What Happened to Vince Vaughn?

We examine the career of perhaps the most “money” leading man (and noted giant) of all time, the great Vince Vaughn.

Last Updated on June 4, 2024

If you followed indie film in the 90s, Vince Vaughn was at the center of a legendary tale. As the story goes, in order to get permission to use the theme from Jaws in the film Swingers, Doug Liman screened the film for Steven Spielberg’s approval. Not only did Stevie Boy allow them to use the scary shark tune but the legendary director knew he had to work with whoever was playing Trent Walker. And, he did just that when he cast Vince Vaughn in his Jurassic Park sequel, The Lost World. Spielberg instantly knew that Vince Vaughn was superstar material and he was correctomundo. Over the last nearly 30 years, he has given us some of the best comedic performances mixed in with some bone chilling anti-heroes. But it seems in the past few years Vaughn has slowed down his output to focus on smaller roles in more meaningful projects. Is that a good thing? Or a bad thing? Or just a thing? It is time we take a look at just WTF Happened to Vince Vaughn.

But as always we must begin at the beginning and the beginning began on his birthday, 1970, Minneapolis, Minnesota before moving to a suburb of Illinois near Chicago. He would land guest roles on the ABC Vietnam based show China Beach and 21 Jump Street before landing roles in several After School specials including one opposite fudging A Christmas Story star Peter Billingsley. But it would be his first credited film role that would forever change his life when he was cast as Jamie O’Hara in Rudy opposite Sean Astin and some up and coming actor named Jon Favreau. The two hit it off immediately on set and would remain friends as they each continued to find their footing in Hollywood.

For Vaughn, that footing would see him continue to struggle finding roles with some meat on the bone. In 1994 there was At Risk followed by the direct to video Just Your Luck before he landed a guest spot on Doogie Howser, M.D. His pal Jon Favreau was having a bit better time finding acting work but his true desire was to craft his own stories, which he did when he wrote the screenplay for Swingers in just two weeks. The story was a more fictionalized version of his struggle for success in Hollywood. The script was written with the intention of casting himself and his pals Ron Livingston and Vince Vaughn in it. Even though the studio wanted A list actors for the roles, Favreau stuck to his guns and demanded this friends be hired. And thank God he did because after finding director Doug Liman who was able to secure funding for the film, they were able to craft one of the best buddy comedies ever made that is considered by many to be one of the film responsible for the indie boom of the 90s. It’s also one of the most quotable films of all time. Some would say Swingers was so money it didn’t even know how money it was! The film would be a moderate financial success but would earn raves for the performances, mainly of Favreau and Vaughn which would allow Vaughn to truly kick his acting career into high gear.

vince vaughn swingers

First up, appearing in the highly anticipated follow up The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) before appearing in the semi controversial The Locusts opposite Spielberg’s wife, Kate Capshaw. By 1998, Vaughn would kick his indy cred into high gear by starring in little seen (but excellent) Return To Paradise opposite Anne Heche and Joaquin Phoenix, with whom he would again star with in director David Dobkin’s film Clay Pigeons. By the end of 1998, Vaughn was a leading man, landing the highly coveted role of Norman Bates in Gus Van Sant’s controversial shot for shot remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. The film would be divisive with many saying Psycho is simply one film that should never be remade, with some saying that they felt Vaughn was miscast. But was it enough to end his career? No!

With his star on the rise, Vaughn would appear on The Larry Sanders Show, Sex and the City, the film South of Heaven, West of Hell and host Saturday Night Live before starring in one of the most underrated movies ever made: The Cell. The film is a dark sci fi psychological thriller and is a genuine mind F of a movie with Vaughn playing the lead detective. The film did not receive the best reviews, but they were wrong… Something the Blockbuster Entertainment Awards agreed with me about when they nominated Vaughn for Favorite Actor- Science Fiction at their 2001 awards

After appearing in the direct to video The Prime Gig in 2000, Vaughn would take on producer duties alongside old pals Jon Favreau and Peter Billingsley for Favreau’s directorial debut Made, which many thought was a direct sequel to Swingers, but is actually a fully original story about two bumbling friends who get involved in a money laundering scheme. Although the film doesn’t hold the same cult status as Swingers, it is still a solid comedic film that shows how great Vaughn is in these fast talking, very dry, comedic roles. Vaughn would close out 2001 by taking on a cameo in Ben Stiller’s Zoolander before heading back down his dark character path with the also under appreciated Domestic Disturbance alongside John Travolta. Of course the movie may not be as famous as the story that came out while the movie was filming. One night after work Vaughn alongside screenwriter Scott Rosenberg and costar Steve Buscemi went to a bar where a local man, who must not have been having a good day, instigated a fight with Vaughn and Rosenberg. The result was Buscemi was slashed in the face when he tried to break it up.

