The Break-Up - Vince Vaughn interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
VINCE Vaughn talks about the concept for anti romantic comedy, The Break-Up, and what attracted him to the project as both its creator and star.
Q: You created the idea for this comedy, star in it and serve as the producer, so what gave you the idea in the first place? The production notes mention you thought it was time for an anti rom-com…
Vince Vaughn: When I did Swingers with Jon Favreau and more independent films that were more character driven, we improvised a lot. We’d tell a story that’s less definite but more of a slice of what goes on in real life. That meant leaving some things open to interpretation. To a large degree, Jon and I were inspired by the American cinema of the 70s which, of course, was very derivative of European cinema.
For me, after September 11, I made a clear path to choose to do comedy. I thought it was a good time to make people laugh and that hopefully, through making them laugh, it would bring people together. Having had some success with that, the one genre that I always got sent scripts for that I always found very disappointing out of Hollywood was the romantic comedy. It was always the exact same story told again and again – perfect people saying the exact right things, and there was always some kind of magic world that they lived in. It always had some kind of subplot like: “Ok, if you don’t marry a girl in the next six months you will not inherit my company and I’ll give it to this mean guy that works for me.”
I had the idea [for The Break-Up] 10 years ago but when I became a success, I thought it was probably a good chance for me to get a more character-driven situation through a studio. So I found these two young writers and I said you have to write this movie without selling it to a studio which meant, quite frankly, that they couldn’t be paid. We then wrote very intensely for a period of time at my house because they had no money coming in. But once we’d finished, we took the screenplay out to the studios and Universal was very honest with me, as I was with them. They said: “We want to be open to collaborate.” And I said: “Absolutely, as long as, ultimately, you’ll let me decide what we use and what we don’t use.”
Q. Did you have to fight hard to keep the ending that we see on-screen?
Vince Vaughn: Always with these different character-driven films, the last scene is never the ending. When we shot Swingers, we didn’t know the ending until we started filming and when we did the film Made, we didn’t shoot the last scene until six months after we’d completed the rest of it. Similarly, the ending in The Break-Up is really what happens when I cook Jennifer dinner. Everything that happens afterwards is really an epilogue. But with this movie, the studio started to get excited about some of the comedy as well as the more powerful emotional stuff and they wanted to explore a more traditional ending, which we were happy to indulge them in seeing. But we never screen-tested the traditional happy ending as we knew that it wasn’t right. We never even put that in front of audiences in fear that they might respond to it. I knew it was not authentic. In respect to the studio, they very much agreed. So, the last scene in the movie was always what we originally intended. To me, the ending is not so much about do they or don’t they. It’s really about do you buy that they have learned from this experience?
Q: How similar are you to the character you play in the film?
Vince Vaughn: I think there are some similarities but as people I think we all have a lot of different personas inside of ourselves. What happens in life is that most people get caught up in presenting one persona that they feel safest in, myself included. And the fun thing about being an actor is that you get to bring different things to the forefront depending on the part. I think I have some similarities with Gary; I like to play videogames and that kind of stuff but I think I’m very different from him ultimately. Always when you’re acting, like in Be Cool where I play a guy who wants to be a record producer, you always want to come across as if you’re not acting. For me, my take is always to have it feel like you’re watching someone on film and that comes with a lot of preparation time.
Q: Did your Dad take much persuading to join you on-screen again?
Vince Vaughn: Well, my Dad was in Swingers with me, as was Jon’s grandmother, who was a schoolteacher in New York in her 90s at the time – she used to lie about her age because she was so passionate about teaching. They were kind of a good luck charm so when we did Made together, we used them again for good luck. Unfortunately, Jon’s grandmother had passed away but I thought why not put my Dad in this and I kept expanding his part because he was kind of a good luck charm. I also put my Mum in the movie because after you put your Dad in two movies, you gotta’ put your mum in one. I really love my family. I’m fortunate enough to be really close to them, so it’s just kind of a fun thing to do for me.
Q. How satisfied did you feel when The Break-Up had a record-breaking opening weekend in America, especially given the independent nature of its journey?
Vince Vaughn. Well, when we made Swingers, we didn’t get into the Sundance Film Festival. People were really taken aback by it because there was swing music in the film, they thought it wasn’t relatable, it was about a bunch of guys going out and hitting on girls and the sort of independent community at large was reluctant to back it. But we felt very confident that the movie had an honesty and a vulnerability to it that was very simple and relatable and audiences embraced it. Just last year, it had its 10-year anniversary at the Comedy Film Festival as one of the most important independent films to come out of the 1990s.
I felt very similar with this movie. I knew that this movie would play very well with audiences because they’re such universal situations that we can all relate to. American audiences are not given credit enough by studios and by critics to be open to something refreshing. Sadly, the state of affairs in America right now with some critics is that they don’t really review a movie as much in terms of being good or bad, but rather how it might handicap the box office. Even the trades like Variety or Hollywood Reporter look at the film in terms of what they think it will or won’t do at the box office. It’s become so all-important. So when The Break-Up opened and did as well as it did, I really felt good because I felt like I wasn’t out of touch with people wanting to experience something that’s a little bit different that had some real emotion in it. More important to me, however, was the second weekend, which is really when you can tell whether the movie’s having good word of mouth or not. The Break-Up was the first movie to drop less than 50% in the summer because people were responding to it. Part of me wanting to do this and seeing whether audiences would embrace it was thinking that it could open the door for other filmmakers to be able to take a chance. Studios might support people trying to do something a little bit different and they’d be more open to the fact that there’s more than one path to the waterfall.
Q: Your character uses some good chat up lines with Jennifer early in the film. What’s the best line you’ve used in real life?
Vince Vaughn: I just say “hi, my name’s Vince”. I have a little piece of advice for all the single guys out there, this is a piece of gold so please write this down. If you have the opportunity to star in a movie, do it. Seriously, I find it’s a lot easier to meet girls.