Vince Vaughn does not exactly blend in with the scenery. Striding into a Hollywood hotel in a snappy blue suit, the six-foot-five actor, writer and producer has enough swagger and spark to get just about every eye in the lobby turning his way. Partly, it might be the moment. After a few too many so-so comedies, such as Delivery Man and The Internship, Vaughn is verging on what looks like a full-scale comeback. This month’s Unfinished Business, about a European business trip that diverts (hilariously) into beer foam, drug benders and kinky sex, has enough muscle and grown-up humor to make it the sleeper hit of spring, according to insiders. With that and a starring role opposite Colin Farrell in the eagerly awaited sophomore season of HBO’s True Detective this summer, Vaughn’s career has the kind of oomph he hasn’t felt since those heady years after Swingers. Audiences may soon forget he even made a movie called Fred Claus.
Vincent Anthony Vaughn was born on March 28, 1970 in Minneapolis but grew up in the wealthy Chicago suburb of Lake Forest. His parents did well in business and real estate. Vaughn, who mostly languished in school, branded as a hyperactive student, put his ambitions into performing. Getting a Chevy commercial in high school was enough to lure him to California, though success remained elusive until he and fellow struggling actor Jon Favreau proved they were “money, baby” in the 1996 bachelor comedy Swingers. The movie earned more than 20 times what it cost to make, and soon Steven Spielberg was casting Vaughn in the sequel to Jurassic Park. Another actor might have parlayed that credit into full-time blockbustering, but Vaughn pivoted into quiet films such as Clay Pigeons and a high-risk, low-reward remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.
It took a few more years to right himself, this time with big-budget comedies including Old School, Starsky & Hutch, Dodgeball and, later, Anchorman and Wedding Crashers. That put Vaughn at the center of a Hollywood crew known as the Frat Pack (see also Owen Wilson, Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell). When he hooked up with a freshly divorced Jennifer Aniston after co-starring with her in The Break-Up, Vaughn ascended to the ranks of the TMZ A-list.
Today Vaughn leads the life of a contented box-office success. He and his wife of five years, Kyla, a Canadian-born realtor, have two kids and a growing number of homes and properties. He’s living the dream. But dig a little and another side of Vaughn emerges—that of a fervent libertarian who’s skeptical of authority, big government and social institutions that want to get into our business.
Contributing Editor David Hochman, who last interviewed Gary Oldman for PLAYBOY, says Vaughn surprised him. Here’s his report: “I was a Vince Vaughn fan from the moment he and Jon Favreau took that road trip to Vegas in Swingers. But I didn’t realize how thoughtful and outspoken he is. Once we got through talking about how exciting his career is these days, we launched into a conversation about guns, gay marriage, the Fed, the White House and what’s wrong with all of them.”
Some say we’re in the midst of a Vaughnaissance.
Maybe. I don’t know.
You don’t sound convinced.
It’s just that I don’t live my life according to how other people see my career or whatever. I’ve had ups and downs for sure, and things are going great right now. But it’s like any part of your work or personal life or relationships—you figure things out as you go. Things change, nothing stays the same, good follows bad.
The truth is, I don’t know that I ever had a plan. Mostly I’ve had lots of fun in lots of different ways—acting, producing and writing. It was great early on, working with Jon Favreau on Swingers and all the things that followed. Then doing those early independent films was great. Doing the big studio comedies was fantastic. And it’s nice now to be mixing it up and doing something different with True Detective. But I get a little uncomfortable when people start putting labels on things.
Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey certainly set a high bar with the first season of True Detective. You must feel a certain amount of pressure.
Honestly, no, because Nic Pizzolatto is such a great writer, and so much of this is driven by his stories. I thought Woody and Matthew did an exceptional job with the first season. This one’s very different, though. It’s a totally different story, with its own characters. The thing that’s consistent is the richness of the characters and the quality of the material. That was Louisiana. This is a California-based story, and it was kind of birthed from here. A lot of it is set in Los Angeles. I really like my character. Nic is so great about investigating characters and their complexities in an authentic and engaging way. I want to watch this show not because I’m in it but as a fan of the material.
How did the project come to you?
