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Whatever Happened To Vince Vaughn?

The acting career of Minnesota-born, Illinois-raised Vince Vaughn began around age 17, after a youth spent wrestling, playing football and baseball. In the decades since his "Rudy" debut and "Swingers" breakthrough — both alongside good pal Jon Favreau — he has had numerous highs ("Wedding Crashers") and lows (Gus Van Sant's ill-advised "Psycho" remake), establishing himself as a resilient Hollywood star, if nothing else.   

Today, Vaughn's career isn't nearly as high-profile as it was in the late '90s/2000s. Following a succession of ill-advised roles ("The Internship," everyone's least favorite season of "True Detective") straight-to-video nonentities ("Brawl in Cell Block 99," "North Hollywood") and box office duds ("Queenpins"), he is once again more down than up.   

But it's never wise to count someone like Vaughn out, and he has spent recent years expanding his name recognition into other realms, diversifying a career in Hollywood and beyond. From his acting career to his side businesses and hobbies — and from his brushes with the law to his sometimes controversial political leanings — here's what Vaughn has been up to in recent years.

He had a long string of bad movies

At the height of his fame, Vaughn was a bankable, beloved leading man. 

Following name-making breakthroughs in films both small (Doug Liman's "Swingers") and big (Steven Spielberg's "The Lost World"), Vaughn initially stumbled out of the gate. Films like "Clay Pigeons" were barely seen, "The Cell" and "Domestic Disturbance" were bombs more notable for behind-the-scenes turmoil than box office, and the Favreau reunion flick "Made" hardly seemed to help either.

Around the turn of the century, as the failure of his "Psycho" work playing Norman Bates was still stinging, Vaughn made a smart pivot. He laid some comical breadcrumbs in films like "Zoolander" and "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy," then did more than steal scenes with starring roles in the hit comedies "Dodgeball," "Old School," and "Wedding Crashers." As a real-life romance with Jennifer Aniston dominated Brangelina-era headlines, his apex of fame seemed to arrive with 2006's "The Break-Up"; the Vaughn/Aniston hit opened at number one and went on to gross over $100 million domestically.

It was around this time that Vaughn's propensity for picking bad scripts began catching up with him. From "Be Cool" to "Couples Retreat," "Fred Claus" to "The Dilemma," "The Watch" to "Delivery Man," many of these films paired Vaughn with likable friends (Favreau, Ben Stiller, Reese Witherspoon) but just so happened to represent some of the worst films they've been a part of in the last two decades. Elizabeth Banks, whose career has soared in the years since, can barely conceal her disdain for "Fred Claus."

Between 2006 and 2016, nearly everything Vaughn touched was trashed by critics and audiences alike. The exceptions were typically smaller work, such as a supporting role in "Into the Wild" or his "Anchorman" series cameos. For about a decade, Vince Vaughn was, to paraphrase his character in "Swingers," the guy in the PG-13 movie everyone's *really* hoping makes it happen. But it just wasn't happening. 

He lost his bankability

It's a hard point to debate: In Hollywood, you're only considered a success if your films make money. So, as films like "The Dilemma," "Fred Claus," "Unfinished Business," and "The Watch" — all big-budget starring roles for Vaughn — lost money, each one chipped away at his likelihood of landing another. 

Some of this may have been bad luck. "The Watch," possibly the funniest Vaughn film from this period, suffered from the ill-timing of being scheduled for release around the same time as the death of Trayvon Martin. Shot and killed by a neighborhood watchman named George Zimmerman, the controversy dominated headlines in early 2012, making advertising for the film particularly sensitive. Fox and director/co-star Stiller were forced to drop its original name ("Neighborhood Watch"), take down the film's trailers and posters, and limp towards a lackluster opening weekend a few months later — further weakened by a mass shooting in a Colorado theater the weekend prior, leaving some 25 percent of potential moviegoers too scared to go to their local theaters. 

"The Watch" and Vaughn's 2015 workplace comedy "Unfinished Business" were particularly huge box-office bombs, with the former bringing back less than half its budget at the domestic box office and the latter earning under one-third of its budget domestically. By 2016, Vaughn was producing and starring in the action thriller "Term Life" (directed by longtime friend/collaborator/"A Christmas Story" legend Peter Billingsley); it marked the bottom of the barrel financially, bringing in less than $90,000 worldwide — a total nearly as embarrassing as his character's ill-advised bangs

Even if he was still a name, Vaughn's star power had considerably dimmed. Studios could no longer count on him as an incentive to bring audiences into the theater, and his status as a leading man was effectively revoked as far as mainstream big-budgeted fare was concerned. For all intents and purposes, Vaughn has not had a studio "vehicle" since "Unfinished Business."

