Vince Vaughn has tried his hand at serious before. The 47-year old took on the part of Norman Bates in the 1998 rendition of Psycho before portraying Frank Semyon in the second season of True Detective and Sergeant Howell in the 2016 Oscar winning title Hacksaw Ridge.
But the Minnesota native has clearly carved his niche in Hollywood in the comedy realm, linking up with regular cohorts Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and Will Ferrell for the best part of two decades. Now he will front a 2017 thriller Brawl in Cell Block 99 and as writer-director S. Craig Zahler tells Entertainment Weekly, this is a stark departure from his other work.
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Playing boxer Bradley Thomas, a man whose life would turn for the worse when a drug deal goes south, Zahler fills in some of the backstory of Vaughn's character.
"We see him living a better life, where he’s purposefully turning a blind eye to the problems that he facilitates with his job. He eventually gets into a gunfight during a drug deal situation, and that lands him in jail, and his life only gets worse from there."
With the Miami filmmaker synonymous for making confronting movies including his 2015 horror western Bone Tomahawk, would this title stick true to that tone? You better believe it.
"There is a quite a bit (of violence)," he replies. "But there is, as with Bone Tomahawk, a similar emphasis on character. I’m not in any hurry to get to the brawling, but when you land there, you will know it, and it happens for a fairly sustained period of time. Vince Vaughn was so committed to this movie and he happens to have some boxing experience which really really helped. He was skilled enough that (we could film) a shot where it was going to be five hits exchanged, 10 hits exchanged, 15 hits exchanged, 20 hits exchanged, with no cuts."
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Casting veteran Miami Vice star Don Johnson was a huge acquisition for the director. He required something special for the antagonist Warden Tuggs and he got it in the 67-year old.
"There’s a higher-up in a prison named Warden Tuggs and Don does a fantastic job in bringing this character to life as someone who handles different people as an animal handler would handle different animals," says Zahler. "I grew up in Miami in the 80s and, if you were in Miami at that time, Don Johnson was walking on the plateau of God-hood. It was a terrific thrill to be working with him. He had everything he did when he was younger — he’s just as good-looking, just as charismatic, his voice is slightly richer and better — but then it’s all the refinement and subtlety that comes from the experience he has."
One of the most outstanding features of the material so far has been Vaughn's tattoo. Sporting a cross on the back of his head, Zahler believes the audience will be drawn into a figure who has been isolated from the rest of the world.
"I like to show what’s in the piece and/or of interest people in the piece," he explained. "And to me, that head, and that cross on the back of the head, and the question that you just asked, is the question that I want people to ask. I want people to be interested in what this is, and, also, it’s very tight on his head, and it should give it a sense of how close-in this movie is. The cameras are close to these people. You’re in it with these people, and so you’re in it with that person, but you don’t yet know who that person is. This is a Vince Vaughn you’ve never seen before."
Brawl in Cell Block 99 will debut at the Venice International Film Festival before a wider release on October 13, 2017.
Source: Entertainment Weekly