I was developing a movie version of The Rockford Files and met with Nic about writing it. He was really enthusiastic but was already working on a crime drama set in Los Angeles, and he gracefully said it was best for him to focus on True Detective. Then he reached out to me about doing that series, and I was beyond flattered and thrilled to collaborate with him. I was happy to work with Colin Farrell too, whom I’d never worked with before.
True Detective, Orange Is the New Black, Homeland, House of Cards, Game of Thrones —why is TV so much more interesting than movies right now?
I wouldn’t say more interesting; it’s just different. A film like The Way Way Back with Steve Carell and Sam Rockwell was as smart as anything you’d see in any format. But TV is definitely having its moment. It’s almost as if we’ve discovered how exciting it can be to tell a story over a longer time frame. In the 1990s we went through a run of independent films that captured the attention of critics and a certain type of audience member. Those movies were edgy, offbeat and risky and had fully drawn adult characters. You can’t do that as easily anymore on a big studio movie. If you can’t turn something into a franchise that gets people into seats that first weekend, you’re probably not going to get your movie made. Studios are huge corporate businesses, and they have to show their shareholders each quarter how well they’re doing. When money is what drives you, it’s a lot easier if you can say, “We have this third sequel opening now and that fifth sequel next month and the ninth sequel of something else coming this summer.”
You also have all these new avenues of financing and distribution, which have the studios running a little scared. Netflix, Amazon, other streaming outlets—they appear to have more patience to finance character-based stories. And not just dramas. I think Netflix in particular has been a fantastic place for documentaries to land and be seen. But the basics are still the same: You want a great story; you need good characters, good actors and someone in charge who’s running it well. I think it’s the most exciting time since probably the early 1970s for actors, writers and directors in terms of doing meaningful, intelligent, grown-up work, and that has a lot to do with these episodic shows.
You started off in TV, right?
Actually, the first acting job I ever got paid for was an industrial film. It was about issues for teenagers or something. This was back in Chicago, and I had cut high school one day. My parents didn’t want me to go downtown. We lived in the suburbs. A friend of mine told me his mom would take him for an audition. I had no concept of what that was, but it sounded cool, so I went with. The casting director asked me if I wanted to read for the part, and I did, and I got it. And that led to getting an agent and taking all this shit seriously. I did improv classes, acting classes, and I started performing live in the city even though I was a minor. I was tall enough that nobody really questioned it. When I turned 18 I flew out to California to pursue acting full-time.
One of your early TV roles was on 21 Jump Street. Any memories of Johnny Depp from that experience?
Yeah. We were walking down some stairs and I was super nervous because I hadn’t done much acting. Johnny could have ignored me completely, but he stopped and said, “Hey, if you’re over here, the camera will see you better.” I thought, Gosh, that’s really gracious of this guy. The director comes over and asks if I can move, but Johnny goes, “No, I think Vince should be right here.” That always reminded me to be like that whenever I could. It meant a lot to walk into a situation and have someone in a position of power be warm and including and make you feel a part of something. I always respected him for that.
Was it pretty much like Swingers for you in those early days? Auditions, girls, video games?
A lot of the time, yeah, though it certainly wasn’t glamorous. It was those early years of not getting what you want, of not getting called back, of not feeling desirable as an actor. There’s only so much that’s in your control when you’re starting out, and in the very beginning you have almost zero control. If your identity is tied into all that stuff, it can be pretty awful. I always thought if I could get hired to play a part it would be exciting and smooth sailing from there. And my gosh, if you could get a recurring role, like a big co-star or guest star, a couple of scenes in a film, you were set for life. But then you’d get stuff and nothing would materialize. You’d be right back auditioning. A group of us would always be hanging out, like in Swingers. We’d go to those bars; we’d all go out in L.A. and put the Club on our steering wheels to keep our cars safe. Then we’d come home and play video games. That was a big part of what we were doing. Everything you see in the movie was authentic to that moment.
Where did you meet Jon Favreau?
On the movie Rudy, a few years before Swingers. Right from the beginning we would joke around a lot. He was from Queens and had gone through the Improv Olympics with [acting coach] Del Close, something I had done in Chicago. We were in a similar situation as far as going out for all these auditions. I said we should write something that captured that life, and he sat down and wrote Swingers in two weeks.