He went to television

Flash back to 2014, and it seemed likely pop culture fans were on the verge of a Vaughn-renaissance. The first season of HBO's "True Detective" had been a massive, watercooler-worthy hit, earning Emmy nominations for Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, making a star out of Alexandra Daddario, and announcing Nic Pizzolatto and Cary Fukunaga as formidable behind-the-camera talents. When a buzz-worthy Season 2 was announced with a dark new story featuring Vaughn (as a criminal!), Colin Farrell and Rachel McAdams, it seemed like a no-brainer, must watch triumph waiting to happen.

It was also a return home of sorts for Vaughn, who got his start in bit parts on shows like "21 Jump Street" and "Doogie Howser, M.D." Although Vaughn had returned to the smaller screen occasionally on "The Larry Sanders Show" or "Sex and the City," the second season of "True Detective" seemed like the perfect opportunity to launch a new phase of his career while bringing things full circle.

But rather than another fierce, mind-bending season of groundbreaking police drama, audiences got missing genitals, a guy dressed as a crow, Farrell beating up a family, Rick Springfield as an unsettling psychiatrist, bad CGI explosions, and Vaughn hallucinating as he stumbles through the desert to his death. At most, the season felt like wannabe David Lynch; at worst, it led many to believe Pizzolatto had lost his inspiration (and the absence of Fukunaga behind the camera was a bridge too far). 

The season was met with a mixed (at best) response that nearly killed the series until the well-reviewed Season 3 brought it back for a soon-to-debut Season 4. Needless to say, Vaughn's gangster turn didn't manifest the Vaughn-naissance some were expecting; it did, however, return him to TV, where he has since remained as a "Curb Your Enthusiasm" supporting character, a voice (and executive producer) on "F is for Family," and will soon star in the upcoming Apple TV+ series "Bad Monkey."

He went darker

For the bulk of his career, Vaughn has been known as a comedic actor — despite flirting with unhinged characters in films like "Psycho," "The Cell" and "Domestic Disturbance." As Vaughn's comedies began to diminish in their returns in the late 2000s/early 2010's, he responded once again by going dark. 

His first major departure came playing Frank Semyon, a gangster in Vinci, California (a fictional stand-in for the notoriously-corrupt city of Vernon) on the "True Detective" second season. A far cry from the type of character Vaughn made his name playing, it gave some viewers tonal whiplash, with some asking "Why does Frank Semyon look so tired in every single shot?"  In the eyes of many, the dramatic heft required of the role had Vaughn in over his head. 

A few years later, Vaughn once again waded into dramatic waters via the Mel Gibson-directed WWII film "Hacksaw Ridge." It would be a key post-Spider-Man role for Andrew Garfield, but Vaughn would also get positive notices for what Time called a "prickly, quietly intense performance."

He got a boost from S. Craig Zahler

If you were to pick Vaughn's two most promising roles in recent years, you might choose a pair from the same filmmaker. 

Writer/director S. Craig Zahler ("Bone Tomahawk") cast Vaughn against type as a meth-dealing prison inmate forced into an assassination attempt for 2017's "Brawl in Cell Block 99," then returned to him once again to play a scandalized police officer alongside Gibson in 2018's  "Dragged Across Concrete." Taken as a whole, the Zahler films provided Vaughn with meatier, more complex characters than he had seen in quite some time.

Neither were highly-commercial mainstream blockbusters; "Concrete" had a budget in the neighborhood of $15 million and barely took in a half million dollars at the box office. But Vaughn impressed with significant physical transformations (in "Cell Block" he sports a giant cross tattoo on the back of his shaved head) and athletic prowess (Vaughn undertook an exercise and boxing regimen to prepare).  leading up to the shoot. 

"My mind kinda shifted," Vaughn said of his mindset at the time. "I started to think that I wanted to do different things."

"Vince has a naturally imposing presence," Zahler said of his reasons for looking at the onetime comedy star with freshly-opened eyes. "I'm seeing him do a lot of these comedic things and being told he's one thing... But if I saw him on the street, that's not who I would think he would be."

He diversified his work as a producer

As Vaughn's Hollywood stock grew, he wisely began working behind the camera as well. Some of these films ("Made," "The Break-Up," "Couples Retreat") were Vaughn vehicles produced alongside friends like Favreau and Billingsley. But as his studio leading man roles began drying up, he has leaned more heavily on producing projects — many of which haven't even featured him on camera.

