Breaking up is hard to do

Okay, let’s get something straight from the off… We’re not interested in whether they are or they aren’t; whether they did or they didn’t. As Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston settle into their seats at a plush London hotel, none of the over-cooked gossip-mag hype matters a damn to Total Film because… This. Is. Vince. Vaughn.

Maybe the more media savvy would be losing their cookies over Jen and, truth be told, she’s a fine specimen of a woman and seems nothing but charming. But Vaughn, although not everyone’s cup of tea, is effortlessly cool with a bar-room buddy demeanour that leaves him somewhere between Steve McQueen and Bill Murray. The indie kid made good and his girl next door are here to discuss The Break-Up, the anti-rom-com that nabbed the number one slot on its opening weekend in America and features Jen and Vince as a couple who are leading up to winding down.

The inspiration for the movie came from the Swingers star himself, who acts as creator and producer as well as star.

“I’ve had a lot of success with comedy so the scripts I seem to get sent are romantic comedies,” he explains. “But the disappointing thing is that the romantic comedy is always the exact same story told again and again. It’s perfect people, saying exactly the right thing in some kind of magical world which provides a sub-plot like, ‘if you don’t marry a girl in the next 6 months you won’t inherit my company and I’m going to leave it to this mean guy who works for me.’ I thought that was kind of an uptown problem.”

With this in mind, Vaughn found two fledgling writers, moved them into his house and they set to work on his vision for a break-up movie – the one part of romance that everyone can relate to.

“I had this idea about ten years ago and with success I saw the chance to get a more character-driven movie through a mainstream studio. So I found these two young writers who were very good and I asked a lot of them. I said ‘we have to write this movie without a studio, which means you won’t get paid yet’ and that meant we could preserve it when we took it to a studio. So we wrote very intensely for a period of time at my house because they had no money coming in and my lunch bills were getting very high. We finished the screenplay and took it to Universal Studios with the selling point that relationships are strange enough as they are, you don’t need these elaborate plots to engage an audience.”

The scheme paid off and Universal backed the movie, allowing its producers and director Peyton Reed to make the flick they wanted – which meant Vaughn had the chance to shoot in his hometown of Chicago, rope in a few buddies and do some off-the-cuff improv. So how did former Friend Jennifer Aniston settle into this unique environment?

“The hazing was a little trying,” she says, pretending to hold back the tears. “They’d throw vegetables at me as I arrived for work in the morning. No, honestly, it was so much fun. They are all such warm and lovely people and really very feminine in really life.” Vaughn nods convincingly in agreement.

With a topsy-turvy track record in romantic movies, Aniston admits that this was her chance to put some career choices behind her.

“This movie attracted me because you read so much that is just so far-fetched, unrealistic and outrageous - and frankly I’ve done them and I don’t feel I’ve performed very well in them. So this was way overdue for me, waiting for something that I could respond to like this, with such a wonderful, simple story – they just don’t come along very often.”

Universal allowed helmer Reed to shoot The Break-Up with an independent vibe, so much so that the film’s last scene was roughly mapped out but never scripted, something that Vaughn finds essential to harnessing the realism of the situation and transferring it onto camera.

“When Jon Favreau and I made the movie Swingers, we didn’t know the end of the movie until we started filming it and that’s the way it is with character-driven films because the last scene is never the ending. The last scenes are about resolution because you’re trying to inform the audience. So for The Break-Up, we set up two cameras and Jennifer and I improvised it. We were able to create a very genuine experience, where things happened in the moment.”

When the studio saw the final scene, they asked Reed to shoot another version which he was happy to do – but then Vaughn, Reed and Aniston got sneaky.

“Jennifer, Peyton and myself were adamant that the studio ending should never go in front of audiences for fear that they might respond to it, because I knew it just wasn’t authentic. I said to the studio, ‘if you want this ending then we have to change other sections of the movie and you can go and make that movie with someone else, just let this be what it is’ and they were supportive of that.”

Aside from the tragic irony attached to Aniston’s untimely involvement with a movie entitled The Break-Up, the American press went wild for a scene that sees the diminutive actress shed her clothing having had a severe bikini wax – named after her real-life godfather and Kojak star, the beautifully bald Telly Savalas.

“Telly would love it, I can guarantee it,” Aniston tells Total Film with a wry smile. “But to be honest, when I read the script, I saw the nude scene and thought, ‘well there’s no way they can let it go on that long.’ It was literally, walking down the hallway, past the television, into the kitchen opens the fridge, gets out a coke, goes back to the bedroom. But, sure enough they figured out a way to shoot it.”

Joking aside, Aniston admits it was a difficult scene to shoot. “Oh of course, way harder than the emotional scenes. I felt very exposed,” she says seriously.

“See that’s funny because that was a really easy scene for me,” Vaughn pipes up, as his co-star almost chokes on her designer water. “That just shows you how actors have different ways of looking at stuff. That was probably my favourite day of shooting. Seriously, I thought you were a brilliant actress that day Jennifer and I don’t throw compliments around lightly.”

On that note, the pair are set to leave but before he heads out the door, Total Film grills Vince for any advice he may have for our single readers.

“Based on my own experience, I try to keep the bar very low so I don’t impress too much and make it harder for me the next time – and if you have the opportunity to star in a movie, do it, seriously man, I find it makes it a lot easier to meet girls.”

The Break-Up is released on 21 July.

The Total Film team are made up of the finest minds in all of film journalism. They are: Editor Jane Crowther, Deputy Editor Matt Maytum, Reviews Ed Matthew Leyland, News Editor Jordan Farley, and Online Editor Emily Murray. Expect exclusive news, reviews, features, and more from the team behind the smarter movie magazine.