After that movie hit, it must have been crazy for you. Were women throwing themselves at you and saying, “You’re so money!”
I always had a lot of fun with girls, even before Swingers. It’s interesting; I was a late bloomer and never really found my way with the opposite sex until later in high school. I think I was 17, maybe 19, when I lost my virginity. At a certain point I guess it kicked in. But I was never someone who needed to be with a new woman every night. That was never my thing. I always had an easy time joking and getting along with women, and I liked to go out and have fun and talk and joke and meet people and dance. But I was never a pickup artist, per se. I have two older sisters, so I always felt comfortable with women and respected them.
What I love about my character from Swingers, Trent, is how much fun he has with women. It comes from a pure and positive place. Now it’s such a different thing. Gaming on women has become almost like the dark arts. Like, if you’re not cutting her down or using psychological tricks to make fun of her, you won’t get anywhere. I would argue it’s the opposite. I would suggest that if you take the avenue of putting a woman down or making fun of her so she feels insecure enough to go out with you, you’re ultimately screwing yourself. I mean, let’s face it, if you require coaching and techniques to get a woman, it’ll come out as dishonest and you’ll probably end up unhappy or alone. I much prefer Trent’s charming way with women to this more menacing approach you see now.
You and Favreau made a number of movies together, but he’s also had enormous success on his own as an actor, writer and director of blockbusters such as Iron Man. Do you ever feel a sense of rivalry or envy?
Not at all. We do our own things, and Jon’s done well. I’ve done well. He’s working in an area that really interests him. He’s interested in technology, so those big movies are like big toys for him. I’m less of a technology guy. I’m not someone who thinks a lot about gadgets or Twitter and all that. I’ve been offered those bigger types of movies before and would do one if it were the right thing. But nothing that’s come along felt like it would be a great time to make. You want to feel excited about what you���re spending your time on. For me, in the past few years I got married and had kids and was doing family stuff, and that was my priority. I feel like I’m just starting to get a little more excited about focusing on different types of things.
I don’t know that one should envy anyone’s life. If you feel your life isn’t where you want it to be, you probably need to wake up and make changes. Or try to move in a new direction while also being kind of easy on yourself. It’s natural to get down on yourself if you’re trying to make a change. But I think you’re always growing, your priorities are always changing, you’re learning from your mistakes, and that never stops. Also, you want to have fun.
You mentioned technology. A couple of years ago, when you made The Internship, about two old-school salesmen who talk their way into working at Google, you said you were the last guy on earth who still didn’t have a smartphone. Did you ever get one?
Yeah, I got one about four years ago. I’m very savvy with it now. I think it was that I didn’t like the feeling of getting a call, especially where business was concerned, and feeling I was on all the time. I liked having my time to go do stuff and not be reachable. I sometimes miss that feeling. But as with all technology, I now say, how did we live without this before?
Unfinished Business is another work-related comedy. Three guys on a European business trip end up in unexpected situations, such as making an unplanned stop at a huge fetish convention.
We definitely get into trouble. It’s a very funny movie. My character is a guy with kids and a wife. He really wants to close this deal and go home, because he has a lot at stake. But things go haywire in the most insane ways, the fetish convention being one of them.
Tom Wilkinson’s character is kind of at the end of his run and looking to have the deal go well and make some money so he can make some choices in his life, one of which is he wants a divorce. Dave Franco plays a kid who might have been a good candidate for prescription drugs. Let’s just say he’s not traditionally on top of things academically. But it’s his first business trip and he’s excited. He wants to get into exploits, sexual and otherwise. There’s a scene where we find ourselves in a youth hostel throwing a big international party. It was just a romp, so much craziness. We just went for it. And we shot in Berlin, which gives the movie an unusual backdrop. It’s an intense city, architecturally and every other way.
What’s great is that you take this group of characters who are mostly misfits, the kind of people you might normally overlook, and they come together in a way that makes sense only to them. It reminds me of Dodgeball. I loved being in that movie because it was about this community that was kind and supportive of one another and trying to find joy even when nobody else understood them. I love playing people who are not in the norm. Dodgeball was one of my favorite comedies.
Wedding Crashers was your highest-grossing comedy, bringing in more than $200 million worldwide—perhaps the most ever paid for a hand job under a banquet table.
