Vince Vaughn: The happiest swinger in town

The 'Swingers' actor Vince Vaughn might be 'money' in Hollywood, but he's also kept his feet on the ground. Lesley O'Toole meets a star who's still one of the good guys

Vince Vaughn earned the best possible accolade for an actor this year. He is not the Sexiest Man Alive nor the most nominated for more serious awards, but he is the A-list actor most Hollywood studios are itching to work with by dint of this particular honour. Forty next year, Vaughn is the actor most likely to give investors a rosy return on their money. Not surprisingly, then, his stock is at an all-time high. The fact that he specialises in comedy, in these profoundly non-comedic times, has placed him in even greater demand.

If Vaughn is making huge sums of money for financiers, he is necessarily making matching funds for himself. But you'd never guess it. Vaughn is a down-home kind of East Coast guy, and by all accounts one of the good ones. He's not flashy. Not like Trent, his handsome, gangly interloper in Swingers, the film that put him and his longtime friend and collaborator Jon Favreau on the map in 1996. His clothes are casually nondescript. There's no screamingly expensive Tag or Rolex watch on his wrist. And there's nothing flashy about his attitude either.

But ask the secret of his success and he doesn't hesitate. "I think having a sense of humour always served me well. Being able to laugh at myself or situations always served me well. "

Vaughn and Favreau are friends still, as well as fellow success stories. Favreau has enjoyed huge success directing Iron Man; the sequel is forthcoming. Vaughn has forged ahead as a writer/producer. He produced Four Christmases, the hit comedy with Reese Witherspoon; 2006's The Break-Up, on which he met and started dating Jennifer Aniston (the attendant hoopla did its huge box office no harm); Fred Claus; and Made, also with Favreau. The duo wrote and star together in Couples Retreat, which sees four disparate couples, all friends, attend an exotic if unconventional extended therapy session in Bora Bora.

Vaughn is not only a master of comedy, he's a master at marketing, too. Couples Retreat is punted as a guy film, in the same way The Hangover was. But both are anti-romantic comedies designed rather astutely to reel in droves of women, too. "Couples Retreat is sort of original in that it's not a romantic comedy, it really is about couples. It's about that dynamic of a group and it's about each relationship specifically, individually within that. All of us in life have different sides of ourselves. I have sides of all of the characters inside of myself as well, so I think it's relatable. We know these people with these problems and it's a comic look at that."

No one sounds more than surprised than Vaughn that he has made his name at the movies making people laugh about relationships. While admitting he is something of a scholar on the subject, he claims no particular expertise.

"The only expert thing I know about a relationship is that I don't know anything. I think every time I think I know something, obviously you then learn that you don't know anything, but I do know this to be true: I know that men marry women hoping that they will not change, and women marry men hoping that they will change, and inevitably, everyone's disappointed. "

Instead, he says he's an observer who likes to remain unobserved whenever possible, which, at 6ft 4", can't always be easy. "I'm no different than your neighbours or your friends. I just have an ear to hear. I can watch a couple having dinner and tell if it's a new relationship or an old one. I'm interested in human beings, so I listen. "

There was talk while Vaughn was dating Aniston that he was uncomfortable with being forced into the media spotlight because of her strangely ineffable celebrity. At the time, though, he talked charitably of those whose flash glare he often intercepted. "I realise the paparazzi are just doing their jobs. It comes with the territory and I laugh at it. I find it all a bit silly."

But it was clearly not what he signed up for. Vaughn grew up just outside Chicago with two older sisters (all the siblings' names begin with V), his meat company sales manager father and a Canadian mother, Sharon, who was formerly a stockbroker ranked one of America's top money managers. Though she now works as an estate agent, Sharon has presumably perused her son's robust bank statements of late and offered her best advice. Vaughn's eldest sister, Victoria, now works alongside him as a producer.

Vaughn excelled at American football and wrestling, and dreamed of sporting glory until he was injured in a car crash, which put paid to his sporting future. He moved to Hollywood in 1988 but didn't secure his first film job until Rudy in 1983, a film set against an American football backdrop and co-starring Jon Favreau. Favreau subsequently wrote the role of Swingers' Trent for his friend. It changed both their lives.

"All I ever wanted was to become an actor," he says. " I was so happy to get a line on a television show, or get a television commercial. I never had a game plan of celebrity or being famous."

Vaughn has apparently maintained his focus in work and outside it. He is engaged to Kyla Weber, a Canadian estate agent. His friends are reportedly happy he has found himself a nice "civilian". How did they meet? He laughs like he can't quite believe it. "At a wedding." It's not just a cliché for Vaughn. One of his biggest successes was The Wedding Crashers in 2005, then one of the most successful comedies ever.

Previously, it was 2003's Old School, that put Vaughn on all the right maps. Until then, he had vacillated between comedy and drama and proved himself adept at the latter. Swingers led to a showy turn in The Lost World, the sequel to Jurassic Park, Steven Spielberg having apparently been a Swingers fan. Vaughn then beat a slew of bigger Hollywood names to play Norman Bates in the much-vaunted, little-seen remake of Psycho. No one pinned its failure on Vaughn. At about the same time, he was racking up good reviews for the dramas Clay Pigeons and Return to Paradise. He shone in the lacklustre Domestic Disturbance alongside John Travolta in 2001 but has since made a sharp departure from drama. He likes to stay in practice, though, which is why he starred in 2007's searing Into the Wild.

But drama is not what makes Vaughn happy. "I think there's room for everything but I like stuff that's exaggerated for comedy. I love the scene in Swingers when Trent calls this girl five times and finally leaves this message. It's funny but it's also really painful."

Vaughn's a realist, after all, though he has not yet arranged that wedding date. "I'm not nervous about the big day because I haven't planned a big day." Yet he sounds quietly confident about Weber's being The One.

Having fathered a slew of enormous film productions, I ask if it's a coincidence that one of his upcoming projects is called Male Doula . "I guess not." Is the film helping him prepare for fatherhood? "I don't know. It's really scary until they can talk because you don't know what they want. But I'm sure I'll be very happy."



'Couples Retreat' opens on 14 October

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