Vaughn and Akerman on Their Couples Retreat

They met as struggling actors in 1993 while working on Rudy and three years later, Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau were ubiquitously known by their clever catch phrases and quotable lines from their low-budget hit Swingers.

The two have been inseparable ever since and have corroborated on a string of projects including Universal Pictures new comedy, Couples Retreat.

When Vaughn came up with the idea, he took the concept to his longtime friend and co-star “Favs” who loved the script about a group of friends all having martial problems. While some issues are more drastic than others with the couples, Vaughn said “the fun is in seeing all of their relationships put under a microscope.” talked to Vaughn and his on-screen wife Malin Akerman about the film:

Q: When you guys are shooting in Bora Bora, can you catch any sports or is it that cut off from the rest of the world?

Vince Vaughn: It’s pretty cut off.

Malin Akerman: The internet was like, what, snail speed. If you got one email a day you could open it maybe, maybe. It’s kind of nice though.

Vaughn: All you could do was actually get outside and enjoy the beautiful weather. I’d be in the room, going, “I can’t believe I can’t get this game on.”

Q: It’s just like your character in the movie; he’s upset that he can’t see the playoffs?

Vaughn: Really, for me, if you follow a team and you’re in any of that fantasy stuff it makes it fun to watch a lot of the games. I enjoy doing that on Sundays for sure, and especially football and college football I like. But I was really thankful to be there. The place really is breathtaking, unbelievably so. It’s just amazing.

Akerman: It’s paradise.

Vaughn: I did a lot of stuff that I never would’ve done. I always think of this nowadays for all of us, it’s like you track our DNA from wherever we’re from and to think that you’d be in a place like that at some point there’s like no way ever that that would happen. Thanks to those boys out of Ohio with that flying machine.

Q: Were there things that guys went off and did together and then things that the girls went off and did together?

Akerman: In real life? Yes.

Vaughn: Fishing and sewing. That’s just an old expression. You go to a barbecue or something and the guys are always huddling and talking about sports or whatever, and you say, “Oh, you’re breaking off into fishing and sewing.”

Akerman: A lot of the girls sat by the people and had maybe a piña colada or two at the end of the day, sat at the restaurant. Kristen Bell is quite crafty. She’s like a little Martha Stewart and so she’d literally call me in my room and say, “Do want to come up for pudding?” I’d be like, “You have pudding?” She had everything. She had Scrabble. So it was a lot of board games and a lot of that kind of stuff. I don’t know what you guys did, what the boys did.

Vaughn: I spent a lot of time with my fiancée. We had a lot of fun which was good and then my sister was there and my nephew was there.

Akerman: We had that poker day.

Vaughn: We had a poker day which was really fun.

Akerman: It rained and so we could do nothing that day but poker.

Vaughn: The jet skis were really [fun] going and doing that. We went and swam with the sharks which was crazy. That was great to do. I never thought I’d do that. I was always afraid of that, anything in the ocean because I grew up around lakes. So we did that and that was good.

Q: What kind of sharks?

Akerman: Black Tip Sharks and Lemon Sharks. Lemon Sharks get up to nine feet which is bigger than me for sure. It’s a little bit nerve racking.

Vaughn: It’s just like anything, if you’re not used to something it seems intimidating and then once you do it you got really comfortable and we just swam around them.

Akerman: Yeah, after a while.

Vaughn: So it was really cool to go into the ocean like that, being able to dive. I’d never done stuff like that before. It was amazing.

Q: Was it your idea or Jon’s to do a comedy on an island?