Since "The Internship" in 2013, Vaughn's production efforts have included such diverse fare as the Glenn Beck-backed reality series "Pursuit of the Truth," the sitcom "Sullivan & Son," and the talk series "Fear(Less) with Tim Ferriss." Vaughn, a noted sports fan, has channeled that interest into producing the TV series "Undeniable with Joe Buck" and an episode of "30 for 30" on his beloved '85 Bears. 

He has also long professed a love for stand-up comedy, first displayed with the theatrical release "Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show" (a documentary depicting a 30-date tour of comedians hand-selected by the star), then revisited with 2017's Netflix effort "Brad Paisley's Comedy Rodeo" and the 2020 Jimmy O. Yang narrative film "The Opening Act," all produced by Vaughn. 

In 2012, Vaughn produced his first documentary with the Netflix original "Art of Conflict," directed by his sister Valeri. Vince provides the narration for the film, which details murals in Northern Ireland and how they've reflected the violence of the area across generations. Through Wild West Picture Show Productions, which he runs with sister Victoria Vaughn and Billingsley, he has also displayed an affection for holiday films. In addition to "Four Christmases," Wild West produced the 2022 Hallmark spoof "Christmas with the Campbells," as well as "A Christmas Story Christmas," featuring Billingsley's long-awaited return to the role of Ralphie Parker.

He became a screenwriter

After establishing himself as an actor, Vaughn began dipping his toe into screenwriting. It began with a simple "story" credit for "The Break-Up," but became more involved with screenplay credit on "The Internship" and writer credits on "Couples Retreat" and "Campbells."

With "Couples Retreat," Vaughn co-wrote the screenplay alongside Favreau, and the film was directed by Billingsley. Also featuring talented folks like Jason Bateman, Kristen Bell and Malin Akerman, the film was a financial hit despite a poor response from critics and audiences. Vaughn would follow up by co-writing "The Internship," an eagerly-anticipated reunion for "Wedding Crashers" stars Vaughn and Owen Wilson, but one that proved far less financially successful, a critical flop many saw as toothless compared to their last pairing. Vaughn agreed.

"'Crashers' is an adult situation comedy. I think that movie did well because it really captures how guys talk —the purple stuff, the explicit tone and language....you have to do that sometimes in a movie. It's sort of a relief to people when your characters say things people are thinking but don't have the nerve to say. When you pull away from that sort of content, it can really mess up a film," Vaughn said in a 2015 interview, explaining that the re-teaming was originally written to be another hard-R film. "'The Internship' was supposed to be an R-rated comedy. Right before we started shooting, the studio said they wanted to go PG-13. I said I just didn't see that. I said we'd do it both ways and then make the call. But the ship had sailed and I found myself in a movie that was PG-13, which was not my initial intent."

"As an actor, you're not in charge of how those decisions get made," he continued. "So, you find yourself in positions sometimes where you're making a movie that's different from what you expected."

His charity work

Any actor with multiple decades of steady work should consider themselves among fortunate; accordingly, Vaughn has taken the opportunity to give back when possible. 

Vaughn has donated to a number of charities over the years, many military-adjacent, including Army Emergency Relief (which provides financial aid to members of the U.S. Army), Declare Yourself (a non-partisan organization dedicated to increasing voter registration amongst younger generations), the Fulfillment Fund (which helps economically-challenged individuals afford college), and Jumpstart, a Boston-based organization committed to early education.

As a celebrity, Vaughn has also acted as a spokesman, speaker, or guest of honor for numerous other charitable endeavors. The John Wayne Cancer Institute honored Vaughn in 2017 with the "True Grit" Humanitarian Award (given to those who "Embody the American values that were characteristic of John Wayne"), saying Vaughn was chosen for "his generosity, commitment and support of America's servicemen and women."

In 2010, Vaughn was among a roomful of celebrities (including Barbra Streisand, LL Cool J and Justin Bieber) performing on the "We Are The World 25 Years For Haiti" charity track. He has appeared at fundraisers for the Motion Picture and Television Fund, Tony Bennett's "Exploring the Arts" foundation, and played poker at the 2016 "Four Kings and an Ace" event, hosted by the World Poker tour to benefit Mending Kids International

He became deeply involved in poker

When not playing poker for charity, Vaughn has been known to do it for recreation — only appropriate, given that his career breakthrough came as the Vegas-loving, eager-to-double-down Trent in "Swingers." 

In 2021, Vaughn became professionally involved in the annual World Series of Poker where he gave the official "shuffle up and deal" announcement that kicks off tournaments; he also competed for a gold WSOP bracelet in a Texas Hold 'Em event. A $10,000 bounty was placed on Vaughn's head to be awarded to the player who eliminated him from the tournament, which ended up being Indian pro Kunal Patni. The following year, Vaughn served as the Master of Ceremonies for the World Series of Poker (an ambassador role) and competed in the main event.