Right? 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. It was a blast to work with Owen on that. We had never really worked together, aside from a cameo in Zoolander, and Crashers just went all-out on the content. 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.
What are you referring to?
Well, 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, so you find yourself in positions sometimes where you’re making a movie that’s different from what you expected.
What’s your thinking now about starring in that shot-for-shot remake of Psycho? Critics crucified it.
People love to evaluate and reevaluate that stuff. I can tell you, for me, at that time, Gus Van Sant was one of the most interesting filmmakers around, having done My Own Private Idaho and Drugstore Cowboy. So I went into it with a very artistic point of view, which was, Yeah, let’s go play with this material and work with a great director whose work is pioneering and exciting. I really enjoyed making Return to Paradise and Clay Pigeons, and that was sort of where I was at and what I wanted to do at that time. These movies are actually comments on moviemaking, and they were also fun to make.
You’d just come off doing the Jurassic Park sequel. Were you consciously separating yourself from big studio movies?
I don’t know that it was conscious. We had a good time on Jurassic Park, and working with Steven Spielberg was exciting, especially on that kind of film where he was creating a massive world. Growing up I was at the right age for his movies to have a huge impact on me—Jaws, E.T. I remember having a lot of great conversations with Steven about movies, particularly American Westerns. So maybe it was a bit of a retreat from that. I don’t know. I think you have freedom as a creative person to do whatever you want. I never felt I had to be reverent to one form or one way of doing things. I never saw anything religious about the arts. In fact, I sort of saw it as the opposite. On Psycho, all the folks involved were excited about doing it, including Hitchcock’s estate. To me it was more about taking that journey with Gus. It was a different place to work from. I really liked the experience, and I still like the movie. I appreciate that it’s out there.
Most actors worry at some point that they’ll never work again. Did you ever think, God, my career’s in the crapper?
No. I think you have times when some things work out better than others. Sometimes things will be clicking, clicking, clicking in any aspect of your life, and you think, This is great. Then you’ll get into a run where you think, Gosh, nothing seems to be jiving. Or you’ll make a movie you think is great, and the world just goes, “Eh.” Return to Paradise was a great movie. Made was a movie Jon and I did that I really liked. Even Swingers didn’t make that much money when it first came out, though it found a place afterward.
Reviewing Couples Retreat, one critic wrote, “Here’s the review: Couples, retreat.”
And in spite of that, it made a lot of money both internationally and domestically. Here’s part of what happened: We shot it in Bora-Bora in the South Pacific, and I honestly think some people thought, Oh, fuck these guys; they don’t get to have this much fun making a movie in paradise. Fine. That’s fair, but I think the movie has some fun stuff in it.
You dated Jennifer Aniston, your co-star in The Break-Up, but never talked much about it. What can you say now about that relationship?
You know, she’s great. For me personally—and I think most well-known actors who are together feel this way—I never enjoyed the paparazzi side of it. You like someone and you’re spending time with them; that’s separate and that was all fine. But I really spent most of that time finding ways not to be drawn into the attention. I think lying low and not talking about it put me in a good position later, because I just wasn’t part of anything.
Now you’re a married man with two kids.
I waited until I was a little older, and I’m glad. I just hadn’t matured in that area. A lot of people think, Oh, I’ve got to focus on my career. And then you wake up and go, Oh goodness, I forgot about the rest of my life. Marriage is terrific, but it’s the hardest thing I think you’ll ever do. You have to really work at it and want it. I got to an age when it was something that seemed exciting. I wanted kids and a family, but I wouldn’t have at 30. You know how it is. You’ve been making decisions about what you’re going to do on your own. Suddenly you’re making those decisions with somebody else. It’s a much different journey.
Are you still collaborating on a documentary film project with former Fox News commentator Glenn Beck?
It was a contest, actually. Peter Billingsley, who works with me, did a series of documentaries that Glenn was involved in producing. The idea was that filmmakers from all over the political spectrum would come to them with concepts about various issues: prescription drugs, the Federal Reserve, this or that, and then get funding to make them. Peter and I previously made one that went to a bunch of festivals, called Art of Conflict, about the Protestant and Catholic struggle in Belfast. We followed muralists and artists from both sides. Those contest films are slated to come out this year.
