Vince Vaughn: Pound-for-pound box office champion

Beware. Vince Vaughn’s floating head may eat you.
Illustration: Tim Mowrer

In Hollywood, there are career penalties to pay for getting fat, even if you’re a man. (Just ask Val Kilmer, who went from A-list heartthrob to the voice of a talking car in NBC’s short-lived resurrection of Knight Rider.) But if you’re a truly starving actor, which is to say, you’re so successful that you spend most evenings purging $300 dinners in the bathrooms at Urasawa because you’re afraid of how even one extra pound might affect your marketability, all hope is not lost. Indeed, consider the case of Vince Vaughn. Even though there’s more of him to love these days, movie audiences find him more lovable than ever.

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Josh Bell Reviews
Couples Retreat

In the early years of Vaughn’s career, his petulant good looks and suave manner had critics hailing him as the heir to brooding thespians like Marlon Brando and Paul Newman. Financially speaking, however, his lean years really were his lean years: The first 11 movies he appeared in averaged an anemic $34 million at the box office. But as his waistline expanded, so did his popular appeal. His last 12 movies have averaged a hefty $88 million. Last year, Forbes ranked him as Hollywood’s best return on investment—his movies earned the most money per dollar he was paid.

To achieve this, Vaughn switched from dramas and thrillers to broad, high-concept comedies, and also demoted himself from ladykiller (and in the cases of Psycho and Clay Pigeons, lady-killer) to brash but lovable boyfriend/husband. As it turns out, a chubby, puffy-eyed Vaughn, wisecracking with sly, hyperarticulate charisma, still makes for a better aspirational spouse than, say, Kevin Pollak or Kevin James. But how long can he keep this lucrative niche to himself? Cruise, Pitt and Clooney have been skipping dessert for years now; if Couples Retreat cracks $100 million, expect at least one of them to start ordering off of Vaughn’s menu.


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