Then in 2003, something happened. It seemed the trajectory of Vaughn’s career changed. He had made his career in the comedy Swingers but seemed to step away from the genre in the immediate aftermath, but in 2003 a movie was released that showed just what type of genuine comedic force Vince Vaughn is. The movie was called Old School. Creating what became known as the Frat Pack, a group of highly successful comedic actors who can all somehow be connected to Old School, it changed the way comedy films where made for a few years… for better or worse. After appearing in the indie films I Love Your Work and Blackball, Vaughn would have a three year stretch that turned him from great comedic actor into a genuine legend of the genre. First he would star as the bad guy to Ben Stiller & Owen Wilson’s Starsky & Hutch in his Old School director Todd Phillips’ big screen remake that turned out to be a massive hit with $170 million made worldwide. He would follow that up by playing the average Joe in the comedy classic Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story where his dry wit was on full display. The film had the opportunity to go off the rails with all the crazy characters in it, but Vaughn’s character is the anchor that makes the film work.

But lest you think Dodgeball was the only now classic comedy Vaughn appeared in that year, he would also show up in an uncredited role in Will Ferrell’s Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy as a news reporter who simply hates Ron Burgundy, but gosh darn does he respect him! He would close out 2004 by appearing in the Mel Gibson produced film Paparazzi before launching into 2005 in the independent film Thumbsucker and reuniting with John Travolta for the Get Shorty follow up Be Cool where he was able to show his character actor skills by playing a decidedly against type record producer. He did the part so well that the Teen Choice Awards nominated him for Choice Movie Sleazebag! Vaughn would have one hell of a summer, appearing in a supporting role as the comedic sidekick to Brad Pitt’s hitman in the nearly half a billion dollar grossing Mr. And Mrs Smith before starring in one of the best comedic films ever made: Wedding Crashers (2005)It is almost a perfect comedy film, equal parts hilarious and heartfelt. Vaughn alongside Owen Wilson would win the MTV Movie Award for Best On-Screen Team along with the People’s Choice Award for Favorite On-Screen Match-up while the film would earn a massive (for an R rated comedy) $288.5 million off a $40 million budget.

vince vaughn wedding crashers

Vaughn would pair up with Jennifer Aniston for the romantic comedy The Break-Up (2006) for which he also conceived the story. The film would yet again show the range of Vaughn as it weaved hilarious dry witted comedy with scenes of genuine drama and would prove a massive success with audiences when it took in over $205 million and would win Vaughn and Aniston the coveted People’s Choice Award for Favorite On-Screen Match-up. Proving that Vaughn is not the type of performer that needs the spotlight, he would take on a smaller more dramatic role in the Sean Penn directed Into The Wild before reuniting with his Clay Pigeons/ Wedding Crashers director David Dobkin for the Christmas comedy Fred Claus (2007) where he played Santa Claus’s slacker brother.

The film cost a reported $100 million and was only able to make back $97 million at the worldwide box office proving to be Vaughn’s first out right bomb, although nowadays many have added this to their yearly rotation of Christmas movie watching. Is it a top ten Christmas movie? Nope! But it is still a decent one that is fun for the whole family. Speaking of family Christmas movies, Vaughn would star alongside Reese Witherspoon in the critically panned Four Christmases that pulled in some decent box office dollars at over $160 million worldwide. But, it was called one of the most joyless Christmas movies ever made by the Hollywood Reporter. Perhaps some of that joylessness was because during filming it was reported that Vaughn and Witherspoon simply did not get along with each other with one source saying that Vaughn’s style of ad libbing scenes to find where they go clashed with Witherspoon’s more by the book style. Some reports even claim that Witherspoon hated working with Vaughn so much she refused to film a scripted sex scene with him.

In 2009, Vaughn would collaborate with Jon Favreau on the script for Couples Retreat. The film did not receive great reviews, but famed thumbed one Roger Ebert did say that Vaughn’s “well timed and smart dialogue” were one of the better parts of the film while audiences enjoyed the island getaway with just over $170 million grossed worldwide off a $60 million budget. Unfortunately, Couples Retreat would be Vaughn’s last big hit for a few years as he would next star in and produce the Ron Howard directed The Dilemma which tanked at the box office. He would follow that up by narrating and producing the Art of Conflict: The Murals of Northern Ireland before starring alongside old pal Ben Stiller in The Watch which is actually a pretty funny story about alien invasion. But, it had the unfortunate timing of being released shortly after the death of Trayvon Martin which was a tragic controversial story all over the news and one of the buzzwords or phrases of this story was “neighborhood watch”. And Neighborhood Watch was this movie’s original title. Due to the controversy the film suddenly became The Watch and it never seemed to recover…. many blame the confusing last minute title change. He would next appear in the sports gambling film Lay The Favorite which was yet another massive box office bomb with just over $1 million off a $14 million budget, although his role was minimal.

In need of a hit, Vaughn would see a 60 Minutes story about the work culture at Google and would take the idea to director Shawn Levy who would agree to produce and direct The Internship. It was reported that Google demanded creative control over the film but Levy denied that saying the only control Google had was over some of the products that were featured. The film is actually really funny. Let me correct that: the Unrated cut released on home video is actually really funny, but for some reason the studio decided to tame this one down to a PG13 for its theatrical release where it suffered from being obviously cut to achieve the rating and would ultimately fail to hit the same highs as Wedding Crashers with critics calling it a 2 hour commercial for Google.