Most people don’t associate Beck with filmmaking. Why did you work with him?
I just thought it was an interesting project.
Are you onboard with his politics?
I would use the term libertarian to describe my politics. I like the principles of the Constitution and the republic, which is a form of government built around the law. A republic did very well in Rome until they got a lot of central power and Caesar decided he knew what was best for everyone. That type of government works if you’re looking to start welfare programs, if you’re going to conquer the world and use force a certain way. But even back then, it didn’t work. More and more people went on the dole and others went bankrupt, and businesses couldn’t afford to pay their staff.
You’ve been a supporter of Ron Paul. With the presidential election on the horizon, is he still your go-to?
I’m a very big fan, yes. Ron Paul woke a lot of people up to the fact that government can’t handle everything for you. Once you start playing that game, where does it stop? I like the way it was until 1913 [when the 16th Amendment was ratified, legalizing a federal income tax], when locally you had sales taxes and property taxes. That seems ethical to me, because I can move to a different neighborhood or area if I like the services they provide. To this day, your police department and your fire department are paid for with local taxes, and that makes sense, because you might use those. But the federal government looking into your books to decide what to take from you, that feels wrong.
Trusting the federal government to know what we need and to run things well feels like a bad idea. You see that in the foreign policy of force, where the United States decides to go into another country to make things turn out a certain way. It doesn’t work. It causes more problems. Just look at any of these undeclared wars. You’re suggesting at gunpoint that you’ll decide how things will go. The results haven’t gone well. I’ve been over to Afghanistan and Iraq. I’ve been with the USO. I’ve gone over with movies and done stuff. I care a lot about all the kids and families in those situations. It can’t be easy. But I don’t agree with a foreign policy that says you can send troops places without declaring a war and without having a plan to win the war. I would think you would look at Vietnam and suggest it wasn’t the best-laid plan.
I feel the same way domestically. If you look at America today, there’s a real want to use force for the issues people believe in. You want whatever you believe in to become law. You’re going to make this drug legal and that one illegal. I don’t think that’s the government’s job to decide. I think it’s up to the individual. We’re all different. One kid is going to start drugs at a young age. Another person won’t touch the stuff. Another person will take a puff and go to sleep. We don’t all share the same consistent behavior, and the individual should be innocent until proven guilty. They should be allowed to decide what’s in their interest, what makes sense for them, unless they commit fraud or physical force or take someone’s property.
So we should have lawyers running the country?
Courts are an important part of the system. If someone commits fraud against you or does something to you, you take them to court. Then there’s either a penalty or jail time, depending on what it is. No one’s suggesting that you don’t have law. Everyone’s freer and safer if there are laws in place. If you have no law, you can’t leave your house, because you have to protect your stuff.
Do you own a gun?
I do, yeah. I believe in the right to defend yourself if need be. Hopefully you’re never in that situation, but I think you’re fairly naive to believe there will never be a cause for self-defense. But again, I believe it’s up to the individual. I don’t believe rights come in groups. You shouldn’t get more or fewer rights because of what you believe in or what nationality you were born into.
So you’re not a fan of affirmative action?
I’ll answer that with a question. Do you believe that using race as a factor in evaluating a person is a good way to operate?
The idea is that those who have been at a disadvantage because of race deserve a leg up when it comes to landing opportunities.
But then you’re evaluating someone based on race, which is racism. Rights don’t come to you because you’re a man or a woman or African American or European or Jewish. And I certainly don’t think the federal government should be in the business of deciding things or handing out money based on factors like these. It’s the same with same-sex marriage. Who cares what people feel about each other? Let people decide for themselves who they can marry. It’s not the government’s job. It’s between you and your partner and your church or synagogue or whatever you believe in.
I think history has proven without a doubt that the proper role of government is to protect individuals’ rights and liberties. That has always been the most prosperous, freest society for people to live in. And when government gets too involved, society turns into a place that gets very, very ugly. But I think we’ve walked more into Crossfire here than Playboy.
Would you ever consider running for office?
