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Vince Vaughn On Running a Schoolhouse, Playing a Teenager, and the Enduring Power of ‘Swingers’

That guy you loved in 'Swingers' and who just returned for the comedy-horror 'Freaky,' tells us why he's running a school house.

Vince Vaughn — who turned dodgeball into a bloodsport, who got played by a “stage five clinger” in Wedding Crashers and a crafty Jennifer Aniston in The Breakup, and who taught his buddy about claws and fangs and bunnies in Swingers — has found a new calling as a benevolent headmaster.

With schools mostly shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Vaughn and his wife, Kyla Weber, have turned their Los Angeles home into something resembling the schoolhouse in Little House on the Prairie for their kids Lochlyn, 9, and Vernon, 7.

“They each have a couple of friends that come over and learn together, which is nice. Two teachers at my house, the second grade and fourth graders. And they’re having fun. They’re really enjoying learning. They’re having fun with each other,” he says. “They get a lot of their academics done in about half a day. So I’m trying to keep it as normal as possible and keep them smiling.”

In another about-face, Vaughn plays a high schooler in the slasher comedy Freaky. Confused? Don’t be. He’s actually a serial killer who switches bodies with a bullied teenager. And anyone who toyed with her — well, suffice to say, they regret it. “I think it’s so identifiable for all of us, the vulnerability that you feel at that age and going through those bumps that are terrible, you know?” says Vaughn, who got his own big break as a suave, fast-talking, wifebeater-wearing asshole in the 1996 comedy Swingers.

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He talks to Fatherly about parenthood, home-schooling, and why Swingers resonated so much with pretty much everyone.

So first, tell me how you came to be running a school. 

We’re all part of this charter school — you go to school two days a week and then three days is kind of home. It’s just sort of a continuation of that, except it’s not open. So we’re just kind of going over curriculum and stuff together, which has been lovely actually.

It sounds like you’re really enjoying this time at home with the kids. 

You know, it’s interesting. I really connect to being a kid still. I understand it. And I think you don’t put a lot of thought into fatherhood. The best thing a father can do for their kids is to love their mom because you show them good communication and a good relationship. You have to try to guide them. But at the same time, give them space to be who they are. I really love my kids. I like them as people. I enjoy my time with them and have a lot of fun. I like being able to share things, life moments.

What was your own high school experience like in Illinois? 

I was able to follow my bliss and do things that I liked. I wasn’t good at everything, but I found some things that I just enjoyed doing — acting, making videos. That was one of them. And I think part of the journey of life is just getting okay with yourself, including the things that you’re not good at.

And the sense of humor is helpful. I think for yourself in situations at the time, it doesn’t feel funny, but a few years later, hopefully, you can laugh at some of those moments that felt kind of life-ending.

In Freaky, your character really makes people pay for treating her like shit. Did you have any similar experiences, or just people being mean? 

I got along with most people, I always had a good sense of humor and was funny, and that served me well. I played some sports, but I was also making videos and stuff. So I had a wide range of interests. And I was fortunate that for some reason I got past that feeling of being embarrassed about things that I liked. I was in plays and then I was also in sports and I just gave myself permission thankfully to try different things. And I think I was fortunate for that.

Looking through your list of credits, you’ve been in some of the most notable buddy comedies of the last few decades. Talk to me about Swingers, which turned you and Jon Favreau into stars. 

I don’t really watch movies when I’m done. That was a great movie though. I think what we did was — we were just exploring. You’re uncovering, what’s already there. So I think that dealing with the time where you’re either out of high school or out of college and you don’t really have anything in common — you’re not sharing a class with them. So how do you approach someone that you really just don’t know — it’s intimidating. And then at the same time, you’re dealing with a breakup, a friend who has gone through a loss, their confidence is shaken.

And I think part of what made Swingers work was that we were kind of vulnerable. We didn’t tell a fictional story where the characters were cool and had it all figured out. You’re trying your best to make connections and you’re getting embarrassed. And we know that we all know that feeling of putting yourself out there and being humiliated, but then obviously what’s on the other side of that is growing and that you really can’t get one without the other.

And then there’s Wedding Crashers, which really set the gold standard. 

Owen (Wilson) is so funny and he’s such a good writer. He had such great ideas and there’s a real beauty in that sincerity. I think on some level when people start dating early, they do present sides of themselves that they think are flattering. You don’t always share the things that you’re not proud of, but that you’re a little embarrassed about it. And I think it’s a moment in that character’s life where he says, ‘I want to be myself with somebody. I just want to have the confidence to really be myself. I’m not trying to be something I’m not.’

And it’s really about him just being with Rachel (McAdams) and being honest, being able to be himself. And he can’t do it with the whole movie. So now he has to do it in a house of God in front of her family and a bunch of people. So it’s exaggerated. But I think the journey is one that is relatable to really share who you are. It’s scary because then you’re being rejected.

Not that this is a long meandering walk down your movie history, but The Breakup is another standout because it doesn’t have the ending you expect. Or want. 

And then with The Breakup, it was an idea I had that I actually wrote with a couple of the writers and that’s that moment in relationships — where the girl was in a relationship with a guy that was actually vulnerable and kind of a good guy, although so hurt and not able to be available. Because most relationships I had had at that point, the relationships didn’t work. He would really love the person and have a connection with them. But both of you didn’t have skills. You were young and you just didn’t know how to handle these things.

Now the relationship is over, you cause a lot of hurt, and you couldn’t go back. If the two of you were to meet now, you probably would work, but you had to care about that person enough to learn those lessons.

Freaky is in theaters on November 13, 2020.