Vaughn would pop up in A Case For You (2013) before appearing in a few more box office duds including Delivery Man (2013- $53 million worldwide) and Unfinished Business (2015- $14.4 million worldwide) before again switching up the way he does things. In 2016 he would produce and star in the action film Term Life for director Peter Billingsly. Although that movie didn’t light up the box office (it never got a theatrical release) and was quickly forgotten, it showed a different side to the star that seemed to have been forgotten. Mel Gibson would bring out more of that side of Vaughn when he cast him in his Oscar nominated Hacksaw Ridge, who knew Vince could bring some humor to this dark film while still being believable as an authority figure on the battlefield. But, it would be master filmmaker S. Craig Zahler who truly saw something in Vaughn when he took a chance on the actor and cast him as a down on his luck man who takes a job transporting meth in the gritty brutal brilliant flick called Brawl in Cell Block 99. When the job goes wrong, Vaughn’s character is sentenced to seven years in prison. This movie was a different Vaughn, it took this underlying darkness from all of his roles, including Psycho, and rolled them into one character, void of a sense of humor, replaced with a sense of rage and willing to do what it takes to see his child.

If anyone ever thought Vaughn was strictly the master of dry humor, this film proved that he is also someone who can commit deeply to a role and make you see him in an entirely new light… but he does get a few moments that can be called jokes in there. It also shows the maturation in Vaughn as an actor. In Psycho, a similarly dark role, people felt he was miscast, but nearly 20 Years later, Vaughn played one of the ultimate bad asses to ever appear on screen. The Saturn Awards agreed when they nominated Vaughn for best actor. But most of all it showed that Vince could kick some ass, like seriously beat the tar out of you. The director really uses Vaughn’s height and massive size as a freaking weapon in this one. One thing about his size – our EIC Chris Bumbray actually interviewed Vaughn (and Bumbray’s idol Don Johnson) for this one and got a pic. On a good day, Bumbray stands a decent 6″2. In the pic below, look at how Vaughn TOWERS over him. Truly, in person, his height is staggering.

vince vaughn giant
The scary thing is Vaughn was actually crouching down for this. The man is a (friendly) giant.

Proving Craig Zahler knew he had a great thing with Vaughn, the two of them would team up again for Dragged Across Concrete. In it, Vaughn would star opposite his Hacksaw Ridge director Mel Gibson for brutal crime thriller where the pair play corrupt cops who have been suspended from the force for dishing out their own brand of justice which gets them in trouble with their higher-ups. Like i said this is another brilliant brutal film by Zahler that shows the absolute stellar range Vince Vaughn possesses. Whether is playing a corrupt cop, a man not to be f*cked with in prison or Santa Claus’s brother, Vince Vaughn nails the job every time!

In the past few years, Vaughn seems to be fine taking the secondary role in projects he believes in. In 2019 he would star in the WWE inspired story Fighting With My Family before appearing in the Kristen Stewart fronted Seberg. In 2020, Vaughn would show up in the Clark Duke directed Arkansas (a really good little movie) followed by The Purge parody film The Binge before again earning solid reviews as a girl struck in a serial killer’s body in the quite good comedy/ slasher film Freaky which would have made more money if our dear leaders didn’t shut the whole f*cking world down in 2020. Sadly this under appreciated gem only made a little over $18 million, but seemed to find a decent audience once it hit home video. 2021 would see Vaughn appear in the film North Hollywood before starring as US Postal Inspector Simon Kilmurry in the vastly under-seen Queenpins, where he proves he is still as charming as ever!

But then… Vince Vaughn was seen doing one of the worst things a Hollywood celebrity can do… he was politely chatting with President Donald Trump and because of this unforgivable sin, he was instantly cancelled by all those people and organization and social media pages that cancel people but guess what…? Nobody seemed to give a crap… thus canceling his cancelation.

This big tall funny man has done what many consider impossible… he can balance the silly with the scary, perfectly existing in sad face movies and happy face movies. And speaking of movies… he is not done making them, in the next year he has a few projects on the radar, including potential sequels to The Wedding Crashers and Dodgeball…He’s also starring in the Apple TV + series Bad Monkey, based on the novel by Carl Hiaasen, so the actor is definitely keeping busy despite his low profile. He’s also continued working with some of his old pals, including A Christmas Story star Peter Billingsley, who directed him in Couples Retreat and Term Life but apparently encouraged the former actor to start his own Christmas movie podcast.

He’s also got a movie called Nonnas, about a man opening a restaurant run by Grandmothers. Sound silly? It should be noted that the film will be directed by Stephen Chbosky, who made The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Wonder, and his films tend to emphasize running to get tissues rather than tickling the funnybone. And Vaughn will also be turning up as Freddy Funkhouser in the final season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, which airs this winter. Indeed, Vince Vaughn is still so money, he doesn’t even know how money he is!

About the Author

318 Articles Published

Brad grew up loving movies and wanting to work in the industry. Graduated from Full Sail University in 2007 before moving to Los Angeles where I was fortunate enough to join SAG-Aftra in 2012. I love every second I get to write about movies for Joblo!