An actor whose strong features and sinewy 6'4" physique appear to have been chiseled from a slab of testosterone, Vince Vaughn is Hollywood's closest human approximation of a Chevy pick-up. Born March 28th, 1979, Vaughn's roles invariably reflect these qualities, and have given him a genial affability among middle Americans. Thanks to Vaughn's skills as a performer, however, he continues to resist typecasting, lending effortless portrayals to characters ranging from slick bachelors to raging psychopaths to morally conflicted limo drivers.
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A tried-and-true Midwestern boy, Vaughn was born in Minneapolis on March 28, 1970, and raised in the wealthy Chicago suburb of Lake Forest. The son of a self-made businessman and a stock and real-estate broker, Vaughn diverged from the upwardly mobile path forged by his parents. A hyperactive teen (and lackluster student), Vaughn spent time in special ed. and ran with a fast crowd (though he later claimed that he never felt the need for all-out rebellion). Despite his poor scholastic performance, Vaughn derived ambition from his interest in acting -- an interest that first blossomed at the age of seven -- and even served as senior class president. Upon graduation, with only his diploma and a role in a Chevy commercial as his credentials, Vaughn headed for Hollywood. Upon arrival, he proceeded to work in almost complete obscurity for the next seven years.
During this period, Vaughn made the acquaintance of Jon Favreau, another struggling actor who hailed from the East. Their ensuing friendship and real-life adventures provided the inspiration for their ticket to the bigtime, 1996's Swingers. Directed by Doug Liman, the comedy stars Vaughn and Favreau (who also co-wrote the script) as two amiable, Rat Pack-obsessed, "so money" bachelors prowling the streets and bars of L.A. for "beautiful babies" and the occasional job opportunity. This irreverent-but-insightful Miramax release became a bona-fide sleeper hit. Vaughn, whose character, Trent, was the film's resident fast-talking ladies' man, emerged as a sex symbol in the making. A supporting role in Steven Spielberg's The Lost World: Jurassic Park heightened the actor's profile and revealed his ability to transition with great fluidity between indie films and box-office blockbusters.
Nevertheless, Vaughn subsequently took the small, quiet film route, starring in The Locusts (1997), an overheated but half-baked melodrama in debt to both Tennessee Williams and East of Eden, and A Cool, Dry Place, a family drama that garnered a cool, dry reception from both audiences and critics. In 1998, the actor fared substantially better with his turn as a limo driver who is called upon to make a great sacrifice for a friend in Joe Ruben's Return to Paradise, and he brought a fine admixture of dark humor and sublimated menace to his part as a charismatic sociopath in Clay Pigeons. Vaughn evoked colossal mental dysfunction as Norman Bates in Gus Van Sant's truly ugly and ill-advised remake of Psycho that same year. Critics and viewers regarded his performance -- like the film itself -- with a tepid blend of indifference and bewilderment.
After that egregious misfire, Vaughn wisely took a couple of years off before re-emerging with a number of projects in 2000. These included The Cell, a surrealistic horror picture co-starring Jennifer Lopez and Vincent D'Onofrio, Prime Gig, with Vaughn as California's best telemarketer, and South of Heaven, West of Hell, an ensemble western that marked the directorial debut of country singer Dwight Yoakam. Following-up with a part in writer Favreau's Made, Vaughn's next big role arrived in the form of a deceptive stepfather harboring a dark secret in the thriller Domestic Disturbance. Unfortunately, the film bombed on a critical front.
Vaughn again ducked out of sight for several years, but Todd Phillips's 2003 comedy Old School brought him back to the top of the heap. Teaming Vaughn with Will Ferrell and Luke Wilson as a trio of over-the-hill party animals who relive their Animal House days by returning to frat house life, Old School became a sleeper hit, and inspired the press to term Vaughn, Wilson, Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller, Jack Black and others as The Frat Pack. The next of the "Frat Pack" vehicles arrived in 2004, with Todd Phillips's spoofy retread of the 1970s hit Starsky & Hutch, featuring Vaughn as the slimy villain, Reese Feldman. The picture (predictably) became a mega-hit, and the actor's newfound momentum continued to build when, only a few months later, he starred in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. Apparently channeling Bill Murray circa-1985, Vaughn received positive reviews for playing the good-guy opposite muscle-bound baddie Ben Stiller.
Vaughn next graced the Will Ferrell vehicle Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004) with a small but memorable role, before he made an about-face for the comedy-drama Thumbsucker. Vaughn impressed critics with his characterization and received praise for his funny and heartfelt performance. He returned to the popcorn humor that initially made him a star, however (and joined the $200-million-gross club in the process) with a leading part in the comedy The Wedding Crashers, a raunchy, R-rated film that proved once and for all the actor could open a movie.
Throughout 2006, rumors swarmed about Vaughn's offscreen life, and alleged romantic relationship with newly divorced Jennifer Aniston -- a relationship that blossomed on the set of The Break-Up (ironically, a comedy about an couple ending their two-year relationship and trying to divide their possessions, friends and condo without killing each other). Gossip amped up anticipation and heightened curiosity. Meanwhile, Aniston aggressively denied rumors of an engagement. Upon release, The Break-Up bolstered Vaughn's reputation as a strong comic lead, and became another surprise hit.
In the holiday comedy Joe Claus -- which marks Vaughn's third outing with director David Dobkin -- he plays the title character, the no-account, loser brother of Santa Claus who teams up with his more famous sibling at the North Pole to defeat villain Kevin Spacey. Vaughn undertook a personal venture for the documentary Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show, tooling around the country on a tour bus with four aspiring stand-up comics as they travel from gig to gig. And he stayed true to form with another "Frat Pack" comedy, Outsourced.
In the years to come, Vaughn would remain an ever present force in the comedy world, appearing in movies like Four Christmases, Couples Retreat, and The Watch, as well as producing projects like The Internship and the sitcom Sullivan & Son. ~ Rebecca Flint Marx, Rovi