Vaughn: It was my idea. Location, a nice location. I’m a slave to my craft. Have to go to Bora Bora. I think that it’s just in your life, whatever priorities you’re thinking about and I just thought that would be kind of fun, doing a movie, not just a romantic comedy that’s only about one relationship but about couples. It’s about your group of friends, right? We all have our friends. If you have a really close guy friend, you love it if the girls really get along and vice versa but I think if you have a good girlfriend you really want the guys to get along because you want to spend time with your friends. So, inevitably you end up with a group of couples that’ll come over for barbecues or you go do stuff together. The fun of that is that the guys do stuff and the girls do stuff. The guys can do something that they want to do during the day and the girls can go do what they want to do and then you come back together at night. It’s sort of about that group experience. There hadn’t been a movie that I’d seen any time recently that really dealt with couples. The challenge of writing it and editing was that you really wanted to give every couple its due. There’s really no B story. Every couple has a beginning, a middle and an end and a real arc. The final conclusion, if you will, when they’re all sort of coming together, that editing style came out of necessity because you didn’t want to just sit through linear conclusions of each scene although they were all well acted and well done. You actually sit through one and then you’re waiting to sit through the second and then third and so we had to find a way to sort of inter-cut that for that to happen. So I like the dynamic of how the guys are and you seek advice from your friends and how the girls are and then how the couples interact. I think that most people have all the qualities in them to smaller degrees. The funny thing is that everyone sort of sees themselves more as our couple but then you have friends who go, “No. You’re much more like that couple.” No one sees themselves as those other more extreme versions, but we all, sadly, or not sadly but just humanely more of those than we’d want to recognize.

Q: You and Jon were kind of in reversed roles from “Made” and “Swingers.” He was more of the party guy and you were more of the straight laced guy.

Vaughn: Yeah. I think I had done things recently, like I guess with “Crashers” that’s true. Although in “The Breakup” he’s more of the comic relief. He’s a bit more extreme. He wants to put a hit on that guy and he’s more of a kind of a street guy, a neighborhood guy. He’s more grounded than that, but it’s fun for me where Favreau was concerned. I met him as a comedic actor doing “Rudy” and Jon is so funny that it’s fun for me to let him come in and be an actor and give him a part where he can be funny and just sort of extreme because doing comedic roles, sit second and have the ability to get to do just the comedy versions. A lot of times the protagonist or the lead will the burden of staying grounded so that the audience can see the movie through their eyes but a character like Trent is allowed more freedom to be out there because he’s the comic relief. So for me it’s just fun to watch Favreau in that role as it was in “Breakup.” I thought that he was really great and hilarious and in this one, too, he’s so driven and ultimately so likable because Favs is very funny and also has a real warmth to him.

Q: Was there a lot of improv stuff left on the cutting room floor?

Akerman: Yes. I think there was so much improv that we could probably do a whole other film on the side, but it was great. That was sort of some of the fun parts where you have your character, your intention, your goal for the scene and then it was really cool working with these guys because of the improv. I always love it. I think it’s so much fun and so great. Although, once him and Jon start you’re like, “Holy sh*t.” You can tell that there’s some history there because you guys together are like husband and wife. You guys should’ve been a couple.

Q: The scene in the sauna was great. How did that take shape, was that completely improvised?

Vaughn: I always do it the same way with Jon. I’ll setup two cameras so that we can cut back and forth so that you don’t try to match something that comes to your mind on the one side. I’ve always written, this is the first time I’ve taken credit but I’ve always written a lot on all the movies I’ve done and not just dialogue but actual story and other people’s lines. I’ve always done that. So where me and Favs are concerned specifically, Jon had done a pass and I’d done a separate pass at what the intentions are of the scene. We know what the scene needs to be to advance story. Favreau has to bring up to us that he’s trying to get validation for bad behavior. My character doesn’t want to get in the middle because everything is too close friend-wise and he has to be slightly moved off of what he was thinking by the time the scene is, but there’s a billion ways to do that. So we get what’s written and then I’ll just say, “Lets go and see what happens.” The great thing about doing that with Jon is that he knows what the story intentions of the scene needs. So it’s not like you’re with someone just rambling and saying bizarre things. It’s all viable and cuttable choices. I think on the DVD of “The Breakup,” that scene in the bar where Favreau suggests putting a hit out on the new guy that she’s dating, I put on that DVD a few other takes that are all really, really good that are just completely different ways to go to get to the exact same end result.

Q: And Peter Billingsley knows how you guys work, too, right?

