Father Figure: Watching Vince Vaughn Play Dad to 533 Kids on the ‘Delivery Man’ Set
I’m standing inside a New York City apartment – except, it’s not. It’s the empty floor of a building in New York City, where an apartment has been constructed for Vince Vaughn‘s character in the upcoming movie ‘Delivery Man.’ Around us, it looks like what you’d imagine a Vince Vaughn bachelor pad would look like. There’s hockey equipment lying around, scores of VHS tapes (including, funny enough, one for a Vince Vaughn movie) and even marijuana plants. But, this is no real apartment.
It’s mid-December and freezing outside. Because of the lights, the heat is off and the cast and crew are huddled under thick parkas trying to keep warm. It’s the last day of shooting and they’re filming the climactic scene in the movie; a few more shots and they’re done. We won’t get into details, but it marks a dramatic turn for star Vince Vaughn, whose last two films were ‘The Watch’ and ‘The Internship.’
In the film, a remake of the French-Canadian movie ‘Starbuck,’ Vaughn plays David Wozniak, a Greenpoint butcher who finds out that the sperm he donated over the years has been used to some effect…to the tune of 533 children. 533 children who are now looking for their father and a father looking for answers.
The original film was only released in the U.S. this spring but Vaughn says about the remake, “I guess it’s like a song, right? Someone sings a song, you love it. I’d be interested to hear someone else cover it, especially if it was the same composure, doing it with different instruments.”
Some of those different instruments include Chris Pratt (in his chubby, pre-’Guardians of the Galaxy‘ mode) and Cobie Smulders. While both Marvel stars had wrapped their portions of the film, we caught up with Vaughn in his fake New York City apartment to talk about the challenges of remaking the film, toeing the line between comedy and drama and, of course, the return of Wes Mantooth.
I think we get the impression is more dramatic than we’ve seen you recently even though you used to do drama. Was it a very conscious thing to want to go back to something more dramatic and less comedic?
I don’t know if it was conscious. I mean, my sister saw the movie and said I had to see it but I was working at the time and I just wasn’t good at multi tasking. Then when I saw the movie, I really loved it because it was fresh. It was different than a lot of things that you see. It was an original thought and I thought it was really well constructed. I loved the movie. The thing that made me interested in doing it was Ken. The fact that he wrote it and directed it and that he wanted to do it again is what made it exciting for me. I really thought he did a good job under the aspect of the film.
I loved the material and it’s a great part to play, I don’t know. On some level it’s been interesting for me because when I started with ‘Swingers’ and smaller movies like ‘Return to Paradise’ and stuff like that was more dramatic. I remember when Todd wanted to put me in ‘Old School’ they didn’t want to hire me because they didn’t think I could do comedy. I had done more dramatic stuff, but then I did ‘Old School’ and then all of those movies I loved, ‘Dodge Ball’, ‘Wedding Crashers’ they were fun movies.
I didn’t really have a conscious effort, I don’t know why, I never work from a place of saying “I need to do this or show people.” I probably didn’t even do a good job of planning on doing this movie or that movie. I would just like something and then want to go do it. I do think you wake up at some point where you’ve made maybe, for me anyway, have done a similar kind of film for a while or stuff that’s kind of in the same – I think I feel like I don’t have something fresh to do or I’m not as motivated, but I took a lot of time off after – I started doing less movies when I did ‘Couples Retreat’ and then I wouldn’t do as many and then when I did ‘The Dilemma,’ before that came out I took a lot of time off because my wife was having a baby and I was just tired and wasn’t motivated to do stuff.
So now that I’m doing stuff again, I can’t say that I made an effort to try to do other stuff, but I’m open to it. I think I was less motivated to cultivate to try to just do the same kind of comedies and stuff. Even ‘The Internship,’ which was my idea, I think is very timely because it’s about two guys that lose everything. It’s relatable, there are guys that wake up with their jobs kind of gone extinct or their skill sets don’t feel like they translate to today’s technologies.
I feel like it has a kind of have a heavier grounding to it. It’s still a comedy, very funny and a good tone but I think it starts from a more extreme human place. I think what I like with this one is, it’s a very funny concept. A guy wakes up and realizes the sperm he gave actually went somewhere. Now he’s got 500 kids, at 18 he wasn’t thinking of consequences. He’s just getting paid $35 to go into an air conditioned room, but now it’s like oh wait, they really did stuff with that, now I have 500 kids. It really is about being a parent or a child, it’s about family. It’s about life, all those things. It is a really funny concept with a light end to it, not sure if that answered it. It was less of a conscious thing but I did start to feel like I was not as motivated to do the similar type of stuff that I had been doing.
Was it a coincidence that this film came to you, as you became a father?
