are you Trent?” which is, you know, whatever. There’s a pro and a con, but I haven’t found the pro as strong as the con yet.
Q: Have you encountered any crazy women?
A: Oh yeah. Crazy, bro. I’ve had girls walk up to me at a party or bar and just wrap their arms around me and kiss me.
Q: When the kiss ends what do you say?
A: “Nice to meet you.” That stuff sounds appealing, but it’s awkward, because where do you go from there? I love girls, believe me, I’m not offended at all. But it’s just new to me. I don’t know what to make of it.
Q: I like interviewing actors who went through years of having no one give a damn, because they’re just so happy to have made it. Do you still feel like that?
A: Totally. After the seven years I’ve had of rejection it’s like, “How blessed am I to come from Lake Forest, Illinois, and have a chance to be in these films?” It seems strange to even reflect like this, because, man, two and a half years ago, like at three in the morning, I would have so much frustration inside that I would go outside and walk around and try to get a game plan together and think, “What am I not doing?”
Q: Did you ever give yourself a deadline to be successful?
A: My time line kept getting pushed because it wasn’t realistic. Like when I moved out here at 18 I thought I needed to be at least established by the time I was 22, because that would be the time when someone would get out of college. When that didn’t happen I brought in the grad school metaphor.
Q: What films did you come close to getting?
A: I was the bridesmaid on about four or five projects. Like I went to the final pizza party for Dazed and Confused. They brought in something like 30 kids, ordered pizza and just paired everybody up. They sent home half the kids.
Q: You probably had a pepperoni stain on your chin.
A: Maybe I drooled. That’s the thing–when you get that close and you don’t get it, you can get really in your head and go, “Was it what I wore?”
Q: What was your first day on the set of The Lost World like?
A: Jeff [Goldblum] came up to me right away and said, “I love Swingers,” which was a big deal because I was awkward coming in. I’ll always appreciate that he did that for me.
Q: We missed you in the San Diego scenes where the T-rex munches civilians. What happened?
A: It was never in the script that I was in the San Diego scenes. My resolution on the island didn’t come off as strong as it should have been, but I didn’t want to be in the San Diego scenes anyway. I figured my character is kind of a selfish guy. He did what was right on the island, but this isn’t his life crusade.
Q: Did you get to approve your Lost World action figure?
A: No, not at all. It doesn’t look a thing like me. I know kids will break it and burn it and I’ll probably get the voodoo doll effect from it.
Q: Are there any women who might be sticking pins in it as we speak?
A: [Laughs] Maybe a few.
Q: Which of the following dolls would your action figure most like to look up the skirt of: Barbie, Cher or Princess Leia?
A: Barbie, because she’s the unattainable. You never really heard Barbie talk, so she can be anything you want her to be.
Q: How would you want her to talk?
A: Like a lady in public, but a bad, bad, naughty schoolgirl in the bedroom.
Q: Did you get the part in The Lost World because you were making The Locusts with Spielberg’s wife?
A: I think it was unrelated. I already had the meetings with The Lost World before Kate was cast in The Locusts. But Steven did come down to the set when we were rehearsing. I had my shirt off and I was strangling Kate and I was like, “Oh my God, the last thing I need is her husband here.”
Q: What’s your character like in The Locusts?
A: I play a drifter in 1960s rural Kansas. I’m on the run and I end up with this kind of strange family. I get drawn into their problems. Kate is the mom and Jeremy Davies plays her son, who’s been kind of mistreated by her for years. I try to get him out of there.
Q: Do you have a love interest?
A: Yeah, Ashley Judd.
Q: I’ve interviewed her. What a vocabulary on that girl.
A: Unbelievable. She gives you the big words. I gotta have a dictionary when I talk to her. [Lights up a cigarette]
Q: Have you smoked for long?
A: I smoked for The Locusts and since then, I’ve smoked steadily. It’s no good, but there’s something about it that I do enjoy, especially if I’m drinking.
Q: Do you do anything heavier?
A: I never got involved in any [drugs]. I never even tried coke or acid or any of that stuff. I came from a Catholic small-town background where I was always terrified of it.
Q: Were you a good kid?
A: Since I was a young child they said I was hyperactive, which I was. I had no attention span, so they had a special class one period where they’d send the kids with emotional problems or whatever they didn’t understand. I felt like Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest when I first went in there. That’s probably why it’s my favorite film. I hated all these fucking kids because they were weirdos and degenerates. I didn’t want to be associated with them and I was mean to them.
Q: How long were you in that group?
A: All the way through eighth grade. I refused to go in high school. After a while I started liking [the kids] though, and I started sticking up for them. One time a kid had to give a speech, a kid who doesn’t talk at all, and he totally bombed and he started to cry and the teacher made him stay up there and I said, “Chuck, sit down, sit down.” The teacher goes, “You can’t tell him to sit down,” and I said, “Look, fail him, but he’s obviously not doing it. He’s in tears. You can’t keep him onstage.” I went to the principal’s office for that.