Vaughn: Yeah, Peter is just a phenomenon. He grew up on movies. Favreau’s first movie that he directed was the first one I produced which was “Made.” I brought Peter on as a producer. First, Favreau was like, “Oh, we’re going to bring him on? This guy is just your friend.” Then Peter was so tremendous, like he really directed our performances in that movie because Jon was in front the camera acting and it was his first time directing, but he had such a trust for Peter that he used Peter to run “Dinner for Five.” Peter produced “Iron Man” and he also produced “Zathura” with Jon and then he produced “Breakup” with me. So we were wearing different hats but it was a similar situation. So, Pete has great ideas and he’s a really balanced, easy, smart and nice guy. He’s really intelligent but really just respectful of people.

Akerman: And positive, too. He always comes in with a good mood and you can always approach him which is important, having a director who’s approachable when you want to ask questions and you’re not scared to go up. He’s just so easy going and so lovely. I think he had the strength to overcome kind of being a child star and then not having opportunities and then just really working hard to give himself a second career. So he’s grateful and he’s thankful and he’s really smart and prepared because he had to work hard enough so that he had those opportunities.

Q: How did that Rock Band scene come about?

Vaughn: Favreau put that in the movie. That was his idea. Then we played with it and then I sort of took it to a western thing because originally that guy’s place, where he lived in the first script, was sort of non-descript but I thought, “He’s so British and so proper…” but a lot of the English guys really like country music or old blues music, like The Stones always liked Buck Owens and they liked all the old blues singers. So I thought it would just be so funny if in his private life he loved “The Ponderosa” and [that] he somehow romanticized American western themes. I always thought when English bands sang, you’d hear them talk and they sound very English and then they’d sing about honky-tonk. I always thought that there was a fascination on their end with cowboys and that. So I thought it was a funny backdrop, that it’d be unexpected to put him there. Then just with the dialogue we’d own that motif and Joseph Campbell’s, like, “The Writer’s Journey” or any sort of mythology type of quest. So this movie actually has two different structures. One is a romantic comedy structure where they breakup and then they’re forced to learn their lessons and come back together and a quest movie like “The Wizard of Oz” where through tackling tasks, when they get to their destination and they’ve figured out what they needed to figure out by facing obstacles. This is sort of a hybrid of that. The guys begin on a quest movie and have to get through this guy to get to the single side. So we did the western thing and then we overly embraced with the handshakes what would be a normal mythology, quest sort of tone of “You must go to the Starbucks and you most travel” as they were doing the odyssey. Just for us, on the day on the set we just started having fun, saying, “Lets really embrace this and make it really western like a gunfight because it’s just ridiculous because it’s ‘Guitar Hero.’ Lets really make it mythological…” like this is an unbelievable honesty that we’re about go for.

Akerman: I don’t think I’ve heard anyone go from Buck Owens to Joseph Campbell.

Vaughn: Buck was one of my favorites.

Q: Do you ever listen to music to get into character? Does that ever help you and what’s on your play lists?

Akerman: Wow. I don’t really listen to music to get into character unless, or well, the only time that I did was when I was doing “Watchmen” before doing fight scenes and that was pretty much like heavy metal. Primus and the hardest stuff you could find. Everything rock and roll. Bora Bora was so calm and I think just taking in that environment, I really didn’t listen to much and I’m really a big music buff. Now that you say it I don’t think that I really even turned on my iPod that much while I was there because there was too much to take in, relaxing.

Vaughn: You’re also really musically inclined. You’re in a band. You play instruments.

Akerman: I am. Thank you for saying I do but I don’t play instruments. I sing. I play the kazoo. It’s a really great rock instrument.

Vaughn: You grew up more in Sweden or Canada?

Akerman: Canada.

Vaughn: Did you ever have to play the recorder?

Akerman: Yes, I did. It was so bad. “Mary Had A Little Lamb” and stuff like that. It really prepared me for rock and roll.

Vaughn: Did you have singers and listeners?

Akerman: No.

Vaughn: We did. People like me who couldn’t sing were listeners.

Akerman: You got an activity which was listening.

Q: What are you listening to now then?

Akerman: Oh, everything, really. I’m a big fan of old rock and roll. I love The Rolling Stones. I love Led Zeppelin. I love Metallica. I love Rilo Kiley right now, I’m hooked on. I have to say that I’m insanely in love with Kings of Leon. I think that women can agree, maybe or maybe not but he has a sexy voice. But it goes in so many different directions.

