VAUGHN-- THE MAN WHO WANTED TO BE NORMAN BATES
Since his off-screen image was that of
a rowdy party animal, Vince Vaughn took me completely by surprise
with his soft-spoken politeness when I interviewed him for Indie
Magazine in 1998. Although his high hopes for applause as creepy
Norman Bates in the remake of "Psycho" were dashed, its
still possible that Vaughn will deliver on the promise he showed
in "The Swingers," "Clay Pigeons" and "Return
to Paradise." I hope he does. --GUY FLATLEY
His smile dazzles, his voice caresses, his dark eyes
signal pleasure. Standing in the dusky light of the country-western
bar, this 65" drifterthe very image of the Marboro
Man in is crisp jeans and his rakishly tilted cowboy hatis
a sexual magnet. Hes sure to walk into the Montana night with
a woman on his arm. Maybe it will be the brunette sitting on the
next stool, the city-cool girl whos beginning to warm to his
good-old-boy charm. In which case, this may not be her lucky night.
The fate met by the towns sultriest blonde a few evenings
ago could be the fate of this brunette, as well. On the threshold
of what promised to be the orgasm of a lifetime, that woman was
knifed to death. And if the tall, dark-eyed drifter killed on that
night, hell kill again. Because thats what serial killers
As we sit in the dark of the cineplex watching David Dobkins
shivery indie comedy "Clay Pigeons," we are not surprised
when the murderer strikes again, but we are astonished by the way
in which the actor playing him manages to come across as such a
personable, amusing, almost lovable psychopath.
On the other hand, its not the first time Vince Vaughn has astonished
us. In 1996, he charmed us into rooting for a macho, club-hopping
boozer-loser in Doug Limans "Swingers"; earlier
this year, in Joseph Rubens "Return to Paradise,"
he made the high price of courage heartbreakingly real as an American
whose loyalty to an imprisoned friend leads him back to barbaric
judgment in a Malaysian courtroom. (Last year, Vaughn had stooped
into the mainstream in "The Lost World: Jurassic Park,"
but why not let sleeping dinosaurs lie?)
Not that hell restrict himself to indies from here on in.
For Fox, he recently completed "A Cool, Dry Place," in
which he stars as a man whos been dumped by his wife and must
now play full-time father to his son, and in December Universal
will showcase Vaughn as sinister mamas boy Norman Bates in
Gus van Sants indie-at-heart remake of "Psycho."
Its no wonder Norman went wrong, wearing long dresses, high
heels, and making a bloody mess in the shower. He had a rotten childhood.
But Vaughns childhood was no picnic, either. "I was considered
hyperactive in school," recalls the 28-year-old actor, basking
in the L.A. sun, his manner polite, almost serene. Physically and
emotionally, hes traveled a great distance from suburban Chicago,
where his father, a representative for toy companies, and his mother,
a real estate agent and occasional beautician, raised him and his
two older sisters. The Vaughns' marriage was less than idyllicthey
finally divorced in 1971and turmoil was no stranger to Vince
as a child.
"I had a real problem with authority figures. If I disagreed
with something a teacher did, I would always vocalize my opinion.
If a kid was called up to give a speech and hed start to cry
in front of the class, I would tell him to sit down. The teacher
would say, You stay up here and finish your speech,
but the kid would listen to me and sit down. So they made me go
to these special classes, with the problem kidslike the girl
who was taller than everyone else, so she would never talk, and
the boy from the wrong side of the tracks who tended to get a little
bit violent. When I first went into that class, I was very mean
to those other kids, because Id always been popular at school
and was very big on sports and didnt want to be grouped with
these kids. I thought of them as freaks. But after a while, I was
like McMurphy in 'One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest'I looked
out for them, because I grew to identify with them. They became
"Then my dad became more successful, and we moved to Lake Forest,
a really wealthy suburb," says Vaughn, neither cherishing nor
shying away from the memory. "But my record went with me; when
I transfered to a new school, they treated me the same way. Up until
I was 13, I had to go to a special class once a day. That experience
shaped me a lot, it made me an individual, someone capable of thinking
What the teenager thought for himself was that he wanted to grow
up to be an actor, to play a cowboy like Alan Ladd in "Shane,"
one of the many westerns hed watched on the tube with his
moviestruck dad. Getting hooked on movies may have prevented him
from getting hooked on the sort of drugs that sent some of his peers
"I never got into drugs," says Vaughn, who certainly
fools us with his bang-up job of getting high with Joaquin Phoenix
in "Return to Paradise." "I did get arrested for
being drunk and for fighting and stealing street signs. But I was
lucky, because I always knew I loved acting and thats where
my focus was. There was no way I was going to slip into the destructive
world of drugs."
By the time he was 18, Vaughn did his father proud by becoming a
familiar faceif not quite a cowboy staron the tube,
appearing briefly but memorably in a "Heartbeat of America"
commercial for Chevrolet. He then deemed himself ready for Hollywood.
Although movie stardom was not instant, Vaughn did earn martini
money by doing bits on such TV series as "Doogie Howser,"
"M.D." and "21 Jump Street" and in such forgettable
features as "For the Boys" and "Rudy."
His lifestyleconsisting of auditioning, bar-hopping, skirt-chasing
and schmoozing with other wannabe superstarswas remarkably
close to that of Trent, the party-boy of the $250,000-budgeted "Swingers,"
a role for which his buddy, actor-screenwriter Jon Favreau, persuaded
him to write his own hip dialogue.
Vaughn also improvised in "Clay Pigeons," most notably
in the tense but hilarious barroom flirtation scene with Janeane
Garofalo as a hard-drinking FBI agent. In a weird way, his intriguing
take on Lester, the aw-shucks serial killer in that film, can be
traced back to the days when he watched westerns with his dad.
"Lester is a guy who isnt necessarily from the westthats
just an image hes created of himself. Whatever his reality
isbeing badly hurt by women or whateverhes made
it over, taking bits and pieces of things hes seen in movies.
He sees his life as a strange western movie, with himself as the
hero. He thinks hes a sane person in an insane world."
Any sane person
would agree that Norman Bates was insane. And wont there be
some who think Gus van Sant and Vince Vaughn (at right, as Norman)
are crazy for following in the footsteps of director Alfred Hitchcock
and star Anthony Perkins in "Psycho"?
"I have a lot of respect for Mr. Hitchcock," says Vaughn,
taking no offense at the question. "Im a fan. And I think
Mr. Perkins rocksIm certainly not running a race with
him. But I feel all movies are something to be grasped and touched
and smelled, not something to be venerated, like religious relics.
Obviously, Gus and I are fans of Psycho; were
simply trying to say, Hey, this is a great film, and we want
to celebrate and explore it. If someone 20 years down the
line wants to remake Swingers, Ill be flattered."
That should make his dad, who is undoubtedly a fan of "Swingers,"
prouder than ever.
"My dad was in Swingers," Vaughn says,
laughing like a kid. "Hes the gambler at the blackjack
tablethe high roller, with a beautiful lady on either side."
Like father, like son.