A homegrown boy born in Minneapolis, Vince Vaughn does not resemble the characters he portrays.

In his latest film, Clay Pigeons, Vaughn plays serial killer Lester Long. With his handsome sideburns, inviting smile and undeniable charm, Long defies one’s vision of a murderer.

In a phone interview Sept. 18, Vaughn greeted reporters with a sincere “how’s it going my friend?” His warm and kind personality radiate, even on the phone. On the sets of films such as Swingers and Clay Pigeons, the suave, gentle Vaughn disappears, and he becomes his character.

“I saw Lester as psycho-bully-Frankenstein,” Vaughn said. “He took different stuff from all of them and created his persona.”

Vaughn captures the essence of Long and transforms himself into the character. Through Vaughn’s convincing portrayal, Long becomes more than simply a character in a script. He becomes a real-life serial murderer in a small town.

“People always want to make their characters likable in a traditional way, but I always liked what was real about people,” he said. “I work from that place of why do people have to come off this way, what are they protecting to enhance themselves?”

Although Vaughn easily discusses his incredible successes on the big screen, there was a time when he struggled to make a ripple in the movie industry.

After starring in a nationally televised Chevrolet commercial, Vaughn decided to forgo college and head to Hollywood. With the typical budding actor’s vision of stardom, he faced the same hardships as most young actors. Living off the money he made for guest appearances on television shows, Vaughn eventually got a small role in the football movie Rudy, starring Sean Astin.

While Vaughn’s role nearly was cut from every scene, he formed a great friendship with colleague Jon Favreau. The comrades remained close after work on the film ended and eventually the friendship led to Vaughn’s career-changing role in Swingers.

“For me, my birthplace for all this was Swingers – with a script that everyone said was bullshit and no one would ever like,” Vaughn said. “(Favreau and I) always thought there were people similar to ourselves that could relate to it. We were really like kids with a video camera.”

His commendable performance not only earned him glorious reviews from critics but also caught the eye of Steven Spielberg. The director hand-picked Vaughn to portray the nature photographer for the highly anticipated sequel, The Lost World.

“I saw Jaws at a young age and that rocked me,” Vaughn said. “For me, a chance to work with Steven in a cowboys and Indians kind of movie, but with dinosaurs and scientists, was the biggest thrill in the world.”

With numerous successes behind him, Vaughn continues to expand his repertoire. He recently starred in Return to Paradise with Anne Heche and Joaquin Phoenix. Vaughn reunites with Phoenix for Clay Pigeons, which opens Friday. He will team-up again with Heche for director Gus Van Sant’s remake of Psycho.

Whatever the project, Vaughn tackles it with ambition and passion. Each part is a new, unique opportunity in the industry. “My whole thing has been a child-like approach to it,” he said. “The whole thing is just something to be explored.”

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