Vaughn: That’s the kind of statement that makes guys hate the Kings of Leon.

Q: What do you like, if not the Kings of Leon?

Vaughn: I don’t really know Kings of Leon but I’m sure they’re really good.

Akerman: They’re sexy.

Vaughn: I think that a lot of people’s musical history, like she mentioned, starts with Led Zeppelin and The Stones. To me, the thing that I liked about the tour that Robert Plant did with Alison Krauss was that he really went out of his way to talk about American roots music. They were trying to sound like the old Appalachian singers and a lot of the blues singers and that’s really who their idols were. What was wonderful about that show is that they played a lot of those Led Zeppelin songs Appalachian style. It was really, really beautiful. I can’t listen to a lot of the modern stuff because I’ve been so exposed to and so in love with a lot of the older storytellers and I’ve always said that I think that music is the highest art form. Music can take you the farthest and the fastest emotionally. There’s sculpture, there’s painting, there’s acting, all these wonderful things but sound and song, you can be driving your car and that song comes on and you’re like in tears depending on what it is. I think there’s something that’s happen in music, probably in all things, where when Buck or Johnny Cash, these guys, were coming up there wasn’t albums, like, “Hey, I have to make a record. I’m going to do this stuff.” They really had some difficult life experiences and they were telling the stories of their lives through music. There was no end game necessarily and then of course with Elvis and people started buying phonographs in order to listen to those records and it became a whole different things. And now again music is back to the ’50s where it’s singles. There’s no longer albums. You buy one song which is like what the ’50s used to be. You’re making singles, but like the murals in Belfast in those neighborhoods that they would paint about the conflicts that they’ve gone through, both the Protestants and the Catholics, that was political. That came out of, like, “People were shooting my family and I want people to know that this isn’t right.” A lot of those slave songs or plantation songs, like Buck was from Texas…

Q: Vince, now that you’re an engaged guy, you have a romantic idea of marriage, I’m sure and then there’s reality of relationships. How do you deal with those two things, bringing them together?

Vaughn: I say, “You’re killing my romantic idea. You have to stop right now.” I don’t know. I mean, look, I think that a lot of times we come to conclusions in our lives and we over protest them only a year later to go, “God, what an idiot I was. I really didn’t know anything whatsoever.” So I just feel like I’m lucky. I think part of it is getting to a stage for myself that it’s the first time that I really want to have kids. I think I’ve been very fortunate in my career and my life has been about that for so long that you get bored of it and you’re ready for your life to be about other people and other things. So I think that some of it for me is just a stage that I’m at and wanting those things. When you’re younger, I was always under the impression that relationships were supposed to be easy, that work was supposed to be hard. So if they ever got hard I’d be like, “I have this at work. I don’t want to be in this.” But as you get older you realize that relationships are work and you have to really do the right things and be present in those relationships if you want them. I think your priorities shift and if you want a relationship enough that you want to be present and do that stuff, how do you feel? You’re successfully married and in a great relationship.

Akerman: Yep. I like that, successfully married. But it’s true. I’ve been with my husband for six years now and I can honestly say that it just gets better and better. I was under the same impression. Obviously, when you’re a teenager your hormones are way up here and everything is supposed to be perfect and he’s supposed to ride in on a white horse which never happens. He might come on a bicycle, but it’s one of those things where along the way it really is easy. Of course it’s work but it’s not hard work where it’s like, “Oh, God, I don’t want to do this.” It’s more like, “I want to do this because it’s for him…” or vice versa and it’s just been something where for the first four years I was like, “OK. Something is going to happen. Something is going to get messed up because this is just too easy.” But when you find the right person all that work becomes easy and enjoyable. I’m pretty damn lucky that I’ve got a good husband. And he cooks, too, which is a big bonus.

Vaughn: I’ll tell you, Willie Nelson said this to me. He said, “What is the world’s shortest fairy tale?” I said, “What?” He said, “A man asks his sweetheart to marry him. She says no and they live happily ever after.”

Couples Retreat opens in theaters on Friday, October 9.


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