No. But let’s say I did. I’m going to have a lot of people with a lot of money becoming my friends, aren’t I? Because I can write laws to benefit you. Let’s say you’re a major corporation, and I’m the politician and I can write laws. I can say which race gets a benefit and which doesn’t. That could get me some votes. Or I write laws that help your business and limit other businesses from being able to compete with you because they can’t survive all the new programs I’m putting in place. What is it they can’t afford? The health care act? Okay, I’ll vote for that and they can never reach you. But you have to vote for me.
You have to understand that America today is not capitalistic. The problem is corporatism. The government has too much authority, and it’s dangerous. It stifles productivity and freedom and prosperity and peace. I find most people nowadays are more complacent or accepting that the government can successfully do everything for us. It can’t. It can’t!
You’re very passionate about these issues.
How can you not be? The Patriot Act? Let’s get rid of it. Undeclared wars, doing away with personal liberties—let’s understand how that has worked out historically to see that it has led to some horrible things. Once our personal liberties are gone, when an American citizen can be pulled out of his house and detained for six months without a trial, where is our country? Once those rights are gone, how do you get them back? Once the government is allowed to listen to you, how do you get that privacy back?
What happens when you start talking like this among the Obama-loving, Tesla-driving liberals of Hollywood?
Ha! I have a lot of good friends, and if we can have a dialogue and hear each other’s opinions, that’s fine. People’s opinions can change when you can say stuff, so I’m always up for a debate. Also, I’m not against Obama and his policies. I don’t have a problem with him personally or as a cool guy. I just don’t agree with his ideals or his philosophies. I’m not a fan of central power.
Why haven’t you been more outspoken on these issues? You never appear on shows like *Real Time With Bill Maher.
I haven’t really thought about it. I find a lot of those shows to be about saying something shocking. Maher and Jon Stewart are meant to be comedic, but these shows need ratings, so they need to be provocative. And despite all I’ve said here today, I don’t know if I take it all seriously, in that, is it interesting to see celebrities talk about this stuff? I’m not sure.
Point taken. Let’s move on. What kind of kid were you?
When I was younger they said I could be hyperactive and unfocused. I probably would be medicated if I were growing up today. My parents, thankfully, said no to all that. Sometimes it’s like you take a person’s spirit away when you put them on medication because they’re not fitting in with what’s expected.
Both my parents worked, so I was always involved with some activity. This was in the 1970s, when not all moms worked. She did different jobs, including real estate. My dad was maybe the first one in his family to go to college. I never went to college. At that age I didn’t have the attention span to study and focus on things that weren’t of top interest to me. I always read a lot and liked history, but I always felt motivated, for whatever reason, to work hard and pursue this career. Acting was my passion. And Chicago sports. Growing up, those were my things.
You’re still into Chicago sports. You’ve sung “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” at Wrigley Field and thrown out the first pitch. You’re a Blackhawks season-ticket holder.
You like to see teams you grew up watching do well, but it’s not the greatest time for Chicago’s teams. The Blackhawks have been doing great, but the Bears have been struggling. The Cubs have been struggling forever. The Bulls have gotten hurt, which is a bummer. They were competitive and now they’re not. You gotta keep hope alive, as they say. I’ve had some of my biggest highs watching all those teams.
Speaking of high, did you ever go through a period of doing drugs?
I never did, no. I like to drink, but drugs never appealed to me. If anything, my thing was cigarettes. I quit seven years ago, and it was the hardest thing to do. I’ll smoke a cigar occasionally, but with cigarettes I got to a point where, for whatever reason, I can now take it or leave it. Part of it was just being on a movie set. You’re bored and you just get used to it.
You’ve been around long enough that they’re starting to call some actors, such as Miles Teller from the upcoming Fantastic Four, “a young Vince Vaughn.” Is it difficult aging in public?
I’ll tell you a funny story. I’ve never been overly fit. I was more fit when I was younger, but I can be lazy by nature now that I’m older. I never was overly focused on my looks, like, Oh, I’ve got to look this way or wear these clothes when I go out. It just wasn’t my priority. I’d eat a hot dog at a sporting event, a photo would come out and I couldn’t care less. That being said, I remember about three years back I noticed my hair starting to go a little gray. For whatever reason, it really hit me. I’ve always seen myself, on some level, as still a kid. I’m not 19 anymore, but I’ve still got some life left in me. I thought, God, I don’t want my hair to go gray. So I asked my mom. She was a beautician when she was younger, and she said there’s a product called Just for Men—just get that and put it in your hair and it will make it very naturalistically your regular color. I have kind of black, dark hair. I said, “Great, let’s go get it.” Well, by the time we were done, I looked like Adam Ant. My hair was neon purple. I was about to do press for some movie, and I had to find a colorist in New York. I never put anything in it after that. I just let it go natural.
