As far as Vince Vaughn is concerned, “Delivery Man” arrived at just the right time in his career.
The film, a remake of a 2011 French-Canadian charmer about a middle-aged screw-up discovering the joys of fatherhood, gave Vaughn the chance to flex his dramatic muscles - at least a little bit - for the first time since appearing in Sean Penn’s “Into the Wild.”
“I feel like this material came to me at a time when I was wanting to do something different,” said the actor. “It’s a return to doing the stuff I was doing when I was younger.”
Vaughn is the first to point out that after making a splash in low-budget indies like “Swingers” and “Made,” he spent the early part of his career pursuing primarily dramatic work. In both “Clay Pigeons” and Gus Van Sant’s “Psycho” remake, he played killers, and in “Return to Paradise,” he was a limo driver desperate to save his buddy (Joaquin Phoenix) from a Malaysian prison.
In 2003 when director Todd Phillips (“The Hangover”) wanted to cast Vaughn in the broad comedy “Old School” opposite Will Ferrell and Luke Wilson, studio execs initially balked, skeptical that Vaughn could produce laughs.
Vaughn wound up acing the role in “Old School” and the movie became such a cash cow that it led to more comedies for the actor, including “Dodgeball,” “Wedding Crashers” and “The Break-Up,” all of which blossomed at the box-office.
“I started off doing more dramatic character studies and I had a lot of fun doing that,” said Vaughn. “I was early to the party with ‘Old School,’ which was great…and now for me, with this movie in particular, it has been really great because it’s more dramatic but also, I think, very funny.”
Indeed, one of the reasons Vaughn was happy to jump on board “Delivery Man” is because of the way director Ken Scott was able to blend together hilarity and heartfelt emotion. (Scott also helmed the original.)
“Nowadays, a lot of times you see just a comedy or just a drama…but this, under one umbrella, is really unpredictable,” said Vaughn. “From one scene to the next, you don’t know if you’re going to laugh or be tense. It was a compliment to Ken, and that is what I was most excited about being a part of.”
In the movie, Vaughn plays David Wozniak, a meat delivery guy who discovers that, thanks to his youthful habit of selling his sperm, he’s fathered 533 children, 142 of whom are taking legal action to uncover his true identity.
Freaked out at first, David eventually grooves on the pleasures of fatherhood as he tries to track down his now-twentysomething kids, one by one. Chris Pratt co-stars as David’s best buddy and Cobie Smulders is his policewoman girlfriend who happens to be pregnant with David’s child.
Vaughn insists he hasn’t turned his back on raucous R-rated comedies. He’s still up for unleashing his darker, more rebellious persona, if the right project comes along.
“Different roles present themselves to you [as you grow older],” he said. “It changes what you play at 23 to what you play at 43. For me, it’s more about tone….But I would definitely do a more outlaw R-rated comedy again, depending on what that story was.”
In many ways, David Wozniak starts off like a typical Vaughn wisecracker. But as the movie goes on, he’s revealed to be a man capable of great kindness. He plays guardian angel to a number of his offspring, saving one daughter from a heroin overdose, and developing a strong bond with a severely disabled son (Sebastien Rene, a hold-over from the original film).
“What I think is great about the character of David is his capacity to love,” said Vaughn. “It’s impossible for him to resist trying to reach out and have a connection so I think that’s nice…I think the story is really a nontraditional way to get at the heart of a lot of human situations.”
Vaughn appreciated the fact that the kids whom David fathers come in all sizes and shapes and sexual preferences.
“What I love about the film is that, to me, it’s a lot about learning to accept who you are,” said the actor. “You have pressures to be a bunch of different things…but getting to be OK with yourself, to forgive yourself, love yourself and bringing that to the table for relationships, whether it’s with someone you’re in love with or family, parents, kids, [is important]. There’s a lot of that in the movie. “
Since becoming a father in 2010, Vaughn has been itching to try his hand at more family-friendly fare. A longtime bachelor who once dated Jennifer Aniston, Vaughn married Canadian realtor Kyla Weber in 2010. They have two children, daughter Locklyn, 2, and son Vernon, 3 months.
“I had gotten married a little later in life so we were excited to try right away [to have a baby] and we were thankful that my wife was able to get pregnant right away,” he said.
“With the second one, we were trying [while I was making] this movie, actually. So it was around Christmas when my wife came to me with a Christmas ornament with our family on it, and there was this extra person with a Santa hat on it. So that’s how I found out, which was great.”
Vaughn said nothing is as important to him as being a good father.
“It’s true you get a whole new world opened up to you when you have kids,” he mused. “As a parent you try to enjoy them, be happy and have fun and try to figure out the best way to be a parent so they’ll be happy in life.
“As a father, the best thing you can do for your kid is to love the mom. As a parent, loving the mother is the most important thing. Even parents that aren’t together, it’s important as well for them to respect each other and be kind to each other. It affects who your kids pick to be around and how they feel about themselves.”
A native of Minneapolis, Minn., who grew up outside Chicago, Vaughn is very close to his folks. He counts his mom as a personal hero and regularly casts his dad in his movies in tiny roles. Vaughn is just as tight with his two older sisters.
“If you can survive trying to kill each other when you’re younger and come out the other side of that, at least in our case, [it’s good],” said the actor. “My sisters are probably my best friends now.”
Given the good relationships he has with all of the members of his clan, it’s no surprise that Vaughn finally got around to making a movie about the importance of family.
“In `Delivery Man,’ you have a bunch of people looking for a connection and looking to be part of something and it’s wonderful the way film, in a non-fluffy way, takes you on that journey.
“I’ve received some really nice notes from people who have been adopted who say the movie really spoke to them in a special way. So, to me, when I watch the film, I find the kids in it to be really positive and loving. And there’s something wonderful about that connection they find [with David].
“However you go through life, it’s nice to be loved and it’s nice to have someone to love.”