Vince Vaughn Interview: Inside the Cell
It is clear from seeing the visually striking thriller The Cell, why Vince Vaughn was drawn to this unusual serial killer thriller. "I liked it because it was never what I could think of or expect. I kept thinking that we were making a big art-house film, like an exhibit. The stuff [director Tarsem] did was pretty cool. The hardest part as an actor was not understanding the plot in a linear way or having justifications in a common sense or logical way. It was taking a leap of faith. You'd have to create the back-story and fill in the gaps for motivations.
The acting in this film serves the visuals. There's not really a linear story to this film, which I think is kind of cool. The story's told more through the visuals. It's similar to Hong Kong films, where the visuals and cinematography carry you more than the story does. And when you watch the film you can judge it on the basis of a normal action film and say that it doesn't make sense. But if you drop that impression, you're left with an impact, through Tarsem's visuals, of what his intentions were based on using the pictures that you see along the way." In The Cell, Jennifer Lopez plays Catherine Deane, a child therapist working on an experimental new technology that allows for direct access into someone else's mind. However, the benefits of the technology are still unproven. Meanwhile FBI Agent Peter Novak (Vaughn) is hard at work tracking down a serial killer who encloses women in a small glass cell and drowns them. Novak is able to identify the killer as Carl Stargher (Vincent D'Onofrio), but before he can be arrested, he goes into a coma. The only way to rescue his most recent victim is for Catherine to enter his mind using the experimental technology. However, Stargher's mind is so warped and frightening, there's no way to know what Deane will encounter inside of it.
Unlike many thrillers from Hollywood, The Cell is less about character and conventional narrative and more about colour and ingenious special effects, none of which perturbed the actor. "Visual effects have become more grand and better suited to their specific purpose, but this is almost completely different. These effects are almost like paintings, it's like the composition of the shots are taken into account as well as the colours. It's almost like pioneering in a way, it's original. It's not what you would expect as far as special effects are concerned." While many actors would diligently prepare playing an FBI agent, Vaughn took a different approach working on this film. "For me the big thing that made me want to do the film was Tarsem. I knew I would be part of more of a visually told film. Not necessarily an effects film, but definitely a visually told film. I did go one day down to the FBI station and talk to some agents, just for a starting point. Kind of to see what their perspective on stuff
was." Nor was Vaughn concerned about shooting some pretty grotesque scenes. "Well, I always tend to have a sense of humour. I guess it's just my style with life in general", he says laughingly. The Cell is a film about dreams and nightmares, so when asked whether the actor is easily affected by HIS dreams, he pauses and smiles before responding. "I think you go through stages where you remember your dreams more so than in other times. Not really nightmares, although I have had nightmares in the past. Not recurring nightmares or anything like that, though."
Despite some harrowing imagery, Vaughn remains unconcerned as to how audiences will respond to the film. ". I think this movie will stick with audiences because it is so different. You haven't had to process anything like this before, or at least not as many times as you've had to process explosions or, even with The Lost World, where dinosaurs look realistic. We've gotten used to those kinds of things more than we have compositions, and that perspective is being changed. We had a good time. A lot of times I find, maybe it's just me, but I find that you joke around a lot when the subject matter is heavy. It's hard to stay in that heavy setting; it's nice to break it up. In the movie, there's a short period in which they go through an intense thing. But you can never put those circumstances on you entirely, unless you're filming on an island where the surroundings dictate that. But when you're filming in Los Angeles, you can't sustain it for four months. So you check out of it and bring it back for
We live in age where audience remain desensitised to movie horror. As a youngster, Vaughn does recall being terrified by one or two films. "The Exorcist, for sure, is a shocking horror film. When I was a kid, I got brave and my sister and I saw the first Evil Dead. So I went in my basement and turned off all the lights because I was going to make the experience really scary. I put the thing in and I remember that after 20 minutes something really scary happened. I was 12 at the time. I'll make it sound like I was younger, I might have been 17 or something, I don't know. But I ran to turn on the lights and I smacked into a pole in the basement. That movie probably scared me the most because of my age and the fact that I really was trying to scare myself."
Vince remains one of Hollywood's more unique leading men. His career was kick started with the comedy Swingers, which the actor fondly defines as his birthplace. "It was a collaborative process. Anyone who had an idea, we'd listen to it. We'd all be in on the editing and say if something sucked. After that, doing other movies was strange because they aren't really collaborative at all. I think that's destructive to a point." Yet he has no idea why that seminal comedy was such a success in the independent film world. "We had a really fun time with Swingers. People could change lines and we'd all discuss it. It's like having your own video camera or colouring with crayons. When I was in Chicago doing improv, you'd write a scene with a group of people for the stage that night. And people are more comfortable hearing input from other people in that kind of set-up. But when you get into the realm of Swingers and that kind of success, getting acknowledgement, it becomes harder to have that."
Since Swingers, he has gone to play single dads, psychopaths and cops. There is no pinning him down. In choosing roles, Vaughn says that he has no fixed agenda. "For The Cell, it wasn't so much that the character fascinated me. Even with Psycho, it wasn't that the character fascinated me. [Director] Gus Van Sant fascinated me. I remember moving out to Hollywood when I was 18 and that was the year Drugstore Cowboy came out. I was just taken by that film. Gus could say, "Let's remake Spartacus" and I'd do it. In Return To Paradise, I was more interested in that character and story. So I don't know if I plan it, but there are certain people that you feel interested in working with, sometimes it's a character or a script. With The Cell, you expect an action movie to have momentum, effects or explosions, and this is a different kind of action. I think that's what appealed to me." Next up for Vaughn: He will unite with his Swingers pal Jon Favreau in the new comedy Made, revolving around two aspiring mob
sters (Favreau, Vaughn) from Los Angeles who travel to New York to become "made men", getting involved with a money-laundering scheme and thusly, inducted into a low-level crime syndicate. "I think it's pretty funny, a tad different from The Cell."