In 2022, Vaughn competed in a series of three televised poker matches that found him going heads-up against Joe Cada, Koray Aldemir, and the Poker Brat himself, Phil Helmuth. All three of his opponents were world champions, so it was a surprise when Vaughn managed to win one of his three matches — taking down Aldemir, the 2021 World Series of Poker winner.

He started his own podcast network

In recent years, Vaughn has made a concerted effort to join the booming podcast space, appearing on popular shows like "WTF with Marc Maron" and even founding his own podcast network/production company called Audiorama alongside Ryan Kalil and Greg Olsen, both former professional NFL football players. 

While Vaughn doesn't have the professional sports experience of his co-founders (who played together on the Carolina Panthers), he does have a reputation as one of Hollywood's most sports-obsessed celebrities, and multiple Audiorama efforts have played to that strength.

The first podcast created by Audiorama was "Youth Inc.," hosted by Olsen and focused on youth sports. Their second was "Block Forever," a football focused podcast hosted by Kalil. Vaughn is directly involved behind the scenes, but also appears on the podcasts sporadically alongside the main hosts. Vaughn also produces and occasionally appears on the podcast series "A Cinematic Journey," hosted by Billingsley, which launched in December 2022 with a series focusing onwhat else? — Christmas movies.

He was arrested twice

In June of 2018, Vaughn was arrested in Manhattan Beach, California, complete with mugshot and all. He was stopped at a sobriety checkpoint, where he at first refused to exit his vehicle. He then failed both a sobriety test and a blood alcohol test and was charged with reckless driving, driving under the influence, and refusal to comply with police. The three charges are all categorized as misdemeanors.

In May of 2019, Vaughn had his court hearing for the three charges. He pled no-contest and was sentenced to three years of unsupervised probation. He was also required to complete a three-month-long alcohol education class. The arrest and sentencing don't seem to have had any impact on his career, as Vaughn has continued working throughout his probation period.

This wasn't Vaughn's first time being arrested. Back in 2001, Vaughn was sprayed with mace and arrested after a violent fight with two locals outside of a bar in Wilmington, North Carolina. Vaughn was in town shooting the movie "Domestic Disturbance," and his co-star Steve Buscemi was also involved in the fight. Buscemi was stabbed multiple times and rushed to the emergency room as Vaughn and the other men were arrested.

His politics have landed him in hot water

Vince Vaughn has faced significant public backlash on a handful of occasions due to his perceived political leanings. While some (including Fox News) have pegged him for a conservative Republican, Vaughn publicly self-identifies as a libertarian.

In 2017, the Daily Beast ran an article entitled "Vince Vaughn, Hollywood's Biggest Libertarian, Wants More Guns in Schools." In it, they quote from a GQ UK interview where Vaughn said: "I support people having a gun in public full stop, not just in your home. We don't have the right to bear arms because of burglars; we have the right to bear arms to resist the supreme power of a corrupt and abusive government. It's not about duck hunting; it's about the ability of the individual. It's the same reason we have freedom of speech. It's well known that the greatest defense against an intruder is the sound of a gun hammer being pulled back. All these gun shootings that have gone down in America since 1950, only one or maybe two have happened in non-gun-free zones. Take mass shootings. They've only happened in places that don't allow guns. These people are sick in the head and are going to kill innocent people. They are looking to slaughter defenseless human beings. They do not want confrontation."

In regards to whether guns should be allowed in schools, he added: "Of course. You think the politicians that run my country and your country don't have guns in the schools their kids go to? They do."

Another moment that made Vaughn a lightning rod for political controversy came when he was recorded shaking hands and conversing cordially with Donald Trump at a 2020 football game. Speaking to the LA Times later that year, Vaughn defended the moment.

"In my career I've met a lot of politicians who I've always been cordial to; I've met Nancy Pelosi and was cordial to her as well," he said. "It was the only time I've ever met [Trump]. We said hello. He was very personable... I didn't get into policies."

Vaughn pointed out that he has only ever publicly supported one politician, presidential nominee Ron Paul, whom he actively campaigned for in 2012. Vaughn has also raised eyebrows by producing the aforementioned "Pursuit of the Truth," a sort of "Project Greenlight" for Glenn Beck's conservative media company Blaze Media; in 2015, The Root took umbrage with Vaughn's comments against affirmative action, calling the actor a "jerk."

"I don't have a party that I support and endorse," Vaughn said in 2020, addressing those who would speculate on his politics. "In fact, for me sometimes it's difficult to find a candidate that you feel is philosophically consistent and not just going along with whoever is funding their particular party. That's as much as I'll get into it at this point."