Q: How did Chuck feel?
A: Oh, he loved me. These kids loved me. And I really liked them because I associated with the runt-of-the-litter point of view. I was that guy, too.
Q: So you were a rebel?
A: I was never a goodie-goodie. I ran with the rough crowd and I drank and I drove cars before I was supposed to, but I didn’t have a big rebellious stage. I was lucky that from the age of seven I knew what I wanted to do, so I had a focus. I did children’s theater, then when I got into high school I stopped because I played sports. I got in a car wreck when I was 17 and hurt my back so I went out for the school play and I got a part and I loved it.
Q: What was the play?
A: A Chorus Line. I played Paul San Marco, bro.
Q: The drag queen who hurts his knee?
A: Totally. This is small-town Illinois and the director came to me and said, “Vince, I think you should play Paul,” and I said, “Why me?” and he said, “Well, you’re very popular and the girls like you. I think it would be hard for some kids to play this part– they’ll get picked on for it. But with you it could be interesting.”
Q: What’s the most trouble you ever got into while drunk?
A: Oh, I’ve had it all, bro. I’ve been arrested by the police and beaten up. I deserved it, really. I was a fucking smartass and they were hillbilly redneck cops who didn’t want me to be a fucking lawyer with them.
Q: Is it true you were senior class president?
A: Yeah. The only reason I did that was I figured it’s hard to fail the class president. I was always so terrified I wouldn’t graduate because I hated school so much, man. I had nightmares about not graduating four or five years out of high school. I knew I just wanted to go out to Hollywood. It was like Oz to me. I thought somehow things would be better there.
Q: Now that you have gotten a peek behind the curtain in Oz, who has most impressed you?
A: Steven Spielberg, because he was so nice, and he included me. Plus, he’s got a family and he’s good to his kids. I was lucky to work with him on my first big film because he wasn’t rude and he listened to people’s opinions.
Q: Did anyone in your family have showbiz aspirations?
A: My grandmother wanted to be an actress when she was younger, so she was always encouraging me. Both my parents worked and my grandmother lived with us so I had a very mother/son relationship with her. She died recently.
Q: Did your family think your dream of being an actor was realistic?
A: I’m blessed because both my parents were mavericks who took chances and did well. They had that individualistic, pioneer point of view on life. My dad is first generation off the farm, and he put himself through college and is a self-made businessman. My mom was a stockbroker and real estate agent when it was very hard for women to do that.
Q: Did they ever give you the facts-of-life talk?
A: No, I just started experimenting. It was on-the-job training. When I was seven I used the word “fuck” and my mom took me aside and said, “That’s a horrible word. It’s called sexual intercourse and you only do that with someone you love.” That was my big facts-of-life talk.
Q: Do you remember seeing your first Playboy?
A: Yeah, it blows your mind. It’s a whole new world. But I never got into porno so much.
Q: Did you get to see the pink, too?
A: Oh, we saw the pink, bro. We went after it. We needed it in our lives.
Q: Do a lot of people want you to repeat Swingers lingo?
A: Totally. They ask you to say, “You’re money” or “beautiful babies.” All that.
Q: What’s something you’re really good at that would surprise people?
A: I’m a good gambler. The guys that can really play poker can take my money, but I’m good at blackjack and craps, and I understand the odds.
Q: Do you like to impress the ladies with your gambling?
A: I don’t like the girls around me when I gamble. I can’t be affectionate or talk. I got the money on my mind.
Q: You just finished shooting Clay Pigeons. Didn’t it used to be called In Too Deep?
A: Yeah. I think it sounded too much like a porno movie.
Q: What’s your role in A Cool, Dry Place?
A: I play a young lawyer who’s married with a child. My wife leaves me and I’m forced to spend more time with the kid. Then I get fired and I go to a smaller firm in Kansas and give up my ambitions to be this high-profile lawyer. Then the ex wants to be in the child’s life so I’m at a crossroads where I say, “Maybe I can give the kid to the mom and go to the big city to pursue what I want.”
Q: What happens in Force Majeure?
A: Three guys are vacationing in Thailand, having fun, smoking pot, meeting girls. My character flies back to America and three years later he finds out one of the guys got arrested for pot and is up for the death penalty, and it’s kind of my character’s fault. So now he’s thinking, “Should I go defend him and put myself in jeopardy?”
Q: How many phone lines does an actor on the rise like you have?
A: You have the voice mail and then you get the Bat-phone. The Bat-phone is the phone that you know you can pick up. It’s family or friends or business.
Q: Are you seeing someone now?
A: No one serious. It’s not fair to them or myself to talk about it.
Q: Do you ever think about getting married?
A: Not right now, but I’d like to have kids, so yeah.
Q: What’s the most typically glamorous Hollywood night you’ve experienced so far?
A: I don’t like the glamorous nights so much. I usually leave depressed and I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the forced politeness. I like the local bar with money in the jukebox and a pretty girl next to me.
Dennis Hensley interviewed Gina Gershon for the July ’97 issue of Movieline.