8 Milestones in the Evolution of Vince Vaughn

In The Dilemma, Vince Vaughn plays a man who witnesses his best friend's wife cheating with another man. Ron Howard's latest film is a departure of sorts for Vaughn compared to other films if only because the overall tone cannot be described as a "laugh riot." Still, how did Vaughn become one of the most bankable comedy stars in Hollywood after beginning his career in drama? You can always trace a direct line through a handful of important roles to illustrate what led to an actor's current success, and with Vaughn, that line was definitely on a downward slant until Todd Phillips came along and cast him in Old School. Let's look at eight performances -- including one of his earliest -- that trace the evolution of one Vincent Anthony Vaughn.

21 Jump Street (1989)

Other than an appearance as a motor pool driver in China Beach, this was Vaughn's first role. Johnny Depp and Peter DeLuise (part of me is still sad that we don't live in a world where Depp and DeLuise became the new Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise) investigate the murder of a high school teacher's wife and, along the way, we meet a pretty unrecognizable, fairly straight laced Vaughn trying to convince another student to let them into the ice skating rink after hours. This guy! Already up to hijinks! Considering that the character Vaughn is speaking with is named Mike, it's hard not to see a little foreshadowing to the movie that would make him a star seven years later.

Rudy (1993)

Rudy is to Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau what School Ties is to Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Rudy, not Swingers, was technically Vaughn's first collaboration with Jon Favreau, a collaboration that would span five more films. In the seminal sports film, Vaughn plays the character of Prick VonAsshole* who doesn't very much like our hero, Rudy Ruettiger -- a walk-on trying to make the Notre Dame football team. When Vaughn says, "He's just a showboat, man," we get our first glimpse of the Vaughn to come in future years.

*Prick VonAsshole is not his character's real name.

Swingers (1996)

Pretty much every line spoken by Trent in Swingers has been co-opted by every 22-year-old male visiting Vegas for the first time over the last 15 years (15 years, really?). If you haven't watched it in awhile, it is a bit shocking to see this Vince Vaughn again -- the hyper-slim, hyper-talking hip version versus the more schlubby version that we all know and love today. Regardless, because of this film, Vaughn went from tiny roles in direct-to-video films to something called...

The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)

When looking at Vaughn's filmography, this is the one that's probably the most peculiar. After the buzz of Swingers, there was no question that Vaughn was going to become a star... but the star of what? This is Exhibit A for any situation where Hollywood executives know they have a future leading man on their hands, but don't quite know what to do with him. "Cast him in the new Jurassic Park movie, we will figure it out after that!" Well, after The Lost World, action movies were not in Vaughn's future (unless you count the comedic relief he provided in Mr. and Mrs. Smith), but neither were comedies, at least for some time. Vaughn was to become a dramatic leading man whether the public wanted it or not.

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  • Scraps says:

    Little known fact: The original plot to 'Return to Paradise' had the characters facing jail time for running a bootleg operation out of Malaysia selling laser disc transfers of the Star Wars movies on DVD.

  • Nathen says:

    They forgot about Vince Vaughn's incredible performance in A Cool Dry Place. Granted not a box office smash but a heck of an acting job by Vince.

  • Brian says:

    He's bankable? That's news to me. He was in a couple of big hits in 2005 and 2006 and he's been in a lot of misses since. It usually takes Hollywood five or six years to realize that an actor got lucky by being in hits, but didn't have anything to do with the success of the movies. I think Vaughn's time is almost up.

  • Dave M says:

    How is Old School not on this list? After Swingers, its probably the most important movie of his career. It brought him back to comedy and gave him his first hit in years.
    Without the success of Old School, Wedding Crashers never gets made.

  • MJS says:

    Note on Vince (Vincent) Vaughn's performance in "Rudy". He is not only "Prick VonAsshole", his character is Jamie O'Hare who at the end of the movie insists on an un-called for offensive play so that Rudy can get in the game. After throwing for an 'unnecessary' TD to put the game out of reach for the opposition, Vaughn's character, # 44 (O'Hare) runs up to # 45 (Ruettiger), and says: "That was for you." This allows Rudy to get on the field, the scorecard and get carried off the field into N.D. sports history. Prick VonAsshole, as Vince Vaughn so often went on to play, has a heart after all.