That was powerful for me because I think as a dad, or a parent you have a lot of hopes and great things mainly about your kid being enthusiastic about something that they love to do. Having self-respect, being surrounded by good people. Then you have a fear of them getting caught up in stuff that’s maybe not as rewarding or connected. We all go through phases.
So I think what’s fun about the movie, through all the different kids since there’s so many you play out all of those anxieties and hopes, this kid is doing well or this kid’s really in a bad spot. You start to realize a little difference in believing in someone or feeling like there’s going to be a tomorrow can go a long way for folks who might not feel like that have that message in their life. So I felt as a dad it really hit me because all of those things were going through my mind about, what’s their life going to be like for these kids?
There’s a lot of talk of shooting on location in New York and the idea of New York as a character. How do you feel that was expressed in the film?
That was really important to me, and one of the reasons I wanted to do the movie is if we shot it here. Because I felt that the story really lends itself to a place that have a lot of different neighborhoods and a lot of different lifestyles. New York certainly has that. That’s one of the things I feel like with this version of the movie is really a powerful thing. Because there’s so different places that you can get to that logistically make sense but they’re very very different worlds you’re entering into. Completely different world. So I think that’s a big deal. Then of course visually and the energy of the city is tremendous. It really affects the particulars of our family, being from Greenpoint, culturally where we’re located. Also David’s curiosity about the kids that travel to different places that he on a day-to-day basis may not go into.
Ken said how you stuck very close to the story and there wasn’t as much improv as maybe you were used to on other films. Was that difficult for you not to -
Not really, I think the improv thing has become this, not understood, this thing that’s crazy, but when I did improv I did it in Chicago with Doug Close, Second City all that came out of, all those guys came out before there was a ‘Saturday Night Live.’ So, it was a real craft that was understood that you were not just getting up doing a scene and saying something crazy but you were connecting concepts and telling a story with a beginning, middle and an end. That’s why if you look at a lot of the great screenwriters of our time whether it was ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding,’ or stuff that Tina Fey has written or Jon Favreau they all came from that same training. So there was a concept within that you are playing characters but it was adding up to a story.
So, to me improv is really listening and being in your character and committed and being able to react to what’s happening. So, I love to say the lines. I don’t improvise as much as people think. But our style would be that if you have what’s scripted sometimes it’s fun to see if there’s a different way, a fresh way to get to the same thing. Some people think improv think is what’s the craziest thing I can say? What’s the most shocking think I can say? But it’s got nothing to do with a story. I hear of these people that film and they say they shot so much film and film and film, I don’t understand that. It’s like you’re just then hoping to find something weird or a moment that’s weird to put in there.
It’s a very different process where as if you shoot what you have then you play around with it or bit or sometimes you’ll even improvise that morning and then you’ll shoot what you’ve improvised that morning as more systematic I guess?
There’s a time and a place for everything. But on this movie a couple of scenes I played around because it was fun, I don’t know if it’ll be in it, it’s not important. Sometimes the improvisation is just a way to get back to the lines or explore something that would happen afterwards that could happen before in a later scenes. This script is excellent the story makes a lot of sense; it doesn’t need a lot it’s very well written. The characters are very good. For me, I was really a trained actor as well.
I did improv at a very young age, thankfully they put me on a stage and i performed. I moved up quickly but I stopped after three months, I didn’t stay. It wasn’t my calling. I didn’t go and travel with troops and do that, I wasn’t interested. But I also studied Shakespeare and a lot of much more traditional dramatic stuff. I was always considered myself an actor first and foremost. I think what happened, when we started doing these comedies in recent time and younger generations of people started thinking, oh improv, improv. But I don’t think a lot of them know what they’re doing. I think a lot of these schools that have sprung up and teach it now don’t really understand it.
It’s just more of a sketch in of itself when really it’s meant to be some of those games you play, are tools that you’ve used to tell a complete story. Not that there’s a right or a wrong way, I think it’s used now as if it means, I don’t know what to say so let me just act crazy and we’ll have a scene pan out. But really if you know the scene, for example in ‘The Breakup.’ All the scenes I shot with Favreau were improvised. About 90% of them were so the whole concept that he thought I was trying to have him put a hit out was – but he knew that in the scene I had to come in a different place of getting a message and he didn’t he wasn’t tracking that.
He hadn’t grown to show my growth, we did it many different ways. That just happened to be one of the ones that were funny, but the reason it worked so well was also it tells a story it’s what the story wants to be at that time. If it was just him rambling about a concept that was interesting, but wasn’t advancing the story it wouldn’t be as funny or purposeful.
