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Vince Vaughn moved to Hollywood at age 18, straight out of high school. And, like many starry-eyed aspiring actors, one of his first stops was Grauman’s Chinese Theatre to see where famous stars like Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe had encased their hands and feet in cement.
More than 25 years later, much has changed. It’s now called the TCL Chinese Theatre. Many other actors have been added from Jennifer Aniston to Tom Cruise. And Vaughn has gone from struggling actor to bonafide movie star, with hits like “The Lost World,” “Wedding Crashers” and “Old School” on his resume. His latest comedy, “Unfinished Business,” hits theaters March 6.
So when Vaughn was told the theater wanted to encase his hands and feet in cement in the forecourt on March 4, he was thrilled.
“Getting the letter asking me, I thought about growing up and being a fan of all those folks,” he says. So it came as an actual letter? Vaughn laughs. “Yes, a real letter! Not an email. In fact, I believe it arrived on horseback and was read on a scroll.”
Vaughn adds that the honor comes at a perfect time in his career, as he is transitioning into more mature rules. “Though I still feel so young, I feel like I’m moving into a more adult part of my career,” he notes. “And I’m excited about what’s ahead of me, for sure.”
That includes the highly anticipated second season of “True Detective,” which Vaughn will headline with Colin Farrell and his “Wedding Crashers” co-star Rachel McAdams. While details on the new season are kept under lock and key, Vaughn will say a large part of the appeal to signing on was working with series creator Nic Pizzolatto. The two originally met when Vaughn was looking to reboot “The Rockford Files” TV series as a movie.
“Nic is very unique because he writes literally every episode by himself,” Vaughn says. “And it’s such adult storytelling. You investigate a specific culture and really climb in and explore it over a long period of time.”
For his part, Pizzolatto has long been a fan of Vaughn. “I always thought Vince was a great actor, from when he first broke in, doing these interesting and intense performances in the mid-’90s — I remember these independent dramas he was just great in,” Pizzolatto says. “In his maturity I think he wears his history in a rugged, old-school manner. I see echoes of Robert Mitchum and James Garner in the kind of figure he cuts, and I think it’s going to be gratifying for people to see his skills put to this kind of use.”
Though Vaughn is primarily associated with comedies, he has proven his dramatic chops in films like “Into the Wild.” In fact, there was a time where he was seen only as a dramatic actor. He broke through with the 1996 indie “Swingers,” written by his good friend Jon Favreau, which caught the attention of Steven Spielberg, who cast him in the “Jurassic Park” sequel “The Lost World.” From there, Vaughn did several dramas — “Return to Paradise,” “Clay Pigeons” and “Domestic Disturbance” among them.
“So when Todd Phillips wanted me for ‘Old School,’ the studio didn’t want me,” Vaughn says. “They didn’t think I could do comedy! They said, ‘He’s a dramatic actor from smaller films.’ Todd really had to push for me; I think he even told them to watch me on Letterman, to see that I could be funny.”
Phillips reveals they actually wrote the role in “Old School” specifically for Vaughn. “I didn’t know him at the time, had never even met him — but what he did in ‘Swingers’ and then in ‘Made’ blew me away,” says Phillips. “He’s funny in a grounded and real way. He shows pain in such a unique way– it’s amazing. For me there are certain people where I feel like, ‘If I can make them laugh, f*** that would be the best.’ Vince is the top of that list. Just someone I am always trying to make laugh.”
Following the success of “Old School,” Vaughn went on an enviable run of blockbuster comedies from “Dodgeball” to “Wedding Crashers.” Of course, that raises the question if it was difficult to cast him in a serious drama like “True Detective.” Pizzolatto, for one, thinks Vaughn’s dramatic work has been underrated. “You can’t really judge an actor’s abilities by their career, because the business is going to pigeonhole people into whatever turns a profit, and no artist is less in charge of how their work is presented than an actor,” says Pizzolatto. “The appeal of Vince was that within a great naturalism, he can convey fierce intelligence, complex emotion, and a real warmth married to a real edge, strength and vulnerability and danger and humor. There are essential contradictions at work that makes him fascinating to watch.”
Vaughn hasn’t forsaken comedy for good. “Unfinished Business” appears to be a raunchy good time with Vaughn starring opposite Dave Franco and Tom Wilkinson as businessmen who travel to Europe, desperate to close a deal. Later this year, he’ll appear in “Term Life,” which, he says, is not a traditional comedy. “It’s got a dramatic father-daughter story, more of a character film.”
And that is good news for Vaughn fans, including Pizzolatto. Asked if there’s anything it might surprise people to know about the actor, he says, “Vince is actually much, much funnier in person than he’s ever been allowed to be on film.”
Fast Facts About Vince Vaughn:
1. One of Vince Vaughn’s early acting gigs was in the afterschool special “Lies of the Heart.” Also on the program was Christopher Rydell, son of director Mark Rydell, who gave Vaughn his first film role as a “cheering soldier in the crowd” in “For the Boys.”
2. Knowing he wanted to be an actor at a young age, he tagged along with a friend whose parents were taking him on an audition. “I forged a note from my parents saying it was OK,” Vaughn says. “I ended up reading for the casting director and got a part and an agent.”
3. While still in high school Vaughn began studying at the famed Improv Olympic in Chicago, which he credits as some of his best training.
4. When he first registered with SAG, he went by the name Vincent Vaughn, but changed it shortly thereafter. “My friends call me Vince and it felt more reflective of what my name was.”
5. The painting of him in “Wedding Crashers” holding an apple and naked save for a fig leaf was actually co-star Owen Wilson’s idea. “Owen also thought it would be funny if I was freaked out and bothered by it but by the end, I took some ownership over it and wanted to keep it.”