Who are your all-time favorite actors?
I like lots of people for different reasons. I liked Marlon Brando quite a bit just for being so cool and authentic. I liked Gene Wilder a lot. I liked Jackie Gleason. So many good comedic actors. Carol Burnett, I always loved her. I thought she was great, had a great grace about her, very funny. And from a working standpoint, I’ve had so much fun with Owen Wilson, Ben Stiller, Steve Carell, Will Ferrell, obviously Favreau and now guys like Dave Franco. He’s awesome.
You’ve made so many successful movies and TV shows, as an actor, writer and producer. We have to ask, what do you do with all that money?
I started buying up real estate. I bought some houses here and there. I bought some property to rent. I bought some farmland in Illinois.
Do you ever get out on a tractor?
I rent the land to a farmer, actually. My grandfather was a dairy farmer. My wife is from a farm in Canada. But I leave it to them. From a real-estate point of view, I think farmland makes sense. It’s something I like because I figure we’ll need it for years to come. We all have to eat. So I like to put my money into that.
Do you invest in stocks?
My father helped me with that a little, but I’m not someone who’s going to spend the time to get educated on that enough to know what to buy and sell. I’m not up on the stock market. I don’t follow the kind of information you need to follow to stay ahead in that game. I don’t care when the new iPhone is coming out or keep track of the next technology that’s going to replace the iPhone. I’m not overly motivated by that stuff.
As I get older, more and more of my money goes straight into property. I realized that the value of money inevitably goes down over time; $5,000 today is not worth what it was in 2000. We now have these extreme business cycles that have become part of how our economic system works. It’s because we have a central bank that prints money, and now nobody knows what’s real or not. The whole system is artificially pumped up. So many loans go out, and money’s easy to get, so people grab those loans and start buying stuff. Costs go up because it feels like there’s a lot of money out there, but it’s not real. Eventually the cost of things domestically goes up, so people start buying foreign in bulk. And then they call in their notes because they want their money. Then the banks tighten up, and there’s no money to pay off the extension of loans. How many people do you know, whether they were mortgaged or had two or three properties or were trying to rent, and they can’t pay it? There’s an inevitability in that business cycle that there will be a bottoming out and a lot of people will lose a lot of stuff. God help them.
Speaking of God, are you a man of faith?
I am. I have faith in God. I don’t have a dogma or religion that I follow, but by heritage I’m part Catholic and part Protestant. My grandmother was a devout Catholic and one of the kindest, greatest women I’ve ever known. Just a tremendous lady, and she found a lot of truth in it. I’m more of a questioner when it comes to the church, and some of it has to do with the way it’s run. The pope, for example, falls a little bit under the central planning we were talking about earlier. The idea that you have one person suggesting this is the way it is and this is the way it’s not—it’s not my favorite form of governing.
What’s left on your life to-do list?
Workwise, I’m always looking to accomplish new things. I don’t have a dream project under my arm that must get made, but I always think about what to do next, what would be interesting, what would make me stretch a little. On a personal level, travel would be nice. I’ve seen a lot of places because of work, but I never really took vacations because I was always nervous to leave town and give up an opportunity to act. I haven’t been to Africa yet. I’d like to take the kids places. I want them to see the world. We don’t know what’s going to happen in life, and I don’t want to have regrets, though honestly, I feel I’ve done so much already that I can’t complain.
Are you optimistic about the future?
Sure, yeah, you gotta be. You gotta hope. What I want is to be healthy, for my family to be healthy and happy. Like everybody, I want to continue to be excited about what’s in front of me. Try to laugh. Connect with people. Continue to grow. Be curious about things, open-minded. Be open to finding different ways of doing things. Yeah, just continue to live, continue to make stuff happen. It’s been a pretty fantastic ride so far.