It’s interesting, do you feel people write stuff because they’re used to -
I think a lot of people write characters even that I don’t play that are in my voice. I don’t know why. Vince Vaughn this, on lots of movies I hear “I wrote this in your voice” or “I used your voice to write this,” which is flattering. But, no I think for me I always felt like acting is you look like you’re not acting. You want to come off naturalistic. But I think a lot of people, if they overact or do stuff that’s really crazy people go “oh, that’s powerful.” The other big thing for me that I get a big kick out of lately is weight loss. Sometimes people will lose a ton of weight or gain a ton of weight but they’re boring as fuck to watch. But, people go “this is amazing, this person gained or lost a lot of weight, this is incredible.”
I think there’s a time and place for it, there’s times I’ve seen it done and thought it was great. I think some people go “that means you’re phenomenal, you lost all this weight or you gained all this weight.” For example, Chris Pratt is a great actor and he gained weight for this part and it really works. He did a great job. There’s other examples out there. But sometimes I think people do that because they want to have control over it, there’s something they want to feel like they’re doing. They physicalize it. But then you get on set and they don’t know their f—ing lines. It’s weird, it’s as if that’s all they focused on. I’m not saying it doesn’t mean you’re not committed or that you’re doing something great, I think it is and I think it takes discipline and it’s really impressive. But sometimes I think that becomes what people think is great acting. And sometimes it’s just that they made a real commitment, which is great.
But I don’t know that it always means I believe them like I’m watching a documentary, which is subjective. Sometimes I think people really overact and people go, “oh, that’s phenomenal. Can you believe he did that?” But in real life you wouldn’t be in a room with someone like that. That’s amazing, but everyone like they’re normal and really have their act together and talking to them. I think it’s subjective. We were always rewarded in that we did very well with audiences and people could find a way to relate to some of the movies that we made. They could say it seemed familiar or believable. Sometimes even with ‘Swingers,’ we didn’t get nominated for IFC Awards. We didn’t get into Sundance, same with ‘Made.’ ‘Made’ never got in.
Later as years gone on, they’re well revered and considered to be very interesting but at the time they said, “oh they’re just being themselves.” But Jon wasn’t to that extreme and I wasn’t saying, “You’re money baby” every four seconds. We had to try to make it look like, we had to play that role and make it like those characters are those characters. In a way I think people took them for granted and go, “well that’s just them being them.” There’s a real craft behind making it look like you’re not acting. For me, the dramatic this or whatever, I think sometimes the tone just changes. So if you’re doing a drama, sometimes all you have to do is not look fake and it comes off very good because you just have to be real in the scene. But comedy is so much harder on some levels because you have to get that message across, plus make people laugh. So it’s just different. Sometimes you do stuff bigger or smaller depending on the tone, whatever the director wants.
We saw the scene you were shooting before. You did one take that was a little lighter, or funny. Had you been doing that with some of the scenes so far or did that just kind of came of that specific moment?
Not always, sometimes Ken will have specific ideas to try or I’ll say try something. He’s good about that. We like to play around and give him choices depending on what you’re going to go with. There’s always different ways to play a scene. There’s a version of what you’re watching is that he’s been living with me for a while, so if you know the original. So I’m thankful he’s leaving, Benjamin Franklin said houseguests and fish start to smell after three days. So it’s like, there’s a way to play it where you’re less masking it and there’s a way to play it when you can mask it. I think in the moment what felt real to me, there’s a little bit of both. You with there were a different thing but it doesn’t feel connected.
Can you speak on what this movie uniquely says about parenthood and the theme of it?
I think it deals with the fears and hopes of what one would want for their kids. But I think it extends back past that on the family of the world in a way. Where this guy realizes just how connected he is to so many people from so many different backgrounds or walks of life.
There’s humanity at the center of that. What I love about the character David is that he goes in very open to stuff that he hasn’t seen or experienced before. He goes in there at our best OK, this is what’s going on in this person’s life. He’s connected to them in a way, I think it’s about the family but I really think it’s about life and all of us in some kind of way. At our best we like to feel that we’re not against each other. And that you can – sometimes people are hurting and need a little bit of support. I like the stuff he says, maybe people need a guardian angel. Something to make them think that something can be different tomorrow, from whatever is going on. I think it takes on a bigger message without being preachy than just your family, but about human beings and life. It gives you perspective on what really matters.
You get to the place of family, them being with each other. His friends who’s kind of not his best but trying to do it tastefully for whatever his reasons are. You get to learn why it matters to him. I think it speaks to really maybe some understanding and some optimism, just where people are concerned.
Quickly, you were speaking of people that you had worked with before, have you heard from Adam or Will about coming back for ‘Anchorman 2′?
Yes, Wes Mantooth will. We’ll see him again.
Can I put in a bid for Dorothy Mantooth to join you?
Dorothy Mantooth is a saint.
[Laughter] I’m excited about that; they did such a good job with the first one. It’s exciting. I always find Will to be so funny, he makes me laugh. It’s always to get a chance to do it. I had such a good time on the first one.
‘Delivery Man’ opens in theaters on November 22.